Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mondo Pond, Milford

Lots of waterfowl were congregating in what little open water remained at Mondo Pond (it was 22 degrees when I took the photos). It made for quite a show. The top photo is a little hooded merganser eating a fish (a sunfish, I think). Compared to the ducks, these birds are zippy, skittish, and you might see them diving.

This photo shows a couple of Canadian Geese, a Mallard Duck (yellow beak), and a Ring-Necked Duck (in the back). There was also a Swan and some Sea Gulls. Here are some more photos.

I accessed the park from the grade school on West Ave. There's a nice wide trail, but condos were built unfortunately close to the shore and trail, and it looks like condo residents have been clearing the narrow buffer between them and the trail (which looks like it's city property) so they can get a better view. Of course, that means hikers feel like they're passing through their living rooms. Which leads me to wonder: If trail users started mooning the condo owners, would the buffer strip still get cut?

Reading the Signs

Winter hiking brings its own rewards: reading the signs of the forest. A bird of prey caught something here. Look at the feather marks in the snow on the left and right edges of the photo. (Rec Path, Shelton).

These tracks on Dominick Trail in Shelton belong mostly to coyote, along with some deer. None of those tracks are human. Think trails are just for people?

The bare spot was where a deer took a snooze (this was one of three). The deer tracks and deer poo were other telltale signs. Near Dominick Trail, Shelton Lakes.

The bare spot on the sapling (about 1 foot up from the ground) is a deer rub, where one or more bucks sharpened their antlers. The tree behind and to the right has marks going up the side of the tree where a poacher climbed the tree to hunt (Klapik Farm open space off Long Hill Road, Shelton).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Deer at the Dump

There are ten deer in this photo, which was taken at the Shelton landfill this week by George Magdon. Ten deer per square mile (that's 64 acres for each deer) is the recommended density for healthy forests, healthy deer, and low rates of Lyme Disease. But parts of Fairfield County have densities of up to 60 deer per square mile.

The deer population in Shelton is rising, although it is nowhere near as ridiculous as what towns like Redding and Ridgefield have. In those town the deer have stripped the forests of vegetation, then stripped some rather expensive landscaping from yards before deer fencing could be installed (many homeowners there surround their property with deer fence). Rates of Lyme Disease and deer strikes have skyrocketed in lockstep with the deer population boom, leading to a surprising display of public support of bowhunting on city open space, in some cases very close to official hiking trails.

I moved to Shelton in 1991 and for several years I heard gun fire out my back door every fall. I rarely saw deer, even when hiking. That changed when most of the vacant lands were either subdivided or acquired for city open space, where hunting is prohibited (there is still some poaching). Now it's common to see deer herds calmly browsing a few feet from residents' front doors.

It's just the beginning folks. Although there are still some pockets of hunting in Shelton (notably on farmland in the White Hills), the deer population will continue to rise. Where deer once nibbled on hostas and tulips, they will start devouring entire gardens and shrubs. Lyme Disease rates will increase significantly, and more drivers will hit deer.

I just returned from planning the installation of deer fencing at the new Ecklund Native Species Garden at Shelton Lakes. We received a grant from Iroquois to purchase native species, and we'll need to protect our investment with a deer fence. As the deer population rises, the forest will be stripped, and Ecklund Garden will be an island of biodiversity in the desert our forests will become.
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Lost & Found

Ever find a trail you never knew was missing? I "discovered" Fox Hollow Trail in Shelton recently when I saw this engraved stone pillar along the edge of Little Fox Run just east of Okenuck Way. It's an access trail to the trails at Birchbank Mountain, built by the developer of the neighboring Fox Hollow subdivision in the 1990s.

The neighbors knew it was there and a few people had mentioned a set of stairs to me, but I had no idea what they were referring to until I just happed to see this pillar with a set of stairs behind it leading to Birchbank. The trail is located on a narrow corridor of city open space land.

Our Trails Committee knew nothing of the trail and was delighted to hear of it. Next spring we'll need to give the trail some maintenance, paint some blazes on the trees, and update Birchbank Mtn hiking map.
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