Sunday, April 29, 2007

Birchbank Mountain OS94

"Birchbank Mountain" is what they call the steep riverbank north of Indian Well State Park. Responding to complaints about ATVs and paintball, I visited the open space, which is a big piece of land, and sure enough, I was greeted by a group of kids on dirt bikes and ATVs. Later on I blundered into the middle of an "airsoft" game, which is similar to paintball except they shoot plastic BBs.

As far as Shelton goes, the habitat along the riverbottom is unique to the Housatonic River. The typical Connecticut oak forest is replaced by a cool, moist floodplain forest, and it was just covered with wildflowers, especially Dutchman's Breeches (thousands) and trillium. You just don't see that anywhere else in Shelton.

At the bottom of the hill are a series of ponds on water company land, which is not posted. I got a great look at a pair of wood ducks, spectacular little ducks which nest in tree cavities and are rather elusive.

Upper White Hills Brook falls rapidly down the steep slope in a series of falls. Near the brook, just uphill from the Blue Dot trail, there is a big old chimney. I been told this may be part of the Monroe Gun Club meetinghouse that burned down in the 1960's.
See photos and video of my walk.
There are miles of illegal ATV trails on the property, but a couple of the trails are actually old colonial roads. The roadway along the bottom of the hill is called "Old Farm Road". You can see the beginning of the road from Indian Well Road, right where it crosses the RR tracks. Park there for good access to the open space. There was also a road that went up the slope to the White Hills, where presumably farmers grew produce and traveled the road down to the river, where they could ship their produce downriver. I'll be adding some "historic trail" plaques to these trails.
The park is getting some new signage and enforcement action to cut down on the ATVs and paintball games. What it really needs are some local volunteer landkeepers with cameras to walk the area routinely and take pictures of any harmful activities.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Run, Little Fox, Run!

While speaking with a neighbor of some open space off of Little Fox Run, a red fox went shooting by through the fog. It didn't make a sound and just seemed to float by. The neighbor showed me the den where the fox has been raising kits for the last few years. I guess somebody got that road name right!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Dominick Trail Treefrog

I practically tripped over a gray treefrog this evening as I was walking along Dominick Trail near John Dominick Drive. See video and pictures. I see a lot of other kinds of frogs, but not usually this species. They are a true treefrog, and their little suction cups feel weird on your fingers when you pick the frog up.

When I first got to the trail (I started on Oak Valley Road) I was greeted by a kid racing up and down Oak Valley Road on a dirt bike, who I saw going into house #6. The road goes right through the middle of the park and the entire evening was shattered for all the hikers and fishermen around the reservoir on Nell's Rock Road. Nice.

There were also the annual eggs at "J" Pond, which are easy to see from the little foot bridge south of Oak Valley.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Nor'easter of April 15

Eight inches of rain in Shelton on Tax Day! Here's some video of the Far Mill River and Means Brook flooding over the Rec Path and Gristmill Trail, plus the falls at Mill Street. The Rec Path boardwalk off of Lane was under at least a foot of water.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Wiacek Farm

The Wiacek Farm north of the High School is a beautiful series of meadows open to the public, although few people seem to realize it. We planning on routing the Paugussett Trail extension through the farm so the Blue Dot can get from Indian Well to Shelton Lakes, so I spent Sunday afternoon walking around the farm, looking for a dry route for the new trail (didn't find one). I did find an big old farm dump with all kinds of junk (rabbit hutch, cap to a truck, old equipment) as well as a couple cow skeletons and an old enamal teapot that I took home for a flowerpot. I also saw a woodcock out in the meadow near Mayflower Lane, deer, and turkey. Woodcocks are unusual birds with really long beaks they use for getting worms out of mud - they look more like a shore bird. The Wiacek meadows are perfect habitat for them. See photos.