Sunday, April 27, 2008
Pre - Sanctuary
The Audubon's Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Hampden will be 'officially' re-opening this coming September, after a several year hiatus. Volunteers were at work Saturday cleaning up, and a boy scout troop built bird houses, in preparation. The weather wasn't the best early Sunday afternoon, but I recruited the kid and we went down there to take an early look.
To get there we went through the center of Hampden, where there is this small town green.
A couple adults with their kids were fishing off a bridge, into the Scantic River nearby.
The Scantic isn't exactly huge, but it's apparently fishable.
Feeding the river is East Brook, which I suspect is the "Laughing Brook" the Sanctuary gets it's name from, as it forms it's eastern border.
The trail begins at this gate, with a couple boards with info on local wildlife, and a big map.
There are several viewing gazebos overlooking some water here.
The trail starts off running for a ways alongside East Brook. The brook is flowing along pretty good right now, and in several spots the trees on the edges have broken loose and fallen across it. Across the brook is private property, with several houses in view, as well as some road noise. The noises and houses probably won't be as easily noticeable once the leaves begin filling in the woods.
The fast running brook makes a lot of noise as it bubbles over the rocks, probably giving the sanctuary it's name.
For all the blooming of the trees everywhere else, they're taking their time budding here. Pretty much the only green at this time is from the many hemlocks and pines that seem to dominate the lower area of the sanctuary.
There is a big, (vernal?) pool with an old pine fallen across it.
Most of the sanctuary seems littered with downed trees, everywhere you look. I suppose that's a good thing as the decaying trees will contribute to the most basic building blocks of life in the coming sanctuary. Also the downed trees allow more sunlight into the understory of the forest for new growth.
The overcast day and lack of foliage didn't make for the cheeriest hike I've ever been on, and the birds weren't very active either. But we decided to continue on, and explore the entire double loop that makes up the trail system here.
Old rock walls are abundant, dividing up old sections of pasture or farm land.
Rocky ridges jut out of the ground on the upper trail loop.
Dead tree to us, buffet table to a Pileated Woodpecker?
I'm guessing it was a Pileated Woodpecker, because of the large size of the wood chips scattered about:
We trudged north out to the farthest edge of the loop. We stopped here and there to listen for wildlife, but found it pretty much lacking. Lacking, that is, until two giant Whitetail Deer suddenly sprang up about 20 yards to our left, and leaped off, loudly crashing through the brush, their bright white tails bouncing away into the forest. It completely surprised us both, and got our hearts pumping for a few minutes. We laughed about the sudden excitement, and continued on the return path.
Several minutes after that, we came across a (human) family of three heading in the opposite direction. They asked if we had any idea where we were, and how to get back to the parking area. They'd had enough of hiking lost under the gloomy sky, and wanted to head back. I showed them where we were on my GPS, and they decided to follow us. Walking back, our little troop saw another deer in the distance, and Chris and I spotted two Wild Turkeys. So, all in all the day wasn't completely without wildlife viewing in this as yet undeveloped sanctuary.
We finally emerged from the trails, just as the sun decided to come out.
It would have been very welcome just a half hour earlier...
The sanctuary appears to have great potential, with long easy walking trails, and several viewing spots once all the foliage blooms and the leaf litter and downed trees begin their contributions to the life of the forest.