Friday, April 26, 2013

Hope Lake Arch Bridge

This new arch bridge at Hope Lake is a recent Eagle Scout project lead by Gabe Brown from Troop 55. The bridge leads to a small piece of land that is either a small island or a peninsula, depending on the water level. This bridge was a major undertaking.

The island has always been popular with determined fishermen who could access it by wading through a few inches of water, but now the island is readily accessible to hikers and more casual fishermen less willing to get their feet wet.

Nesting Geese on Hope Lake Island

You may have seen this new Eagle Scout bridge that takes hikers and fishermen out to a tiny island in Hope Lake off of Nells Rock Road.  We've been getting reports of a pair of nesting geese who are not particularly happy with the intrusion, and geese can be aggressive and a danger to small children, so we've posted a caution sign on the bridge asking people not to approach the geese.

The nest is on the far tip of the island, and these geese are relatively tame, so there is no need to close off the entire island to protect the nest.  Daddy is doing a pretty good job of letting people know they need to back off. I took these photos with a telephoto lens, so I'm not as close as it appears. Eventually a got within 15 feet of the nest, talking softly, kneeling down, and facing away from the nest to be less threatening, and the pair didn't seem very upset. After I stood up the Daddy gave a bit of hiss, though.

The male goose defends the mother goose on the nest (blending in on the right)

The nest doesn't really consist of much, just a few twigs and the mother goose sitting on her eggs. When I was nearby, the mother was perfect still while the father strutted about to attract my attention.

Mother goose on her nest.

Leg band

The male was banded, and I was able to read off the number back at the computer by zooming in on the photos.  I found a website for reporting the number and filed a report. After I clicked "submit" I got the following message:

The goose was banded at Osborndale Park in 2007, so I've nicknamed him Ozzy (does that make mommy "Sharon"?)   He's at least seven years old. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Birchbank Mtn Wildflower Show Begins

Dutchman's Breeches
The spring wildflowers at Birchbank Mountain are opening up just in the nick of time for our "Trillium Hike" this Sunday at 1:00 pm (click link for exact parking location). Peak spring wildflower season is generally the same time as opening fishing (3rd Saturday in April) or Tax Day (April 15), sometime earlier and sometimes later.  An unusually cold March set things back, but after a few warmer days the flowers are really starting to pop. 

Dutchman's Breeches carpet the forest floor
Early spring woodland flowers can be found across the state, but I've never seen a carpet of Dutchman's Breeches like this anywhere else in the state.  The sandy soil and cool slope are apparently the perfect conditions for them.

Trillium almost in bloom
There wasn't any Trillium in bloom yet, but almost.  There's a good chance a few early Trillium will be open by the hike on Sunday.

Trout Lily

Trout Lily is supposedly called that because it blooms around opening fishing day. Which is in three days, so that's about right. 

Spicebush is sometimes call "Forsythia of the Wild."  It's aromatic and is used to make tea. Hence the name.

Dutchman's Breeches really are the star of the show. They are one of the most delicate wildflowers of the woods, names after the really wide trousers Dutch sailors were known to wear

Bloodroot got it's name because red juice oozes out of a cut stem. The leaves at the base close up around the stem like a pair of hands holding a flower.

Japanese Knotweed
Birchbank Mountain is a good place to collect edible invasive species. Japanese Knotweed is harvested as the spears come out of the ground and used in place of rhubarb.  It's been made into "Itadori Tea" for thousands of years. See more here.

Field Garlic
Field Garlic is that stuff that grows in your lawn and looks like chives.  You can eat it in the spring while it's tender.

Garlic Mustard
Garlic Mustard is a potherb that was brought to America by Europeans as a food source.  Garlic Mustard Pesto is a popular dish, but it can be added to soups, stews, or in pasta.

Dutchman's Breeches and Trillium

The invasive plants are competing with the native wildflowers, so by eating the invasives you also help out the native wildflowers.

Opening Day Is Not Far Away

Opening Day of Fishing Season is this Saturday, April 20th.  Be prepared for 4:00 parking jams at all the popular hang-outs like Hope Lake on Nells Rock Road.

If you want to line up a spot then some of the places you can go include:

  • Housatonic River - Southbank Open Space on Rt. 110
  • Sunnyside Boat Ramp and Picnic Area - Rt 110 behind Sunnyside School
  • The Riverwalk - downtown
  • Ousatonic Dam - north end of Canal St (parking is very limited)
  • Indian Well State Park - Indian Well Road
  • Curtis Brook - Pine Lake - Rt. 108 outside downtown (start of the RecPath)
  • Silent Waters - Constitution Boulevard North (canoe access)
  • Hope Lake - Nells Rock Road (there is a handicapped-accessible fishing rock near the dam)
  • Far Mill River - Gristmill Trail - Mill Street
  • Beard Sawmill Road at Rt. 8
  • Wellspring Estates - Farmill Crossing
  • ASF Sports - Rt. 110 - trail access behind the building

And if you need a map to find the fish the CT DEEP publishes a list of places where they stocked trout along the Far Mill River.

Please clean up after yourself and others as you enjoy fishing.  Shelton's Clean Sweep Week is on and there are a lot of folks out cleaning up parks, roadsides, and streambanks.  We all value our waterways and we don't need to add Dunkin Doughnuts cups, bait containers, and wrappers to the problem.

So whether you like small ponds, big rivers, or fast moving streams there's plenty of places to enjoy local opens spaces.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Paugussett Trail Clean-Up

We had a good work party on the Paugussett Trail this morning.  Six Shelton High School students assisted as part of their community service program and we were glad to have them.  We worked from Indian Well State Park by The Maples up toward Mayflower Drive.  Half the people went uphill and worked down and the other half worked uphill.  We hit a lot more storm damage than we anticipated & had to go back for the chainsaw.  In the meantime the high school guys raked, cleared brush, and hauled out a ridiculous amount of trash that people had heaved over the stone walls along Indian Well Road.

They then hauled all these goodies a long way down to the parking lot by the trail to the Indian Well Waterfall for pick-up.  Some of this stuff was surprisingly heavy too!  People were throwing out buckets of roofing tar or something.  The other crew had a great time whittling their way through a barberry patch.  Hopefully they came through in one piece.  Thanks to Ryan, Jim, Zack, Rob & the other guys (I'll have to get everybody's names from Sandie) for helping out.  We'll probably be back here in 2 weeks completing this section in anticipation of the National Trails Day Hike in June.

Friday, April 12, 2013

STIHL Chainsaw Clinic

Thank you STIHL for a good and timely chainsaw safety clinic.  Last night two chainsaw experts from STIHL came to the Shelton Farmer's Market on Cornell Street to offer a safety class for trails volunteers.  We had been working on a lot of storm damage repair on Shelton trails during the last couple of years, and it's made us think about ways to improve training and safety methods.  

Sheri Dutkanicz talked to Jeff over at the Stihl warehouse here in town, and he put us in touch with their safety experts.  The Company has trained instructors who travel around the region giving talks on how to work better and safer.  Kelly and Andrew were very informative and gave us a good demonstration.  We got to watch a movie, ask questions, play with equipment, learn to maintain the saws, look at safety equipment to wear, and learn how to not get hurt working on trails.

We had a good turnout of folks; about 30 people attended from the Trails Committee, trails volunteers, the Conservation Commission, Shelton Parks & Recreation Dept. professionals, the Shelton Land Conservation Trust, and members of the general public.

There is a good article in the Shelton Herald with more photos of all the participants.  Thanks to Brad at the Herald for helping publicize the event and covering it.

Later we got to go outside and a those that wanted to cut a few pine logs on the saw buck.  The Stihl guys were really great and gave us a pair of chainsaw chaps, a sharpening kit, bar oil, gloves, hats, and other goodies.  It was really unexpected and all the gear would be helpful in future work parties.  Thanks to Stihl for offering this community service.  It's great when a local business helps out the volunteers like this.

Some of us then when over to the Ascot Club after the Clinic to do our part in bolstering the downtown business community.  It's tough work but somebody's got to do it.  See you on the trails.