Great news! All of our trails are open to bikes, pedestrians, runners. We are completely amazed at how dry the park is for this time of year.
Trail maintenance will continue through the spring and summer.
Just a quick reminder that these trails are built and maintained by volunteers. Please consider joining Pine Hill Partnership by using the button on the front page—or by leaving a donation in Tinman when you visit us.
We’re the first trail network to open in the state, so please be considerate of our volunteers who have worked super hard to create a great trail system. Unfortunately, trails do not magically appear :- )
The beginning of winter found both Rocky and Muddy Ponds frozen over, and the forest birds were being regularly seen together in their loose association of black-capped chickadees, crows, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, and downy woodpeckers.
During the last week of December, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Cooper’s hawk flying near the trailhead, and a small flock of southerly migrating Canada geese. Chipmunks were still scurrying about, busy collecting and storing acorns and other food items in preparation for the cold weather ahead. A few inches of snow covered the ground, while ice covered many of the trails.
The last day of December found temperatures in the high 40s(F), and low 50s(F). Deer were seen crossing the Carriage Trail, and a barred owl was seen under the powerlines on the Carriage Trail on the way to Rocky Pond.
Jan. 1st weekend was the Christmas Bird Count for Pine Hill Park. Participants included myself, Shelley Lutz, and Dave Jenne. Birds seen and their numbers included: Crow(15), Black-capped chickadee(23), downy woodpecker(8), white-breasted nuthatch(17), tufted titmouse(20), mourning dove(7), cardinal(6), house sparrow(4), dark-eyed junco(3), Eastern bluebird(2), blue jay(1), red-bellied woodpecker(3), house finch(1) and brown creeper(4).
Jan. 2nd found me exploring rock outcrops near Rocky Pond and finding porcupine and deer tracks, with porcupine tracks and scat leading to an active den among the rocks.
That first week of Jan. also found a few small areas around the perimeter of Rocky Pond with open water and an otter coming in and out of a small hole in the ice at Rocky Pond with a small fish occasionally seen in its mouth. That was exciting enough, but what I saw on the way back to the trailhead had a profound effect on my view of nature. I have seen hundreds of deer at Pine Hill Park over the years, always a pleasure to see. But what I saw on Jan. 8th was different. While walking along the lower ledges trail, near trail marker 24, I was surprised, when not more than 50 ft. from me, three deer seemed to appear out of nowhere right in front of me.
I didn’t see or hear them until they moved, and then they just slowly disappeared into the forest.
I stood there and thought to myself how supremely adapted deer are to their environment. Their camouflage was perfect. Their gray bodies blending in with the large gray boulders, their legs with the tree trunks, and just enough white to help break up the gray. It took thousands of years of evolution for those beautiful animals to reach that point of perfect adaptation to their environment. That encounter changed forever my opinion about deer. Amazing animals
By the next day, both ponds were once again completely frozen over. The only birds seen on my walk were white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadees and a hairy woodpecker.
By mid-January most snow was gone on the ground, and on a windy, cold Jan. 6th day, I saw only one bird, a white-breasted nuthatch. Rocky Pond was completely frozen over with long streams of featherly like snow drifting over its surface, which from a distance looked like wind blown waves on the surface of the ocean. It seemed odd to me that a small area of open water would be found near the eastside beaver den on Muddy Pond on such a very cold winter day.
The last week of Jan. found the forest floor once again covered in snow, both ponds frozen over, and numerous deer tracks found throughout the whole forest.
By the first week of Feb., the silence of winter had set it upon Pine Hill Park. Very few birds seen, bitterly cold days, and ponds frozen solid. One Feb. 2nd, I had a close encounter with a pair of black-capped chickadees who flew within just a few feet of me. They seemed very inquisitive and almost tame.
On Feb. 6th, I saw a Cooper’s hawk along the lower Giorgetti and a barred owl near trail marker
16. Also was lucky to find an abandoned broad-winged hawk nest, high in the white pine tree directly behind the Station #5 Sign on the Lower Giorgetti Trail. For years, I’ve observed a broad-winged hawk in that area and just knew it had a nest somewhere nearby.
On Feb. 13th, I had that feeling that the worst of winter was behind us and that signs of spring would soon start to appear. I started looking for snow fleas(springtails), a sure sign for me that we were over the “hump” of winter. Though Rocky Pond was completely frozen over, Muddy Pond had a few small areas of open water on the East side(it receives the most sun) near the large beaver den. A large deer was seen near trail marker #24, and birds seen included hairy woodpecker, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, and white-breasted nuthatch.
Two days later, with recent warm temperatures, the lower trails were mostly devoid of snow and ice, while upper trails still were covered with snow. Rocky Pond had large areas of standing water, especially along the shores, covering ice beneath.
The first week of March I observed my first snow fleas. I set up a trail camera near Trail Marker 16 and when I checked it the next day, I got a picture of a fox, and an inquisitive deer with its nose up close to my camera lens.
The next day, I set up my camera near Trail Marker L, and saw that I got a picture of another deer. On the way back to the trailhead I saw my first turkey vulture of the season soaring overhead.
On Feb. 9th, snow was melting, some oak trees were showing buds, and 2 large areas of open water were observed on Muddy Pond. Birds seen included black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, crows overhead, downy woodpecker and red-bellied woodpecker. The next day, snow continued to melt due to relatively warm temperatures.
On March 13th, the ground was once again covered in snow due to recent big storms, and temperatures were noticeably colder. By March 18th, snow was about 6” deep. Lots of deer tracks were observed, Canada geese seen flying north overhead, and cardinals and mourning doves were singing(well, cardinals were singing, doves were “cooing”).
That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails, and enjoy your Wild Times at Pine Hill Park.
Tom Estill’s Wild Times at Pine Hill Park is hot off the press! You never know what Tom will find in the woods.
Sorry to say, unlike other years, no burs were produced by the Svelte Tiger America Chestnut tree this year due to the Spongy Moth infestation. During my park walk on the last day of Sept., I saw my first loose association of white-breasted nuthatch, hairy woodpecker, tufted titmouse and black-capped chickadee. Migrating yellow-rumped warblers, blue jay, northern flicker and a red-bellied woodpecker were also seen. Very surprised to see a Mourning Cloak butterfly flying about. Those butterflies will spend the winter under loose bark or other places providing protection from predators and the elements, then emerge in early spring as one of the earliest animals to do so.
Oct. 8th found the forest to be very quiet. The forest was at, or very near, to the height of the fall foliage season. At Muddy Pond could be found hundreds of migrating Canada geese along with a hooded merganser. The only birds I saw on my walk to and from Muddy Pond were a hairy woodpecker and migrating pine warbler. The pine warbler seems to be one of the earliest birds to arrive from the south in the spring, and one of the last to leave in the fall. A few plants were still flowering including the blue aster, wild chamomile, and white aster.
In Mid-October I was very lucky to be at the right place at the right time. While sitting at Rocky Pond I saw two merlins chasing one another. I had never seen a merlin at Rocky Pond before. The last time I saw one was over a decade ago, perched on a tree along the shore of the Patuxent River in Maryland. Otherwise the forest was very quiet. Numerous Canada geese were still resting at Muddy Pond, but mallards and green-winged teals were also seen. In the forest could be found a broadwinged hawk, white-breasted nuthatch, a small flock of dark-eyed juncos, red-tailed hawk, hairy woodpecker, and turkey vultures flying overhead.
The first week of November found temperatures in the low 70s, with about 50 Canada geese seen at Muddy Pond, and only a single white-breasted nuthatch.
One Nov. 11th, Muddy Pond was starting to ice over around its perimeter in a few places along the shore. Rocky Pond showed no signs of ice. Birds seen included a pileated woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, and crows.
By the first week of December, both ponds were free of any ice, and there was no snow on the ground. Hundreds of Canadian geese and a pair of Common Mergansers were seen at Muddy Pond. Gray squirrels were running about in high numbers. 3 does were seen near Trail Marker #24, and flying about the trees was a loose association of black-capped chickadees, hairy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, crows overhead.
By December 10th, both ponds were showing signs of ice along a few places of their shorelines. Still no snow on the ground. In the trees you could find a red-bellied woodpecker, black-capped chickadees, hairy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch and tufted titmouse.
By mid-December, both ponds were finally frozen over. Loose associations of forest birds were now seen almost on a regular basis. The loose association of birds provide extra protection for the birds, and improves their chances of seeing predatory birds nearby.
That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails while you enjoy observing the wildlife of Pine Hill Park.
KSA Built is starting Thursday, October 27th in the park. Rosey will be working as late into late fall that weather permits. Some trails may be closed off as they are being upgraded. Please do not ride, walk, or run if you see a trail closed sign on that trail.
Broken Handlebar North and all of Halfpipe will see major improvements. Other smaller sections of trails will have drainage’s improved so water stops running straight down the trail tread. These improvements are part of the ERSA Grant Rutland Recreation received. Pine Hill Partnership is helping defray the higher cost of diesel some of our trails can see the upgrade they need. If you would like to make a donation directly to our trail fund please do so here https://pinehillpartnership.org/membership/ All contributions go back directly into Pine Hill Park trail system.
VYCC (VT Youth Conservation Corp) will be in the summer of 2023 to do more trail remediation work.
Our trails are being used heavily and need much needed TLC so please bear with this while the work is being performed.
By the official start of summer, damage from the Spongy moth (formerly called the Gypsy moth) seemed to be tapering off. Much of the park had been affected by the moth, though interesting enough, there were some areas of the park which saw little or no defoliation.
During the first week of summer, you would see American redstart, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, veery, hermit thrush, adult yellow-bellied sapsuckers feeding their noisy young, least flycatcher, kingfisher, mallards with young, pileated woodpecker and great blue herons. Green frogs and Gray treefrogs could be heard calling near Muddy Pond, schools of young brown bullheads could be seen swimming near the shores of Rocky Pond and a number of flowers were in bloom including, yellow loosestrife, wood sorrel, yellow hop clover, bedstraw, common fleabane, and thimbleweed.
At the end of June, spongy moths were starting to go into their pupae stage. On June 30th, I met two students from the University of Vermont testing frogs at Rocky Pond for the presence of RANAVIRUS. It was part of a statewide study on amphibian diseases in Vermont.
On a walk through the forest on June 30th, I saw a house wren (still nesting in their nest box on the boardwalk), American redstart, chestnut-sided warbler, red-eyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, downy woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, Easter pewee, indigo bunting, Eastern towhee, catbird, and Great Blue Heron and Osprey at Muddy Pond.
During the first week of July, I saw the same birds as I did on July 30th, but also saw black-capped chickadees, scarlet tanager, hairy woodpecker, ovenbird, barred owl, hermit thrush, and a great-crested flycatcher. An osprey was observed successfully catching a fish at Muddy Pond, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers were no longer calling their parents for food. Flowers in bloom included Pointed-leaved tick trefoil, rough-fruited cinquefoil, heal-all, and yellow loosestrife. Red raspberries and honeysuckle were both in berries. Both bullfrogs and green frogs were croaking at Rocky Pond. Mourning cloak and great-spangled butterflies were flying about, adult spongy moths were beginning to emerge, and an absolutely gorgeous Widow dragonfly was seen flying at Rocky Pond. Many chipmunks and gray squirrels were scurrying about.
During an early morning walk on July 11th, I was amazed at how well the forest was recovering from the season’s terrible infestation of the spongy moth. Trees were regrowing leaves and the canopy didn’t look as bare as it had a few weeks earlier. I was also surprised at how few spongy moths were flying about, unlike last year when their numbers were astronomical. Queen Ann’s Lace had started to bloom, wood ducks were swimming about at Muddy Pond, and the mourning cloak, monarch, and pearl crescent butterflies were flying about.
In mid-July, 5 new American chestnuts were planted to replace 5 which had died. There are currently 50 planted American chestnut trees in the park and 2 WILD American chestnuts which were recently discovered. Both wild American chestnuts are producing burs, but the seeds inside are sterile due to the fact they were not fertilized by other American chestnut trees, which they have to be if fertile seeds are to be produced.
On July 15th, a magnificent doe was seen on the carriage trail, and a woodchuck and Eastern cottontail were both seen on the Crusher Rd. A broad-wing hawk was flying overhead and I’m sure had its eye on one of those small mammals. The Deptford Pink was once again seen flowering under the powerlines on the Carriage Trail. Next year, if you can remember, look for this beautiful pink flower, and look at it closely. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful flowers in the park. And while you’re looking for that flower under the powerlines, listen for the call of the Eastern Towhee which nests in that area, and is a bird of beautiful colors, especially the red eyes.
During the 3rd week of July, new flowers blooming included white vervain, buttonbush (the flowers remind me of chandeliers), and steeplebush. Yellowthroats could be heard along Crusher Rd., and the beautiful Rosy Maple Moth was seen along the Carriage Trail. At Rocky Pond, you could see 3 different kinds of dragonflies, including the twelve-spotted skimmer, common whitetail, and the Elisa skimmer.
During the last week of July, I went on an evening walk the day after a major rainstorm. The trails were literally covered with red efts and young wood frogs.
On Aug. 1st, a walk through the forest proved to be very, very, quiet. The only new bird I saw was a ruby-throated hummingbird. Barred owls were still calling and a hooded merganser was seen at Rocky Pond.
During the first week of August, you could still find cardinals, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, eastern towhee, red-eyed vireo, yellow-bellied sapsucker, broad-winged hawk, pileated woodpecker, Eastern phoebe, Canada geese at Muddy Pond, indigo bunting, osprey at Muddy Pond, American redstart, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, black and white warbler, red-bellied woodpecker, Eastern wood pewee and American goldfinch. Many robins could also be seen starting to migrate south through the forest. Oh yes—active bald-faced hornet nests could easily be found here and there. Stay clear of such nests!
On August 9th, during a morning walk to Rocky Pond, I saw numerous Cedar Waxwings among the softwoods on the south side of the pond. I ask myself why it is that I always see Cedar Waxwings in this same area, this same time of the year, year-in and year-out?
In mid-August, acorns were starting to appear on oak trees, with gray squirrels having a good time feasting on the nuts. Indian tobacco was in flower.
On August 24th, I found the forest very quiet and saw only an Eastern towhee, broadwing hawk, yellow-throated vireo, and a ruby-crowned kinglet.
Pickerel and green frogs were seen at Rocky Pond. On September 3rd, I measured the height and DBH (diameter breast height) of a second wild American Chestnut discovered in the park by Shelley and Nate. The tree was 68 ft. tall and had a DBH of 13.3 inches. The seeds found in the burs were all infertile, unfortunately.
In mid-Sept., the forest had become very quiet. Many migrants were gone, and I was seeing more and more of our winter year-round resident birds including blue jay, white-breasted nuthatch, and black-capped chickadee. Yellow-throated vireo was seen, one of the first migrating birds to return in spring, and one of the last to leave. Goldenrod and flat-topped wood aster in flower.
On the last day of summer, I noticed very few acorns on the forest floor compared to other years and attributed that to the fact that the oak trees of pine hill park were decimated by the spongy moths this year. Looks like a poor MAST season for sure. A few flowers were still in flower, including New England aster, a few other species of asters, and goldenrod. 3 does were seen together, along with pileated woodpeckers, northern flicker, tufted titmouse, and white-breasted nuthatch. At Muddy Pond could be found about 50 Canada geese, and a few wood ducks and mallards.
That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails, and enjoy the Wild Times of Pine Hill Park.
Sunday, May 21st: Park is open today with Jigsaw being closed and roped off. There are still some tender places in the park so be gentle riding please. Thank you.
6PM UPDATE: Friday, May 20th. Park will remained closed for Saturday. We will reassess later Saturday afternoon to see if trails have dried up to open for Sunday. We still have standing water on a lot of trails. Please stay off the trails it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Volunteers will be checking the trails late Friday (5/20) afternoon to see if they have dried up. We had another .2″ of rain on Thursday evening. We are hoping the trees leafing out and a little bit of wind this afternoon things will dry out for the weekend. Stay tuned. Thank you.
We have had to temporarily close the park due to the amount of rain last Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. We have standing water on a lot of our trails. The water needs to drain out before we reopen for all users.
Thank you for respecting our temporary trail closures.
Water on Strong Angel, Jigsaw and Sore Elbow, Tuesday, May 17th.
Thank you to Killington Mountain School for a solid morning of removing organic material on Maximum Capacity. The students, coaches and administrators broke open about 900 feet of trail in 2 hours. This is 900 feet less than the VT Youth Conservation Corp will have to do in late June. Thank you KMS!
Rutland High School YES Plan is back in early June. We will continue to work on Maximum Capacity.
It is fantastic to have these work groups back in the park.
We will be holding our annual meeting virtually this year. It will be held Tuesday April 5, 6:30-7:30pm. If you would like to attend the Microsoft Teams meeting, please email email@example.com with Annual Dinner in the subject line.
We will give a brief overview of the coming year’s project plans along with a short business meeting.
Would you like to join our board of directors? Do you have some time and energy to give back?? Think about joining our board of directors. Let us know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.