Tuesday, March 10, 2009

West Bridgewater State Forest

I went birding in West Bridgewater State Forest last Sunday. Steve suggested it since he had noticed on a map of the Bridgewater area. We're always looking for new places to go hiking and birding, plus we're also slightly obsessed with Hockomock Swamp...

I was a little disappointed not to see anyone else out enjoying the beautiful weather this past weekend. There was plenty of evidence of people partying in the area, and ATV tracks, but that was it. Lucky for me I hit it up in off-peak hours! I got to enjoy the sounds of the woodpeckers, chickadees and robins. I also encountered some red squirrels, which scared the heck out me.

I saw Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers (a lifer!).

Red-bellied Woodpecker:

The red squirrels I encountered while I was walking by a historic stone wall. Steve and I encounter these a lot while hiking in New England. I remember learning as a child about early settlers who cleared the land for farming and used the rocks to build fences. Then, as they found the land to be too resistant to crop-growing they abandoned it and headed West leaving their fences behind.

I just did a little follow-up research and learned these interesting tidbits about New England stone walls:

- In addition to boundary lines, they were also used for animal fences
- There was an official "fence viewer" who would inspect the fences to make sure they were structurally sound
- If they were deemed sound the farmer wasn't liable for any damage done to his crops by other farmers' animals
- 1775 - 1825 was known as the Golden Age of stone wall building

So back to the red squirrels- they scared the heck out of me when I was approaching a trail that cross through the fence. They came barrelling through the woods toward me and one ran up a nearby tree and the other sat on top of the stone fence- both chattering away at me.

I assumed they must have had a nest nearby, and sure enough on the way back I noticed one of them run into this little nook under the stone wall:
Here are some pictures of the state forest in case any of you Southeastern Mass residents are interested in visiting. There's also a good overview of the area I found on a mountain biking website: http://www.nemba.org/ridingzone/West_Meadows.html
The recent snow melting left the trails very muddy and many sections of the trail were flooded. I hope it's drier next time I go back.


Larry said...

I'd be checking out that forest too. I always get sucked in by legends and history.It sounds like the two of you had a nice time exploring.

Birdinggirl said...

Yes- spooky stories are always a draw!