Hike 23: Rockhouse Loop, Orange/Rockland County, NY (June 4, 2015)

My brother and I went on quite a wonderful hike today.  It was supposed to be a seven mile hike but turned into about 8.5 miles because of a detour on the wrong trail.  We began around 8:45am and finished around 3:15pm.  I was supposed to be home by two or three-o-clock to express my family’s dog, Sophie, bladder.  When I realized it was three-o-clock and we still had over a mile in the woods I had to figure out what to do.  Luckily my mother was close to home and could do it (Sophie is an eight year old dachshund that injured her spine a couple of years ago and her bladder needs to be expressed several times a day).  Besides the detour we did take our time to identify birds, enjoy the day, and chat with some fellow hikers that were doing a four day extravaganza in Harriman State Park.

IMG_0719
I believe this is a white admiral butterfly. It hadn’t fully warmed up yet in the morning.

Some awesome wildlife encounters during the day included:

1)  The first time I’ve ever seen an ovenbird nest.  Near the beginning of the hike we flushed an ovenbird up from her/his nest right next to the trail.  I took a closer look around and sure enough I saw the oven- shaped nest.  I have read about how the ovenbird received it’s name and I saw it today.

IMG_0720
Ovenbird nest on the Beech Trail in Harriman State Park. You can see how it is shaped like an oven.

2.  My brother Peter saw a scarlet tanager for the first time today and called it a “forest beauty;” this name was used several times throughout the day.  Peter’s top three forest beauties:  1) scarlet tanager 2) a flock of cedar waxwings and 3) a black-and-white warbler that didn’t seem to notice our presence while it searched about an uprooted tree.

This black-and-white warbler was really close to us.  This picture is cropped but was taken with an adjustable 18-55mm lens.  The bird was within six or seven feet.
This black-and-white warbler was really close to us. This picture is cropped but was taken with an adjustable 18-55mm lens. The bird was within six or seven feet.

3.  A very dark northern water snake.

At first, I thought this was a timber rattlesnake but I think it is a dark northern water snake.
At first, I thought this was a timber rattlesnake but I think it is a dark northern water snake.

4.  Towards the end of the hike I was hurrying a bit and as I was moving along I came across a not-so-common wood frog.

Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)
Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

Notes:  Towards the beginning of the hike I tried to identify a singing bird for several minutes with not much luck.  I made some notes in my notebook and believe that I observed the same behavior at other times during the day.  I think the bird was a singing female American redstart.  Male American redstart’s were singing quite a lot on this hike as well.  I think I have read that females of this species may sing too but I’m not totally sure.  I checked http://www.allaboutbirds.org but didn’t read anything about it.  I might have to pick up a copy of The Warbler Guide.

I’ve noticed a lot of brown-headed cowbirds in the middle of the woods over the last several weeks.  I always thought this species was associated more with open or edge environments.

Much of the mountain laurel was not as in bloom as it was on the last hike.

Mountain Laurel in bloom.
Mountain Laurel in bloom.

Bird List:  American redstart, eastern wood pewee, blue jay, wood thrush, red-eyed vireo, scarlet tanager, Baltimore oriole, rose-breasted grosbeak, eastern towhee, indigo bunting, pileated woodpecker, veery, Louisiana waterthrush, American crow, yellow warbler, black-capped chickadee, black-throated blue warbler, brown-headed cowbird, blue-winged warbler, turkey vulture, tree swallow (imm.?), great-crested flycatcher, red-tailed hawk, red-bellied woodpecker, triller (chipping sparrow?), prairie warbler, hairy woodpecker, common raven

A ripped Beech.
A ripped Beech.
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