Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mount Watatic-Birds and Blueberries

I headed to Ashburnham today with my main goal  hiking up to Mount Watatic to Pratt and then back again.  In the past, this was my second favorite trail running series but have come to the conclusion I'm a much better hiker than I'll ever be a trail runner and I can hike as much as I want without aches and pains which can get tiring after a while so off I went.

While making my way up Wapack I'd be reminded why I love it so much.  I've wondered my share of trails and find this one the most peaceful and tranquil.  Any worries you have when you leave your car quickly fade the further you climb.

Birds would be vocal including quite a few Yellow-rumped Warblers which I picked up on immediately so hoping the mental block I have with these birds is gone once and for all.

Getting closer to the summit and another favorite part of the trail with the hemlocks and the ferns.

Almost there

I'd make my way up and could hear the many Dark-eyed Junco's as well as one lone Eastern Towhee and many Cedar Waxwings who'd be gorging on blueberries.

After looking around for a bit I decided to head to the area where Tom Pirro and others run the Watatic hawkcount and be dismayed to see the fog hadn't cleared yet so views would be limited as it was one of the things I was looking forward to the most.

The cool breeze that awaited me made up for it though and was nice after hiking up with the muggy weather we've been experiencing lately.

No Broad-winged Hawks unfortunately in fact, no raptors at all.  They still have still must have been sleeping!
I already knew this is where I'd have breakfast so I'd happily sit on a rock and feast on a peanut butter and blackberry jam sandwich washed down with a water and couldn't be happier but was hoping for a Red-shouldered Hawk to fly by or course but no such luck.  I'd spend some time scanning the skies with my binoculars anyhow and take in all the panoramic views and be deep in thought.
I'd set off shortly after that as I still had to get to Pratt and back and with my tendency to linger when I spot and interesting bird, I thought it best to get a move on and back on the Wapack trail heading toward New Hampshire.

Which is my favorite part of the Wapack that I've seen thus far.  If I could think of one word it would be whimsical.  Nothing like taking this in while a Winter Wren sings for you seriously, who needs beer when you have this....... well maybe that's going a tad too far, but its one of my favorite songs to hear while deep in the woods.

This would be the first time I'd hike this trek of land as I've trail ran it in the past and the first thing that I'd notice were the number of Blackburnian Warlbers I could hear.  In fact, it would be so frequent that I'd question my ID as I've never heard as many even at Quabbin during migration I don't believe.  I'd be making my way along and could spot one and would be shocked it was pishable as that has never been my experience with this warbler before due to how high in the tree canopy they usually are.

What puzzled me the most is that I'd never heard them along Wapack I don't believe until today.  Weird because one of my favorite things to do while trail running is look straight ahead and bird by ear where I call them off in my head as I pass by.  It makes for challenging birding and really works your ears as you are listening in all directions while moving fast so it makes you sharp IMO.  Obviously not sharp enough as I failed to pick up on these apparent numerous birds until now.  

Lousy shot but thought it was cool to watch it hunt for insects.  I don't see enough of this warbler to get an understanding on its overall behavior so when I get the opportunity, I make sure to appreciate it!

But soon enough it was time to mosey on along as I planned to eat peanut butter and blackberry jam sandwich #2 on the summit of Pratt and wanted to get there the same time as last hoping the sun would be out as it was perfect for pictures, with the pond in the background and more panoramic views.  I'd be making my way along and then hear what sounded like a chainsaw which I thought was odd but didn't make much of it.

Until I got to this.  Hmmmmmm.......This looks like it may be important, better stop and look.  I'd be majorly bummed to see a section of Wapack was closed because there went my plan for the morning as this was my direct route to Pratt.  Sure I could attempt the side detour trail but with my history of getting lost I thought it was best to turn around.

I didn't want to head back yet so decided to find other areas to explore.  I'd realize I was in a section with no trail markers but figured as long as I walked straight there would be no chance of me getting lost as I'd just have to walk straight back to Wapack.

Cool shroom pic for old times sake!

I'd continue to make my way along the unmarked path out of pure curiosity, plus there's something I really like about trails with bordering ferns so was wondering how long they'd go on like this for so just kept going.

And then I'd find this.  Hmmmmm...I am on a trail, the rainbow trail (wondering if the person who named it was originally part of the Timothy Leary experiment back in the 70's) ;-)  The sign certainly looked that old that's for sure!  I'd continue further and now following the red markers until I came across the dwelling below.

Have no idea what it is and figuring it's a hunting shack or summer camp spot?  Whatever it was I figured it would be best to turn around so that's just what I did and headed back to Watatic for some of the many blueberries.

The Cedar Waxwings would still be there gorging themselves so I figured I'd join them.  I'd grab my ziplock bag and take off my day bag which was nice to finally have it off my back.

I would be in nirvana at this point while I picked blueberries and would eat some here and there of course.  The weather was perfect and there'd still be that breeze and I had a Hermit Thrush singing about two trees away from me.  He'd have company including the nearby Towhee, Junco's and a distant Blackburnian Warbler and it would be then Mount Watatic would score more brownie points for me which is saying a lot because I like it so much already.  I'd suddenly become jealous of who ever owned that cottage I saw earlier because they'd have all this beauty less than a mile from them and could probably spend the entire summer exploring the landscape and never get bored. I could have sat there for the rest of the day just eating blueberries and listening to the birds but others started coming for their fill of the blueberries and some hiking so off I went back home.  While I didn't get my targeted 8 miles, I did close to 6 and it was probably just as well as it gave me time to enjoy Watatic a little more.

While driving I'd have a strong craving for blueberry pancakes and bacon for lunch.

Well maybe I got a little carried away. ;-).  They came out pretty good but could have been better as I decided to use my multigrain pancake mix in an effort to be healthy :-p.  The flour was a bit too strong for the delicate taste of the blueberries so will go back to white flour only next time I'm lucky enough to score more berries and will save the multigrain for my bananna, chocolate chip, walnut pancakes which are my favorite in the winter and yes those are healthy! 

I'd spend the rest of the day cooking and in the garden.  My highlight would be my first ever Common Grackle in my yard.  Yes, I've had them as fly by's so have counted them but this would be the first time I'd see one land on my property.

In the neighbors yard in this picture but it was nice to see.  The biggest bird event in the yard is my very lovable American Robin whose territory is in my yard.  The male robin next door is very dominant and even has enough balls to sing in my yard which ticks of the other robin but it would do nothing about it until a couple of days ago and now they're fighting all the time.  I normally don't like to see birds squabble but cheer him on every time he chases the other robin out as he was clearly being taken advantage of and I always root for the under dog! ;-)

The zucchini is now bearing fruit so decided to get creative with it for dinner this evening.
And make some fritters to go with some Summerfest bear.  I need those calories after all that hiking and thought this would be perfect!

Oh and one last tidbit of info.  I'd exchange emails with my trail running buddy Tom to let him know of our direct route to Pratt being out of service as we plan on hiking to all four summits along Wapack consecutively this summer and I'd find out he was scouting yesterday just as I was today.  He'd send me pictures of some of the logging going on so thought I'd share.  If you plan on hiking or trail running Wapack, keep this in mind for the time being.

Take care all.


Dan said...

Nice report Kim. Too bad about the logging activity.

Kim said...

Thanks Dan! Yup major bummer and not sure if it will be done for the September trail race at Wapack or not. Not sure how they'll handle that detour!


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