[CT Birds] Nehantic SF info Pt2 - Long!

David F Provencher david.f.provencher at dom.com
Mon May 14 14:52:33 EDT 2012

The Nehantic SF  forest track and Blue blazed trails from the gravel parking area at the eastern end of the forest's Keeny Road:

This loop is about 4 miles but can be shortened (Why would you do That!). At the gravel parking area (Blue Corporals can be found here as well by the way) a forest track (old forest road) and Blue blazed trail offers profitable birding and hiking. Heading in along the old forest track (through the yellow gate) you will hear Blue-winged Warbler by day and Whippoorwill by night. Eastern Towhees will be very much in evidence as well as Great Crested Flycatcher. Very quickly you will come to an extensive beaver swamp on the left that empties across/under the gravel track and flows off to the right. This swamp may have migrant Olive-sided Flycatcher, Wilson's Warbler, and often other goodies such as Nashville Warbler. White-eyed Vireo used to be found here and may be again. Right after the swamp a large gravel pit is one the right. Pine Warblers and Chipping Sparrows can be found here and Woodcocks display here. The area is hunted by Barred Owls at night while a Chuckwillswidow spent two years in the area in the recent past.

Staying on the track, which alternates between gravel and grass for a bit, you will pass a narrow open cut-over track on the left resembling a gasline cut. Prairie Warbler and Chestnut-sided Warbler are here, as well as Woodcocks. Continuing further you will for a while hear and see a stream on the left, Louisiana Waterthrush can be heard here. I once found a Kentucky Warbler along this stretch as well.

At about ½ of a mile in you will find a large square-ish area on the left that was cut over about 5 or more years ago. It is reverting now. Another track heads off to the left. NOTE this spot: if you take a left here it is a short cut to the large beaver swamp complex I will mention later. This area once had Hooded Warblers on both sides, one of which sang a very atypical song. Now it has Blue-winged mainly (and a Prairie) but the reverting habitat is good for migrant Mourning Warbler and I just recently found a Singing Canada Warbler here even though the habitat is dry.

Staying straight (NOT taking the left track/short cut I just mentioned that is) you will come to an area (mostly on the right) that slopes gently away and that was cut about 8 to 10 years ago. You should hear a Blue-winged Warbler doing a Golden-winged Warbler-like (not exactly though) song. Migrant Nashville Warbler can sometimes be found here. As you continue on the track starts to bear to the left. Listen for Hooded Warblers as you go. There are currently two territories along here. You may have to walk in after them as they are often not near the path. A very old track heads sharply to the left here (very easy to not notice it but you don't want to go that way anyway) and the way you want to go is to the right. The path will then (at about 1 mile in from the parking area) turn sharply left and ascend a hill/ridge line. Take this more dominant path left and head up, Do NOT go straight on the narrower little used path here (you can if you wish of course but it isn't part of this discussion). As the path heads up hill you will pass through an area that always has Ovenbirds, Wood Thrush, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. You may have Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Great Crested Flycatchers as well but it is very mature forest (for CT) and has a limited number of species. Stay on this path (ignore the barely noticeable left hand fork) for another ½ to ¾ of a mile (ascending and descending) and you will hit an area of very obvious logging that has occurred very recently. You will briefly leave the state land here. The logged area is private but not posted. The logged area is too fresh for new growth but offers an interesting break in the habitat. I had a number of Parulas singing here one day last week. No doubt Woodcock will be here next year and I bet Whippoorwill will sing here if they are out this way (I haven't checked). Stay on the freshly bulldozed road, though you can explore the logged area of course, I do.

Visible below the logged area is a large wooded swamp with Tree and Barn Swallows as well as Phoebe etc. Walk down the road a bit towards the swamp (freshly muddied and churned from the logging) you will come to a sharp left (yellow gate) that takes you back into state lands along a lightly used grass road/path. Walk past/under the gate and you will gradually ascend with a stream gurgling off to the right. You will soon find a blue-green port-a-potty in the middle of the woods (what! A port-a-potty in the woods?). I have never looked in so I don't know if you can use it! At this rest facility (isn't the whole forest a rest facility?) a forest road will head off to the right crossing the stream, do NOT take it though. When you find the port-a-potty you will be right in the middle of an Acadian Flycatcher's territory. You will hear its "Peet-SA" call if you wait long enough. Continue past the port-a-potty and along the path (ignore the left fork that you shortly encounter) and you come to the beaver swamp complex that the stream empties from. All along this stream/swamp area you may here Louisiana Waterthrush. At the swamp you will find Eastern Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Baltimore Oriole, Pileated Woodpecker, four other Woodpecker species, Eastern Phoebe, Red-winged Blackbird, Grackle, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, Tree Swallows, and others. I have found Red-headed Woodpecker here and it is superb habitat for stopover Olive-sided Flycatcher. As you walk along the road with the swamp on your right (Wood Ducks breed here) you will come to a tee intersection of old forest roads where the swamp finally ends. Turn right. NOTE: Here, the left fork (well pretty much straight ahead really) is the short cut I mentioned earlier. So if you go back in this description and TAKE that left/short cut I mentioned it will bring you here to the swamp area much faster than following the whole route.

Continuing on the route I take will mean taking the right turn I just mentioned at this intersection. It swings around the head of the swamp, descending briefly to another outlet stream.  Cross this stream (There is a tiny foot bridge just a little upstream if you don't have waterproof hiking boots) and ascend up the wide but old forest road keeping the swamp on your right. Watch VERY carefully on the left (about 50 yards after the stream) for the Blue Blazed Trail heading into the forest. It is well worn but narrow and inconspicuous, so watch carefully. Follow the blue-blazed trail all the way back to the parking area by ALWAYS staying left at any trail forks (there are two or three I think, each with signs). This trail will take you through some varied habitat. As you go you will come across an east facing descending slope much bathed in sunlight and showing evidence of selective logging some years ago. Here you will hear another Hooded Warbler, Prairie Warbler, and Blue-winged Warblers. Keep trucking and winding until you pass the large glacial erratic on your right and you will be pretty much back at the car.

This is a VERY cursory description forest and a limited list of the species you will encounter. The one thing you will notice in this forest is that it will seem the very center of the world's population of Worm-eating Warblers! You should hear Cuckoos (nearly all will be Yellow-billed), Orioles, Wood Thrush, Veery, an occasional Hermit Thrush, MANY red-eyed Vireos, a Yellow-throated Vireo or three, and many other forest denizens. If you see someone walking way too fast to be properly birding but with binoculars in hand, that will probably be me. Good Luck!

David Provencher

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