We have closed Exit Strategy, Droopy Muffin steep hill-between Intersection 30 and 30A and Lichen Rock. We have problems with freeze thaw cycles on these particular trails throughout the winter into early spring. Please respect closed trails. Thank you your hard working volunteers.
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.
We are an all volunteer organization that keeps the trails in Pine Hill Park in nice shape.
We are constantly working on drainage, downed trees being removed.
Your membership, contributions, donations all go directly back into Pine Hill Park. We have a lot of trail maintenance to get done in the next couple of years so your membership dollars and contributions will go directly back to the park.
We do have some cool swag associated with our membership levels. Dave Jenne our volunteer graphic person who does our maps, swag graphics and fantastic picture taking came up with Bone Spur this year.
Joining Pine Hill Partnership is easy! Check this link out! https://pinehillpartnership.org/membership/
We had a 3 week crew from VT Youth Conservation Corp. One week was a ‘pro crew’ a little bit of experience and just out of college. Then a two week Community Crew which are high school kids that go home at the end of the day. The ‘pro crew’ camped over at Lake St. Catherine this year. Too many mosquitoes for camping at the Rutland Rec Community Center.
We built rolling grade dips on a few trails along with pulling rocks and some resurfacing. The rolling grade dips help improve drainage so when the heavy rains come the rain is not running straight down the trail tread for miles. We’re catching the water with the rolling grade dip.
We pulled some rocks that were growing thanks to erosion and trail use. People were widening the trail in a few places by riding around the rocks. Snowdog doesn’t like hitting rocks jutting too far up either.
Some concerns over making some trails to easy. Remember the park is for everyone and it is a city park.
KSA Built has been in the park since the end of May. Rosey finished up Exit Strategy so we could get that open.
From Exit Strategy KSA Built moved to Casey’s Cross to put a culvert in to fix our perpetual mud area.
Broken Handlebar North was next up for a major tune up. The table top has been improved with an ‘A’ and ‘B’ line for an exit. The ‘B’ line jump at the bottom that flows really well. Further down the rock face there is now a ‘jump line’. Please look at this feature before attempting to hit it. There is no roll over it is a ‘jump’. The rest of Broken Handlebar North received a tune up as well with some hip jumps, log jump.
Table top above
Jump line which does not have a roll off feature!
REMEMBER: Pre-ride, free-ride, re-ride!!! Broken Handlebar is not an easy access for first responders.
Rosey’s Rollover landing area received a little TLC. Next year the rest of this trail will be improved to make it more fun to ride.
Upper Halfpipe has gotten a significant upgrade. Many of the features that had been built in 2008 all needed some TLC. Lower Halfpipe is getting tuned up as well.
Upper Halfpipe getting a small reroute for better flow
Lower part of Furlough will have some drainage issues resolved. The water current runs straight down the trail tread which is not good for the trail.
Aaron’s Air will also receive some TLC before KSA Built leaves for the season.
All this repair work has been through an ERSA grant through the state. Pine Hill Partnership is paying out of pocket $11,000 as the quote and bid came in at different prices due to diesel being more expensive. Please consider becoming a member or making a contribution to help cover these costs. https://pinehillpartnership.org/membership/
Youth mountain bike group checking it out.
Tom had another great adventure in the park this spring:
The first day of spring found Rocky and Muddy ponds both still covered in ice. A crow, Northern Cardinal and Tufted Titmouse were the only birds seen on my walk that day. But I had the most fun setting up my trail cam in a rocky cliff face along the Carriage trail in an attempt to capture video of what I believed was a porcupine denning in the rocks. Porcupine tracks leading to the area, porcupine scat, and distinctive porcupine chew marks on nearby trees all led me to believe a porcupine was denning in the area.
A few days later on March 23rd, I went on an evening walk and, while standing along the shore of Rocky Pond, observed a dozen turkey vultures soaring high above the Ledges there, and then start to slowly descend one by one onto and amongst the rocks. This is something I have observed many times over the years, always around the Spring Equinox. It makes me wonder if that area was closed to the public(something I am NOT proposing) would turkey vultures nest there? This day was also the first time I observed robins in the park. And, of course, gray squirrels were busy scurrying around.
The next day, I noticed that most snow was now gone from the lower trails, but increases as you go up in elevation. Bird courtship behavior was becoming more evident, with two hairy woodpeckers observed fighting each other over a nearby female hairy woodpecker. It was the first day I felt that spring had finally arrived. Red-bellied woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, robin, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, and white-breasted nuthatch were all observed. Both ponds were still completely frozen over with the exception of a small band of open water along Rocky Pond, and near the beaver dam on Muddy Pond. Eastern newts were seen in the open waters. Two pairs of Canada geese were seen in the open waters of Muddy Pond.
By March 26th, recent mild temperatures helped to melt snow, and there was much water flowing into Rocky Pond from the stream flowing under the walk bridge. The following morning walk was absolutely beautiful with my first seasonal sighting of chipmunks and Eastern bluebirds checking out the bird houses near the trail head. Song sparrows near the trailhead, red-shouldered hawks and broadwing hawks flying overhead, mallards and Canada geese at Muddy Pond, and a small pearl crescent butterfly flying about, all suggested that the great northern migration was underway.
On April 1st, I observed my first wild flower in the park, the Coltsfoot flower. Always the first flower to appear. Also observed my first mourning cloak butterfly, one of the first butterflies to appear in the park each early spring. Wood ducks, mallards, and Canada geese were seed at Rocky Pond and the Rocky Pond outlet area, a place I am sure wood ducks nest each year, though I’ve never seen an active nest there.
On April 3rd, Rocky Pond was finally ice free, and the forest was very quiet with only hairy woodpeckers and tufted titmouse being observed.
April 4th found nesting Canada geese, a dozen common mergansers, and a sleeping beaver all at Muddy Pond. A beautiful deer was seen near the 16A trail sign, and my trail cam showed a porcupine at that site on the Carriage Trail I had mentioned earlier.
A few days later, Eastern phoebes and a golden-crowned kinglet were seen for the first time in the park, and a pair of Osprey were seen at their nest platform at Muddy Pond. Eastern newts were mating at Rocky Pond.
As the days went by, more and more signs of spring were seen. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers had returned, a Cooper’s hawk was nesting in a tree along the 2nd Giorgetti trail, painted turtles were basking in the sun at Muddy Pond, and wood frogs were calling in the wetland area on the south side of Rocky Pond..
During the second week of April, trout lily started to appear on the forest floor, trailing arbutus and oak trees were now flowering, spring peepers and leopard frogs were calling, and hermit thrush were singing. Ring-necked ducks were seen at Muddy Pond. On April 15th I had the wits scared out of me when a ruffed grouse suddenly exploded into flight from a spot very close to where I was walking. So perfectly camouflaged are those birds.
During the third week of April, wood anemone, sedges, and barren strawberry were in flower.
A week later, I planted an American Chestnut tree seedling near Rocky Pond. The seedling came from a seed harvested by Mount St. Joseph Academy advanced biology students in the fall of 2022, and refrigerated until March of 2023. The students have been taking care of an orchard of 20 American chestnut trees since 2019 in the back of their school. In 2022, they harvested their first 27 viable American chestnut seeds, a first for a Vermont school.
During the first week of May you could find two-leaved toothwort, white violets, gay wings, bellwort, and wild strawberries all flowering. New birds seen included ovenbird and
In Mid-May red eyed-vireos, house wrens, great blue heron, great crested flycatcher, and veery could be seen and heard, and flowers blooming included Solomon’s seal, false Solomon’s seal, wood betony, foam flower, and starflower.
During the last week of May I saw the beautiful northern oriole at Rocky Pond, the stunning indigo bunting at its usual nesting place underneath the power lines on Carriage Road near Rocky pond, and the breathtaking scarlet tanager in numerous places in the park.
Chestnut-sided warblers and American redstarts were back in good numbers. New flowers in bloom included common buttercup, early azalea, garlic mustard, and common cinquefoil.
During the first week of June I planted a new American chestnut seedling up at Rocky Pond to replace one that died over winter, and saw my first Viceroy and Eastern Swallowtail butterflies. The Viceroy is easily confused with the Monarch butterfly, but is smaller and has a black line across the lower part of its main wings.
During the second week of June you would likely see the following birds in the park: Song sparrow, Canada geese, great blue herons, wood ducks, common mergansers, tufted titmouse, American redstart, chestnut-sided warbler, red-eyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, scarlet tanager, indigo bunting, Eastern towhee, ruby-throated hummingbird, catbird, yellow-bellied sapsucker, Eastern pewee, barred owls, hermit thrush, veery, and ovenbird. New flowers in bloom would include: common fleabane, ox-eye daisy, ragwort, sarsaparilla and moccasin flower.
On June 19th, I discovered a great blue heron nesting in the wetland area just behind the major inlet to Muddy Pond at the west end of the pond. I also saw my first White Admiral butterfly of the season..
That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails and enjoy observing the wildlife at Pine Hill Park.
Save the date! Tuesday, March 28th, 6:30pm. It will be via Zoom this year so our out of town members can join. Email email@example.com for the link to attend.
Would you like to contribute to the park join our board of directors. Shoot us an email and let us know.
To replace our annual dinner we will be holding a walk/hike/ride on Saturday, May 20th from 10-2pm. Burgers hot off the grill start at 12:30.
We hope all of you can attend the annual dinner to hear about what is happening in Pine Hill Park this summer. Plus join us for some fun on May 20th.
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.