Friday, November 26, 2010

Birchbank Mountain Trek

We decided to try the new "outer loop" hike at Birchbank, which is a combination of Birchbank Trail (white), the new blue-yellow connector, and the Paugussett Trail (blue). Two of our party (including the dog!) stepped right over this little Woodland Vole that was in the middle of the trail. It was still alive, but barely. It didn't look injured, but they have a life span of only three months, so maybe it was just old.

There are so many little mouse-like animals in Connecticut, it's hard to know what you're looking at. This one is clearly a rodent because of the two front incisors. Shrews look like mice but are unrelated and have teeth more like a dog. So we get to choose from mice, moles, and voles. The short tail, little eyes, and lack of powerful digging arms (like a mole) make this one a vole.

Near the chimney are the remains of a buck that was killed by a hunter. Another hiker reported vultures feeding on it. The buck must have run far enough away after he was hit so the hunter couldn't find him. Hunting is illegal at Birchbank, but legal on abutting private properties. So this one has become food for the coyote, bobcat, fisher, ravens, vultures, and other forest animals.

Here's the new stretch of blue-yellow trail heading up to the overlook of the Housatonic River. The new part is 0.2 mile and not steep at all.

Previously, the only way to get up to the overlook was via a steep section of trail that has been blazed blue-yellow since the early 1990s, but was once the main Paugussett Trail. The trail was reportedly rerouted in anticipation of housing construction on Golden Hill which was going to block the route. At the last minute the route was saved, but the trail had already been rerouted. So a spur to the overlook was reblazed blue-yellow, and the trail north of that abandoned.

You never know what you're going to find along the trail. I've been on the white trail a zillion times, but just noticed this tacked to a tree for the first time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shelton Dog Park

"Build it and they will come." Sure enough, the Shelton Dog Park isn't even technically open yet, but lots of people are using it. Today there were seven cars and eight dogs when I pulled in.

Here you can see how there are two sides, one for small dogs and the other for large dogs (who looked like wanted to chase down the little ones today). You can also see how dog parks aren't just for dogs. They're for the dog owners, who you can see chatting in the background. Most popular ice-breaker: "What kind of dog is that?"

These two dogs ran around so frenetically they made us all laugh. They'll sleep good tonight!

The Shelton Dog Park is located at the corner of Nells Rock Road and Shelton Avenue.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Marbled Salamander at Birchbank

Found this Marbled Salamander today at Birchbank Mountain in Shelton while blowing leaves off of a new section of trail directly below the cascades of Upper White Hills Brook. The spot was very low and wet, and the soil is very sandy, perfect conditions for this kind of salamander. The salamander was about 4" long, which is about as big as they normally get. They breed in vernal pools, and I suspect the nearby "aquifer recharge ponds" on Aquarion land are where they are breeding.

I just love how this Housatonic River floodplain forest is home to plants and animals I tend not to see in other areas. I have said before that this open space is our most sensitive. In the same area where I found the salamander, we have tons of red trillium, Dutchman's breeches and Blue Cohosh blooming in the spring. And it was right in the path where ATVs used to ride. Fortunately, we are seeing the ATV traffic declining significantly now since a concerted effort was made to discourage riders from entering the park.

YVOLD GSV XZHXZWVH, FKKVI DSRGV SROOH YILLP HKORGH RM GDL. GSV HLFGS ULIP NZB YV WIB. UILN GSV HLFGS ULIP, TL MLIGS GL MVCG DSRGV YOZAV, GSVM HRCGVVM HGVKH NLIV ZMW OLLP OVUG YVSRMW Z GIZK WLLI RM ILXPH. (12-2012 - the trail was recently relocated 50 feet down the hill approaching the new structure, but the object in question was not).