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Trail Reports

Insights on trail conditions and the plants and animals you can expect to encounter throughout the seasons.

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Notes and changes since last report

  • It was partly cloudy, almost 50°F and calm at 12:30 PM on March 27, 2013.
  • The trails and grounds reopen April 1, 2013.
  • This was the first walk of the season.
  • Winter left the trails in pretty good condition, although a few changes would be noted...

The Trails

  • Bluebirds were calling along the front Old Hayfield; a cool breeze picked up and went down my collar.
  • It was comfortable by the time I got to the back where last seasons dogbane pods were still hanging.
  • Along the high stretch of the Sedge Meadow Trail, I noted a dozen robins overhead as well as numerous territorial claims of fox or coyote at ground level.
  • The trail dropped abruptly to the boardwalk across the swamp, where an uprooted tree was the main new feature.
  • Algae was a surprise this early - I don't think there's usually much at all here.
  • On the other hand, skunk cabbage was not as abundant or fresh looking as expected. In fact it looked rather chewed up.
  • Last season's fallen elm provided access to the mysterious pipe in the Sedge Meadow.
  • It was encrusted with lichens and next to it were skunk cabbage flowers, showing some wear and tear.
  • Towards the end of the trail, the fallen old oak was stark against the clouds.
  • Along the edge of the back Old Hayfield, a shag bark hickory leaf bud was just opening.
  • Farther along, without its leaves - or fall color - burning bush's twigs explained its other name, winged euonymous.
  • The south facing, brushy edge of the field was my best chance for an early butterfly, say a comma or mourning cloak, but alas...
  • In the Old Pasture, I was surprised to hear and see the red-breasted nuthatch. It's usually at the opposite side of the trail system.
  • My favorite "view from the bluff" of the Wappinger Creek was just a little different with that pointy little tree top missing.
  • Down closer to the water I found preparations under way for one of Cary's many educational programs.
  • Lunch at one of the foot bridges was notable for three reasons: 1) they no longer float away in the spring floods, thanks to steel cables; 2) I found myself sitting next to yet another scat. 3) A winter wren sang!
  • The Cary Pines Trail promised to be interesting with re-routing through the snag from Sandy last fall.
  • After a look back it was off to the Fern Glen.
  • Water striders and water boatmen were in their respective elements above and below the surface of the pond, but a stone fly on the surface was walking increasingly awkwardly and was just not going to make shore. A long weed and a steady hand delivered it to the hand rail.
  • Behind us, I finally found a nice skunk cabbage flower...
  • ...and well hidden colt's-foot buds.
  • You never know what to expect in spring in the bottom of the Old Gravel Pit. This year it was dry.
  • On the way out, a clump of feathers suggested a meal had been had - perhaps pheasant.
  • It was not long before the view of Gifford House across the Little Bluestem Meadow told me the end of the trail was near on this first day out.
Front Old Hayfield
Dogbane pods
Scat marking territory
Boardwalk on the Sedge Meadow Trail
Falling tree in the Sedge Meadow Swamp
Algae in the Sedge Meadow Swamp
Skunk cabbage leaves
The Pipe in the Sedge Meadow
The Pipe in the Sedge Meadow
Lichens on the Pipe
Skunk cabbage flowers
Branches of the fallen Old Oak
Hickory leaf bud
Winged euonymous
Sunny hedge row
View from the Bluff
Program Preparations
Lunch at a foot bridge
Fern Glen pond
Skunk cabbage flower
Stone fly
Bottom of the Old Gravel Pit
Pheasant feathers
Little Bluestem Meadow


  • 2 Mourning Dove
  • 4 American Crow
  • 4 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 1 Tufted Titmouse
  • 2 Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • 1 Winter Wren
  • 1 Eastern Bluebird
  • 13 American Robin
  • 4 Red-winged Blackbird

Notes and changes since last report:

  • It was cloudy, 50° and calm at 1:30 PM on October 31, 2012.
  • There was a fair amount of damage from hurricane Sandy, mostly on the Cary Pines Trail.
  • Today was the last day of the season the grounds were open to the public. Grounds reopen April 1, 2013.

The Trails

  • It was cool and gray as I looked back while heading towards the Scotch Pine Alleé.
  • I knew picking up sticks from the storm would warm me up and I could see the first up ahead.
  • The bigger ones I would leave for the guys with equipment.
  • As I continued, I could see more ahead.
  • Close up, it was bigger than it had appeared.
  • It was actually picturesque from some angles.
  • The rest of the way to the Fern Glen was just sticks.
  • There I could hear the water under the bridge, but it wasn't that high really - we'd only had 1/2 inch of rain.
  • The wind, however, had removed all the leaves of last week's interesting Solomon's seal.
  • Continuing out on the Cary Pines Trail, I came upon the next large tree down.
  • So intent was I on clearing branches from the path that I was almost startled when I noticed another knot of fallen trees in front of me.
  • Then I came upon the biggest pile of the day.
  • Even the view from the other side doesn't convey the size; this was several double or triple trees that fell across each other... centered on the path.
  • This was just uphill from the Acid Rain kiosk - on one side of which lie a dead tree...
  • ... and on the other, a fallen hemlock.
  • There was nothing sizable along the Wappinger Creek Trail or through the Old Pasture until the Sedge Meadow Trail where lie the last piece of an elm that had been collapsing all summer.
  • An optimistic note to end this last walk of the season was in the front Old Hayfield: a single yarrow with fresh, untouched blossoms.
Gifford grounds
Storm damage on the Scotch Pine Allee
Storm damage on the Scotch Pine Allee
Storm damage on the Scotch Pine Allee
Storm damage on the Scotch Pine Allee
Storm damage on the Scotch Pine Allee
Bridge at the Fern Glen
Solomon's seal leafless
Storm damage on Cary Pines Trail
Storm damage on Cary Pines Trail
Storm damage on Cary Pines Trail
Storm damage on Cary Pines Trail
Storm damage on Cary Pines Trail
Storm damage on Wappinger Creek Trail
Storm damage on Wappinger Creek Trail
Storm damage on Sedge Meadow Trail


  • 1 Mourning Dove
  • 3 Downy Woodpecker
  • 2 Blue Jay
  • 3 American Crow
  • 13 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 5 Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • 5 White-breasted Nuthatch
  • 1 Brown Creeper
  • 4 Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • 1 Eastern Bluebird
  • 5 Fox Sparrow
  • 3 Dark-eyed Junco


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