Archive for the 'Hiking' Category

Aug 29 2008

On the way to paradise

Published by under Hiking,Travel

Here we are - on our way to Acadia National Park

Back in 1983 my husband and I didn’t imagine we’d love Maine so much that we’d come back to Acadia every year.  Now on our 25th visit it’s like coming home.  We’re “regulars” at the Harbourside Inn where we’re welcomed like family and catch up with the many friends we’ve made over the years.

We’ve seen every kind of weather from sunny and cool to a week of dense fog.  The only awful time was The Year of Four Hurricanes when the remnants of Edouard, Fran, Gustav and Hortense brought one rain storm after the other.  It’s a mighty good record that we had to spend our vacation indoors only once.

For a birder and hiker like me, Acadia is paradise.  There are woodland, seaside and mountain trails, views of the ocean from every angle and groomed carriage paths for bicycling, horseback riding and easy walking.  Canoeing and kayaking are popular on the lakes, sea kayaking on the ocean.

September is migration time for many birds.  When the wind’s from the north I visit the Acadia Hawk Watch on Cadillac Mountain.  When the weather’s rainy I sometimes encounter a warbler fallout – tiny birds feeding just an arm’s length away – because the weather forced them to land. 

Last year I went on a Whale Watch and I saw a “life bird” from Antarctica:  a south polar skua.   And I always find a peregrine falcon somewhere on the island, either at the Hawk Watch or on one of the seaside cliffs.  Several pairs of peregrines nest on the island, though nesting season is long over by the time we arrive.

Sometimes people ask me, “How can you vacation at the same place every year?”  True, it reduces our ability to travel widely but our time at Acadia is so restful that we won’t give it up.  The highest accolade we can give to a day is to say, “It’s just like Maine.”

(I took this photo of Otter Cliff many years ago.)

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May 26 2008

I am not a turkey

Published by under Bird Behavior,Hiking

Blaze Orange (photo by Rick St. John)Yesterday I hiked at Quebec Run Wild Area in Fayette County.  The site is 7,441 acres at the top of Chestnut Ridge eastward down the mountain, so far south it’s nearly in West Virginia.

Though there is no hunting on Sundays in Pennsylvania, I forgot it was Sunday when I heard gunfire in the distance.  Just to be safe I draped my hat in blaze orange and put on my blaze orange vest. 

May is Spring Gobbler season in which hunters can shoot “bearded” tom turkeys.  Because wild turkeys can see colors, turkey hunters dress in camouflage, hide in the underbrush and use hen-turkey calls to attract the males toward them.  I’m out looking for birds so I might be attracted to the sound of turkeys, too.  Better safe than sorry.

I didn’t encounter any hunters but my blaze orange had an unintended side effect.

Everywhere I went, male and female scarlet tanagers came close to check me out.  When I sat down they came out of the treetops to see me.  One male tanager didn’t even sing.  He just opened his beak at me in a threatening way.

Duh!  I looked like a scarlet tanager!  Of course they were curious about me. 

No, I am not a wild turkey.  I am not a scarlet tanager either.            (Click on the picture my husband took of me to see a photo of a real scarlet tanager.)

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Apr 22 2008

Close Encounters

Louisiana Waterthrush (photo fromChuck Tague)

If you want to see birds up close, go to where the birds are, sit down on the ground and eat your lunch. 

I’m not kidding!  But first you have to understand the context.

I was prepared for rain last Sunday so I was wearing a big floppy hat and a yellow rain slicker over my backpack.  This gave me a big head and a hunchbacked look.

I was in one of the best spring birding places in Pennsylvania:  Enlow Fork, literally the “Enlow Fork of Wheeling Creek” which forms the border between Washington and Greene counties, almost in West Virginia. 

I was the only person there – even the fishermen weren’t on the scene – and the sky looked ominous.  It rained off and on.

I moved slowly.  The hungier I got, the slower I moved.  When it rained at lunchtime, I took shelter at the second bridge and opened my crinkly lunch bag.  Imagine a bird’s perspective:  a creeping yellow hunchback with a floppy green head making crinkly sounds.  How intriguing!

Zip!  A yellow-throated warbler flew past my left shoulder, stopped on the bridge for a quick glance and he was gone.

Chink!  A Louisiana waterthrush, pictured above by Chuck Tague, perched across the creek and sang a challenge to me.  How dare something so weird sit in his territory!

The rain came down harder.  I crept into better shelter and the Louisiana Waterthrush flew up for a better look.  Perched on the bridge just above eye level, he took a bath in the rain.  Awesome!

Bonus sightings:

Muskrat (photo by Chuck Tague)While standing above a small pond, I saw a muskrat swim by carrying leaves.  He went back and forth several times without noticing me. 

Finally I couldn’t stand the suspense.  Animals often recognize a human voice faster than a human shape, so I spoke to the muskrat.  “Hello, Muskrat.”  He froze immediately, feet splayed out, but he kept drifting forward.  Ha!  He’s not hidden with those waves moving out ahead of him! 

Chuck Tague tells me muskrats are oblivious.  This one proved it.

Virginia Bluebells blooming at Enlow Fork, April 20, 2008

And finally, though Enlow Fork is known for its wildflowers the rain kept most of them closed.  Not so with the Virginia Bluebells as you can see in this photo from my cellphone.

So if you want to see birds up close, put on a big floppy hat, and sit in the rain.  It works for me!

 

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Mar 25 2008

Along the Armstrong Trail

Allegheny River at Rosston, Armstrong County, Mar 23, 2008Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes combining exercise, the outdoors, peace and quiet, and birds.  Winter weather and lousy footing kept me out of the woods for the past few months so I’ve been itching to get out for a real hike.

Last weekend I kicked off hiking season with a visit to the Armstrong Trail at Rosston.  It was so beautiful I had to take this picture. 

The Armstrong Trail runs for 52.5 miles along the Allegheny River from Schenley to East Brady on the path of a former rail line.  I hiked two sections:  Rosston to Logansport and Kelly to Godfrey.   Here the trail is maintained but rough and often paved with coal dust, a heritage of its coal-mining past.

Rosston and Logansport were especially good for birds.  In early spring migrating waterfowl find the river a welcome stopover when the lakes are frozen.  Last weekend Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park was still 90% frozen so no wonder the birds were at the river.

At Rosston, Crooked Creek empties into the Allegheny and is protected by a downstream island.  I could see wood ducks and ring-necked ducks feeding in the island shallows. 

Abandoned beehive coke ovens, Kelly Station, PA, March 24, 2008The river was high and the flats at Logansport were flooded so the trees were up to their ankles in water.  Here I found many more wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, a gadwall and a few horned grebes.  One horned grebe was so close I could see his red eyes.

A curious part of the landscape at Kelly and Godfrey are the abandoned 1850’s beehive coke ovens.  They look like a line of big holes in the forested hillside (pictured at right).

It was very quiet on the trail last weekend but I could tell by the tire tracks and the signs saying “No ATVs” that ATVs use the trail extensively and are unwelcome.  Sadly, this means I won’t be visiting the trail when the weather is good and the ATVs come out.

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