(click on the image for the "grande" topo)
Mitchell Memorial Forest. Audubon Society Field Trip. Birded with Mark G., Dennis S., Kathi H., Jim S., Ned K., Kathy Mc., & Tom C. Sunny day. 30s. Best birds: 3 Red-shouldered Hawks, 3 Red-breasted Nuthatches. Not as many pines as a few years ago, but more than will be here a few years from now. Boy Scouts were finishing up a camp out in the pine stand closest to the Wood Duck trail parking lot. There are a few hemlocks on the south side of the lot, along the roadway. The smaller cones on the hemlocks are traditionally considered more desired by Pine Siskins, crossbills, and other winter finches. As we walked by, a boy was taking a piss on one of the trees, his back to us. We didn't bother searching through this set of trees for birds. The Red-breasted Nuthatches were in the Tall Pines picnic area, midway along the road that winds up to the top one of the ridges that the park occupies. We walked a section of the mountain bike trail, and then cut off trail for a bit, following another ridge's descent to the Wood Duck Trail portion of the park. I was the putative leader of this trip, but all the attendees are good birders, so it was a walk with one's peers. In fact, Ned K. basically led the trip by pointing out the trails and shortcuts we needed to take to get to the spots of the park I intended the field trip to visit. The three Red-shouldered Hawks were flying together, moving from the trees beside the small meadow we were standing in, before disappearing behind the trees at the top of a neighboring ridge. The wind began to pick up around 10:30. We were finished by 11. Nobody plants pine groves anymore, and many parks and even our National Forest managers recommend and practice aggressive removal of the trees. Years ago, planting a grove of pines was the sign of a wise conservationist. Today the trees are considered non-natives and their planting discouraged. A good number of the trees at Mitchell are dying out for whatever reason, but some of the freshly felled trees, which had yet to be cut up and taken away, looked healthy. Who knows why these trees were cut? The ways of the Lord and his land managers are inscrutable.