Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Purgatory Chasm-Sunday

I decided to head over to Purgatory Chasm this past Sunday to do a little birding, hiking and trail running. I know Purgatory is known for it's rocky and uphill trails, but figured I could find some that were pretty level on the lesser known trails where not only could I run it, but not have to deal with the hundreds of people that show up there every weekend for cookouts and play.

I got there at about 9am and found a trail that was 1.5 miles that was pretty level except for a few areas like the one above which was flat, but had a ton of roots which could make running hazardous if you were not paying attention. I was in my zone at that point, so I figured I was going to be daring here so I ran it and believe it or not, it's not half as bad as you think it would be if you know how to run in areas such as this as I quickly did. The trick to getting past this section was to basically leap from area to area where there was enough clear land in between the roots to make for a safe landing. An awesome challenge and real fun to boot!

There was also another trail that I found that was approx 1.3 mile long and a little more challenging as you can see in the photo above. I did NOT run most of this area here obviously but most of this trail was fairly easy to run as long as you watched where you were going!

I had a total endorphin rush by the time I got to the top of the trail and took a break to drink some water and just listen for birds. Everywhere I went that morning, I could hear Wood Thrushes calling in the barren woods, almost encouraging me to go on, despite the increased humidity. Once one bird's call started to fade away as I got further away from it, another would take its place which was awesome because Wood Thrushes are one of my favorite sounds to hear in the woods.

After that I decided to try Devils Pulpit which is a lot of fun and awesome for birding as the rocks are sometimes so high, you can get some pretty good looks at birds in tree branches as you are not that far away from them. The sign above looks a little intimidating to those who see it for the first time, but the Devil's Pulpit trail (about 1/2 a mile long-I did it twice to try and get a better angle on a nest) is really not that challenging as long as you practice common sense while doing it.

I went from rock to rock and would pause as soon as I heard some bird song. There were also 3 Warbling Vireos across from me in one concentrated area of the trail and they kept hopping from tree branch to rock which was funny to see because I very seldom see any vireos on a rock. There were also a family of Black-capped Chickadees making a racket in the branches above and their calls echoed throughout the pulpit.

An example of some of the lower elevation rocks on the Pulpit. Yes folks, this is a trail!

A nest at the highest peak of Devils Pulpit. Will be going next week to see if I can get better shots as my location was almost directly underneath the nest and it was hard to navigate back to because scores of people and their dogs started arriving. No birds or squirrels in there obviously, but would still like to try and figure out what lived in there at one point.

I finally found my way to one of the highest rocks at the highest point of the trail so I could stop to attempt an informal bird count so I did a little pishing and sure enough many of the regular woodland birds came out of hiding, including the craziest bird of all which was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird fluttering around from tree branch to tree branch (perhaps looking for spider webs??)! I could see this small like creature and assumed it was a very large bug because WHY would a hummingbird be out in the middle of the woods with no nectar producing flowers around? I can't get any closer to the creature because I am on rocks with wide crevices in between so you try your best to locate the object on the branches and hopes it comes closer with some pishing and sure enough it did and I was able to confirm it as a hummingbird. I decided to do a little research on this as I found it so odd, but according to Cornell , Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are known to breed in Mixed woodlands and eastern deciduous forests, as well as pine trees, so I guess it would make sense to see a hummingbird in the woods! ;o)

My most exciting bird find (by ear only), but a Red-breasted Nuthatch. I have never seen or heard a RB Nuthatch this far south of Worcester County so I was totally stoked when I heard its toy trumpet like call. I pished and pished but it wouldn't come out from wherever it was so I took some audio instead as record. See video below and note not birds, just the RB Nuthatch call. I did this just to triple check that I was indeed correct as I never was able to get a visual on the bird.

Despite being out in the woods I didn't do too bad for a bird count. I was convinced I would only hear a few Black-capped Chickadees, some Eastern-wood Peewees and maybe a Downy Woodpecker if I was lucky, so it was a pleasant surprise. All in all, it was a great day with about 5 miles of trails (in which 2 were running). Take care everyone.


Betsy from Tennessee said...

Kim, You certainly are in good shape physically--in order to run those trails --and then hike on Devil's Pulpit...WOW...Glad you saw some birds.

Hope you find out what was in that HUGE nest..

NCmountainwoman said...

Here I sit like a slug with my second cup of coffee trying to tell myself I need to get out for my walk before it gets too warm. I'm looking at the trail with all the roots on which I would have trouble walking without stumbling and you tell me you RAN it? That looks like one challenging run. Way to go.

Andy said...

I haven't been there in years. I forgot what it looked like.

Kathiesbirds said...

You are an inspiration and a determined birder! How many species did you see? Good for you to do the research and figure things out for yourself! It looks like you had a grand time. I couldn't take the humidity though.


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