Tom Estill summer report is here! What a fantastic read too.
By the first official day of summer numerous birds are already successfully nesting in the park. For years now, the house wren continues to nest near the trailhead, either in one of the small birdhouses you see as you start your walk up to the trailhead, or in the birdhouse at the far end of the wooden walkway a short ways past the trailhead kiosk. I was sad to see an old dead beech tree, which for years had been used as a place for yellow-bellied sapsuckers to make their nests, had been blown over. For 7 years, the sapsuckers would drill a hole in a different spot on that dead tree. I always wondered if it was the offspring that was returning each year.
On this first day of summer, I saw the stunning scarlet tanager, always singing on Crusher Rd. near the old quarry, the American redstart, chestnut-sided warbler, ovenbird, red-eyed vireo and white-breasted nuthatch.
So, on June 24th, while walking in the forest, I thought it would be fun to compare life in the forest near the first day of summer, with life in the forest near the first day of winter. So, on June 24th, it was very hot and humid. Birds seen included house wren, red-eyed vireo,
white-breasted nuthatch, yellow-bellied sapsucker, American redstart, chestnut-sided warbler, common yellowthroat, song sparrow, ovenbird, Eastern pewee, veery, great crested flycatcher, blue jay, least flycatcher, hairy woodpecker, robin, Eastern towhee, hermit thrush, and Osprey on its Muddy Pond nest. Flowers blooming included white and red clover, ox-eye daisy, common buttercup, cow vetch, sheep laurel, blue flag, bedstraw, common fleabane, thimbleweed, yellow wood sorrel, multi-flora rose, yellow pond lily, fragrant water lily,
rough-fruited cinquefoil, and partridgeberry. And many chipmunks out and about. Now, on the first day of winter 2022, I saw black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch and crows, the ground was covered in a few inches of snow, both ponds were frozen over solid, and the temperature was near freezing. Wow!, quite a difference all around.
On June 25th, I came upon an adult doe on Middle Giorgetti trail which started walking towards me for some reason. I slowly backed away to leave it alone. Yellow bellied spasuckers were feeding their noisy young all throughout the forest, and I was disappointed to find out that the Cooper’s Hawk nest high in a white pine on Lower Giorgetti had been abandoned.
On June 29th, a garter snake was seen at Rocky Pond, a doe and fawn were seen at the same spot on Middle Giorgetti where I saw the doe on June 25th, bullfrogs, green frogs and schools of young bullheads were seen at Rocky Pond, and new flowers blooming included whorled loosestrife, bulrush, foxtail, bluegrass, button sedge, and St. Johnswort
On June 30th, I saw a few birds I don’t see often at Pine Hill Park, including the blue-headed warbler, a red-throated hummingbird feeding on milkweed nectar, and bluebirds at Rocky Pond. An Osprey was sitting on its Muddy Pond nest. Dragonflies were mating and laying eggs, and a
red fox was observed, all at Muddy Pond. Butterflies seen that day included the white cabbage and great spangled fritillary.
On July 3rd, a pair of barred owls were seen on Droopy Muffin, sapsucker chicks were chirping like crazy on a Svelte Tiger trail, and a doe kept following me near the old rock quarry on Crusher Rd., leading me to believe someone had been feeding that deer.
A week later, I saw a belted kingfisher, great blue heron and osprey on Muddy Pond. Bullfrogs could be heard, and many large bullfrog tadpoles were swimming near the shoreline. Indian Pipe was starting to flower and blueberries were starting to ripen. A milk snake was seen on the Carriage Trail. But the best news is that the spongy moth infestation had finally ended after 2 summers of deforestation by that insect. Hopefully, we won’t see that moth for another 10 years or so. The American Chestnut tree on Svelte Tiger did not recover from last years defoliation, but side shoots were observed growing from the side of the tree in a few spots.
On July 17th, I saw an unusually high number of robins flying through the forest. That behavior isn’t usually observed until the fall. Don’t know what that was all about.
By the last week of July, the forest had become so relatively quiet. For the most part, nesting season was over, and some birds had already started migrating south. One thing that I, and everybody else noticed about the forest this season was the unusual number of mosquitoes. The increased rain this year provided ample opportunities for mosquitoes to breed. In my 11
Pine Hill Park , I have never seen so many mosquitoes. On one occasion, I
actually had a large swarm follow me on my walk. It was not a pleasant experience. And yes, I used bug spray
The last day of July, I was able to see one of my favorite flowers in the park-the small Pink flower. Usually overlooked by visitors and not very common, it can be seen on Crusher Rd., its color and petal markings are just striking.
The first week of August found the forest very quiet, with does accompanying fawns, blackberries ripe, lots of Chicken-of-the-Woods mushrooms, evening primrose in flower, a
ruby-throated hummingbird attracted to the red marker flag I was carrying, and a migrating Cape May Warbler flying through the forest. They’re one of the early spring migrants to arrive in the park, and one of the first to be seen leaving.
The first “feel” of approaching Fall occurred on Aug. 24th. The only bird I saw that day was the Eastern Pewee, and the only mammal I saw was a doe on the Carriage Trail. Forest once again very quiet. Flowers in bloom included the hog peanut, silver-rod, arrow-leaved tearthumb and knotweed. I planted a couple more wild American Chestnut seedlings on the edge of the Carriage Trail at Rocky Pond. Very soon a blight resistant tree will be released in the wild to pollinate wild American chestnuts, producing a Wild American Chestnut resistant to the blight, and the beginning of the comeback to our Eastern forests of that magnificent tree.
A spike horn buck following a doe was seen on Svelte Tiger trail on August 26th. Many chipmunks were scurrying about, Sulfur and Pearl Crescent butterflies were seen, and Calico aster, panicled hawkweed, closed bottle gentian, and toothed white-topped aster were all in bloom.
On Sept. 5th, a Belted Kingfisher was seen fishing at Rocky Pond, many green frogs and newts were seen in the pond, a tiny American Toad was seen on Crusher Rd., many young pickerel frogs were seen throughout the whole forest, and a Cottontail rabbit was seen near the trailhead. A cardinal, dark-eyed junco, and white-breasted nuthatch were the only birds seen.
On Sept. 19th, I was very surprised to see a woodchuck run into a hole under a rock at Rocky Pond. I’ve never seen a woodchuck so far away from the only other place I’ve regularly seen them in the park, and that’s on Crusher Rd. The only plants flowering were goldenrod, snakeroot, and a variety of asters. Great blue heron and small flock of wood ducks seen at Muddy Pond.
Had a beautiful hike through the forest on the last day of summer. Short-sleeve shirt temperatures, and mosquitoes not a bother. Many birds seen including, cardinal, robin, broad-winged hawk, white-breasted nuthatch, blue jay, tufted titmouse, yellow-throated vireo,
black-capped chickadee, hairy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, yellow rumped warbler, and a few wood ducks and Canadian geese at Muddy Pond. Found a short-tailed shrew dead on the trail near Muddy Pond. It looked it perfect condition. Could not determine what may have caused its death. Sticktight, New England aster, flat-topped white aster, and snakeroot all in flower. Many chipmunks out and about.
That’s it for this edition. Please stay on the trails and enjoy your walks in the forest.