Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wachusett Meadows/Mountain in the Rain

With yesterday being National Trail Running day and me not participating as birding always trumps any of my other hobbies during migration, I decided today would be the perfect day to make up for it and run one of my favorite trails which is the Mid State Trail. My original plan would be to finally attempt running the Midstate Trail that gets you up to the summit to Mount Watatic and then I was going to head into New Hampshire, but the rain made me re consider, especially because I don't know that part of the Midstate that well. I also wanted to see if I could finally get the Black-billed Cuckoo at Wachusett Meadows and figured today would be the perfect day as it hadn't started raining yet but was going to, and cuckoos are known to call more prior to rain.

Bird activity would be pretty heavy over at the feeders and there would be plenty of birds taking advantage of Dick and Peg's generous offerings including two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds like the one above.
Checking out its friend up above. Sigh, with fall nearby, I will be sad to see the magical little birds disappear for a while.
There would also be plenty of American Goldfinches nearby, quite a few Common Grackles and this very rowdy bunch of Purple Finches. They were not that shy which was nice as these are hard birds for me to get looks at sometimes. I am guessing the young are a little more trusting of people which worked to my advantage this morning.

I would head toward the end of the paved street and near the Chapman Trail because that is where the Black-billed Cuckoo has been heard the most. I stood for for about 10 minutes of so hoping for a sign of it (even played its call on my Driod), but wouldn't get it again!

Disappointed, I would decide to start my trail run right at Chapman and head to the summit of Mount Wachusett as my final destination. I would take it very slow this time around and didn't bring my Garmin as that device is both a blessing and a curse due to the fact that I look at it constantly and if it tells me my pace isn't where I want it to be, I will make up for it by running even faster which works on regular trails and streets, but not when running up hill, which I had learned last week when my legs were shot by the time I reached the top. This time, it would be almost a fast jog by the time I reached the Harrington Trail. I would decide to take a mini break at this time at one of my favorite stops and would spot for the first time the tree in the picture above which was the crafty work of some beavers.
And here is their dam I am guessing. Funny in that I ran past this last week and didn't notice. I guess there are some rewards when one slows down to see what's going on all around them.
The fog would start to pick up after a while as a light mist would take hold. I was still doing straight running at this time, so the mist would be fantastic because I was getting a little over heated so the rain felt good and helped me to keep my pace. The only downfall would be I wouldn't want to drink as much water and this time I decided to put almost a whole gallon in my hydration pack so running with that as well as my binoculars, camera, food, rain gear, etc didn't help my legs much that were starting to get a little tired.
The rocks were starting to get slick, but have no fear as the Vibrams were getting a much needed rest and had on my La Sportiva Wild Cats which are meant for mountain running because of their good reputation on rugged trails. I would not be disappointed as I didn't slip once and some of the rocks at the end were wet because the rain would now be steady and constant.
Love this part of the trail and usually by now I am exhausted but by not killing myself on the way up, I ran this with ease.
The berries are just starting to ripen as you can see. Whenever I see berries, I think of bird food, so I love seeing them while I am running/hiking the various trails where ever I go.
A picture of the road up to Wachusett as I had some questions from people on what the condition of it was. As you can see, it appears as if they haven't even started on the road yet and it's still a complete mess.
I would finally make my way to the summit and was very happy to see 4 Dark-eyed Juncos. I wold attempt pictures but it was pretty tough at this point with the rain and all, so had to settle for what I could get.
On my way to the summit for pictures. Good luck with that Kim. HA
Wild flowers along the way.

Finally I would reach the summit and all of those awful towers I rant about every time I see them, actually looked kind of cool with the thick fog that was all over the summit by this point. I would eat a Lara Bar (banana bread this time which is so good!) and then head back down the Midstate. By this time, it was a downpour rain and my legs still felt great so was able to make up for all of my dilly dallying on the way up. The rain felt invigorating as I ran from Harrington to the Wachusett Meadow boundary line and the last 3 miles from the summit were easy going with no stops to catch my breath and no hiking. I would finally make it back to my car with my runners high and would be drenched at this point, but very happy. I would see a car approach as I took out my binoculars to look at the birds at the feeders again and out would come a birder dressed in full birding rain gear. We would cross paths and he yelled out to me "Don't get wet now".
Who me???? Tee Hee. All in all a great way to spend a Sunday morning. A little rain never bothered anyone and it takes the boredom out of the everyday, especially since it's been so dry this summer. I would try one more time for the Black-billed despite the downpour and would strike out again of course.
On my way home I decided to hit Sterling Peat thinking perhaps the rain brought in something new. At this point, my camera would be dead again (not sure what's going on with my batteries but they were completely drained), and a hint of panic would sink in because what if I got a fantastic bird and no way to document it with no camera. Seriously, this is what one thinks of when one is still fairly new because newbies make mistakes and my camera helps with that. I would be driving to Sterling Peat and wonder what I would do if there was a Ruddy Turnstone or better yet a Marbled Godwit (hey a girl can dream can't she!) if I didn't have photos for documentation or more experienced birders nearby to confirm. Oh the agony of being a newb! Well someone will be sure to be there I think to myself. After all, it is Sunday and Sterling Peat has been very generous to us this year. I would pull into the deserted parking area (I wonder why!) and make my way to the mud banks to see what was around. My binoculars were so fogged up at this time that I couldn't even get good looks at the Killdeer nearby even though I knew that's what they were because I could hear them and see them with my eyes, but the bins just wanted to be put away and out of the rain. I wouldn't stay for long due to lack of optics and a camera, but did see a Solitary Sandpiper, 3 Least Sandpipers and 4 Killdeer and there probably isn't much else around as Alan and I were just there yesterday and gave that place a really good scanning. Who knows though, Bart will probably report into Rick's site a Marbled Godwit or something as he just seems to have that kind of luck!

Take care all.


MaineBirder said...

My oh my, quite the runner you are! I used to run like that. Back in the late 70's and early 80's with a 70 lb. ALICE backpack and full combat gear (USMC). Up and down the Sierra Nevada's of California.

I can run a mile these days if I have to, but the days of running up and down mountains are over for me, back issues and bad knees.

Kudo's to you, enjoy the rush of the run!

troutbirder said...

What fun! Looks like you saw lots of different things on your run.


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