Category Archives: Westchester County

Hiking Brinton Brook Sanctuary!


Saw Mill River Audubon Brinton Brook Sanctuary

Saw Mill River Audubon Brinton Brook Sanctuary

Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary! Brinton Brook Sanctuary, located in Croton-on -Hudson, is managed by the Saw Mill River Audubon and is its largest sanctuary at 156 acres.  The preserve originated as a donation of 112 acres to the National Audubon Society from Laura and Willard Brinton. In 1975, after Laura Brinton’s death, an additional 17 acres were added to the preserve. Saw Mill River Audubon gained full ownership of the preserve in 1991 from the National Audubon Society.

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Exploring Harts Brook Nature Preserve!


Hart's Brook Park & Preserve

Hart’s Brook Park & Preserve

Welcome to the Hart’s Brook Nature Preserve! The preserve features woodlands and wetlands, a master garden and hiking trails. Prior to becoming a preserve the property was known as the Gaisman Estate and was owned by the inventor of the famous Gillette safety razor blade Henry Gaisman. In 1957, Gaisman passed the title of the estate to the New York Archdiocese. In later years, Marion Woods Convent took ownership of 11.5 acres of the estate. The remaining acreage was purchased by the State of New York (who retains 50% ownership of the property) Westchester County and the Town of Greenburgh in 1999.

Hart's Brook Nature Preserve

Hart’s Brook Nature Preserve

Virtual Hike

Harts Brook Nature Preserve Trail Map

Harts Brook Nature Preserve Trail Map

Welcome to our virtual hike! Today we are going to cross brooks, pass interesting rock outcroppings and walk around 2 miles on 5 different trails! Our guide will be the trail map shown above.

Red Trail Meadow

Red Trail Meadow

Ready to start? From the parking area, let’s head west briefly entering the forest on the red trail. Paralleling Ridge Road, the Red Trail leaves the forest and walks through an open meadow flanked by enormous Norway Spruce trees.

Norway Spruce Red Trail

Norway Spruce Red Trail

As we walk past the Norway Spruce trees we pass a spur of the red trail to our left which leads back to the parking lot. Deciduous wooded wetlands are appearing to our right as we leave the meadow and re-enter the woods. Wait! What’s that sound? Spring Peepers! Spring Peepers are a small frog common in wetlands and are among the first frogs to call out in early spring. Thus, Spring Peepers are a true harbinger of spring! Their Latin name (Pseudacris Crucifer) is named because of a dark cross which forms an “x” on the frog’s dorsa. Because of their size, Spring Peepers are difficult to locate and we do not see any today.

Green Trail Blaze

Green Trail Blaze

Continuing south we have come to the end of the red trail and are at an intersection with the green trail. According to our trail map we will come to a pond if we head east on the Green Trail.

Going to the Pond

Going to the Pond

Let’s go east on the green trail and check it out. After only a few minutes of walking we’ve found that we have left the green trail and are now on the yellow trail. The flora is quickly changing from deciduous forest to evergreens consisting of stately Eastern Hemlocks and Rosebay Rhododendron the closer we get to the pond.

Eastern Hemlock

Eastern Hemlock

The Hemlocks have an overall healthy appearance with very little die-back from the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is an exotic pest from Asia accidently introduced to North America circa 1924 and is currently established in eleven states ranging from Georgia to Massachusetts. It is estimated that 50% of the geographical range of the Eastern Hemlock has been affected by the adelgid. Biological control (i.e. using adelgid predators to control infestations) has been the major emphasis of control since 1997.

Yellow Trail Bridge

Yellow Trail Bridge

Crossing a wooden bridge over Harts Brook we come to a bench overlooking the pond and its outflow dam.

Yellow Trail Bench with view of Pond

Yellow Trail Bench with view of Pond

Let’s pause for a few moments and take in the beauty of our surroundings.

Hart's Brook Park Pond

Hart’s Brook Park Pond

After taking in the view of the pond we’re going to continue northeast on the yellow trail following the shore of the pond. As we walk we pass several Wood Duck nesting boxes.

Wood Duck Box GNC

Wood Duck Box GNC

The nesting boxes were placed here by the nearby Greenburgh Nature Center to provide nesting habitat for Wood Ducks.

Stone Warming House

Stone Warming House

As we continue walking on the yellow trial we pass an old stone warming house which was part of the original Gaisman Estate. Leaving the stone warming house, the yellow trail is taking us east back to a branch of the green trail.

Orange Trail

Orange Trail

Heading south on the green trail we find ourselves on an orange blaze trail heading east.

Rock Outcrop Orange Trail

Rock Outcrop Orange Trail

An interesting large rock outcrop appears to our left as we slightly climb on the orange trail.

Blue Trail

Blue Trail

We are now at an intersection with the blue blazed trail and it sounds like we are hearing more music of spring!

American Robins

American Robins

American Robins are searching for lunch and making sure we know they are present.

Updated Bridge

Blue Trail Stream Crossing

Heading east on the blue trail we find ourselves crossing a brook.

Pine Grove Blue Trail

Pine Grove Blue Trail

Passing close to private residences the blue trail turns northeast and slightly climbs through a grove of White Pine trees.

Blue Trail Seasonal View of Hartsdale Lake

Blue Trail Seasonal View of Hartsdale Lake

Looking east we can see views of Hartsdale Lake  (part of Scarsdale Country Golf Club).

Blue Trail Asphalt Path

Blue Trail Asphalt Path

As we pass a spur of the blue trail on the left the trail now becomes an asphalt path as we come close to the Maple Avenue entrance to the preserve. From here we follow the blue trail west back to the orange trail.

Blue Trail Stream Crossing as seen from Orange Trail

Blue Trail Stream Crossing as seen from Orange Trail

The stream crossing we did earlier on the blue trail is visible to our left.

Green Trail

Green Trail

We are now back at the Green Trail we left a while back. Let’s head north which will take us back to the yellow trail.

Master Gardening

Master Gardening

After only a short distance on the yellow trail we have just stepped out of the woods and are by the master garden area of the preserve. We are now back at the parking lot where we began. Thank you for joining me today on this virtual hike! I hope it has inspired you to check out Hartsbrook Nature Preserve for yourself!

Shagbark Hickory

The preserve is located at 156 Ridge Road, Hartsdale, NY.

Check below for additional information!

1. The Nature of New York – An Environmental History of the Empire State – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State

Click here for more information!

2. Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

 

Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve!


Welcome to Cranberry Lake Preserve!

Welcome to Cranberry Lake Preserve!

Welcome to Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve! Cranberry Lake Preserve (CLP), purchased by Westchester County in 1967, contains 190 acres of deciduous woodland, wetlands, an old quarry, several bodies of water and old ruins.

Cranberry Lake Preserve BioDiversity Reserve Area

In the early 1900’s the land that was to become CLP was an active quarry utilized for the construction of the nearby Kensico Dam which holds NYC drinking water.

Kensico Dam

Kensico Dam

Trails

Trail Map

The trail map above was taken from the Westchester County Parks webpage.

Cranberry Lake Preserve Trail

Cranberry Lake Preserve Trail

Trails are open dawn to dusk.  Trail maps are available at a kiosk outside or you can click here for a digital version. CLP features four blazed loop trails. All trails begin and end with blazes featuring the Westchester County Parks logo.  Periodic numbers appear on blazes occasionally which correspond to your current location on the trail map. These numbers are found on wooden posts. (Please note the numbers do not appear on the online version of the trail map)

All trails are accessible by either orange or white blaze connector trails.

To Nature Lodge

To Nature Lodge

Many sections of CLP trails display signs which lead back to the Nature Lodge.

Red Trail

Red Blaze

Red Blaze

At 2.4 miles the red trail is the longest trail featured in CLP. The red trail follows CLP boundaries with the exception of the quarry.

Blue Trail

Blue Blaze

Blue Blaze

The Blue Trail loops around both Cranberry Lake and South Pond for a total distance of 1 mile.

Cranberry Lake

Cranberry Lake

Cranberry Lake is a natural body of water formed around 18,000 years ago by glacier activity. The lake is fed by an underground spring.

Ground Pine

Ground Pine

Ground Pine can be found growing along the Blue Trail.

Yellow Trail

Yellow Trail Trailhead

Yellow Trail Trailhead

The Yellow trail traverses rocky upland and a section of Cranberry Lake.

Purple (History) Trail

History Trail Map 1

History Trail Map 2

The above History Trail Map and Descriptions was taken from the Westchester County Parks webpage.

Purple Trail Trailhead

Purple Trail Trailhead

The Purple Blazed History trail is a self guided trail which explores most of the preserve including the quarry.

Exploring CLP

American Beech

While CLP’s trails are open dusk to dawn, the nature lodge and its parking area are closed most days by 5PM. It is strongly recommended that you park in the designated parking area near Old Orchard Street if you plan on hiking past 5PM.

Notice This Gate is Locked at 500PM (2)

It is from the Old Orchard Street parking entrance that the below description starts out from on the way to explore CLP. Let’s go!

Eastern Chipmunk Cranberry Lake Preserve

Eastern Chipmunk Cranberry Lake Preserve

From the parking area, walk up the road to the nature lodge.

Cranberry Lake Preserve Nature Lodge

Cranberry Lake Preserve Nature Lodge

Just to the west of the nature lodge is an interesting wetland with a dock.

Wetlands Near Nature Lodge

Wetlands Near Nature Lodge

It was here that I saw a Northern Water Snake.

Snake

Head inside the nature lodge to check out the exhibits and pick up a trail map.

Inside Cranberry Lake Nature Lodge

Inside Cranberry Lake Nature Lodge

From the nature lodge, head south to take the yellow trail down to an Orange connecting trail.

Orange Trail (Lake) Trailhead

Here there is a sign advertising Cranberry Lake. The orange blazed connector trail leads to a jointly blazed yellow/blue trail with Cranberry Lake straight ahead.

Yellow Blue

Yellow Blue Blazed Trail near Cranberry Lake

Follow the Yellow/Blue blazed trail south with Cranberry Lake to your left.

Bent Bridge

Bent Bridge

Continuing south, take the Orange Blazed Connector trail which will appear to your left near a wooden boardwalk known as Bent Bridge.

View of Fen from Bent Bridge

Bent Bridge provides a good opportunity to check out the fen located to the south of Cranberry Lake. In the summer, white water lilies appear on the water.

Stone Chamber

Stone Chamber

Leaving Bent Bridge, the Orange blazed connector trail leads to a man-made “cave” known as the Stone Chamber.

Looking outside from inside Stone Chamber

Looking outside from inside Stone Chamber

The ruins surrounding the stone chamber were the property of a farmer named Thomas Cunningham. The Stone Chamber is a very neat little man-made “cave” of sorts that is fun to explore.

Ruins outside Stone Chamber

Ruins outside Stone Chamber

From here, the orange blaze connector trail leads past more stone ruins to the Purple Trail (aka History Trail). The path here follows an old railroad which separates the fen from South Pond.

South Pond

South Pond

You are sure to hear splashes in the warmer months of frogs jumping in the water as you walk by.

Frog

Green Frog Cranberry Lake Preserve

Head east on the Purple Trail to a bench strategically placed in front of a beautiful cascade.

Cascade

Cascade

It’s a good spot to rest and relax in a peaceful setting.

To Quarry

To Quarry

From the cascade, continue east on the Purple Trail following signs for the quarry.

Abandoned Tennis Court

Abandoned Tennis Court

An abandoned tennis court will appear to your right. Nature is slowly reclaiming the tennis court.  The tennis court was part of the Birchwood Swim club which used the nearby Quarry Pond for Swimming. Birchwood Swim Club was discontinued in 1997.

Tulip Poplar & Milkweed Abandoned Tennis Court

Tulip Poplar & Milkweed Abandoned Tennis Court

Just east of the abandoned tennis court is Quarry Pond.

Quarry Pond

Quarry Pond

Fish Quarry Pond

Fish Quarry Pond

Once past the quarry pond the purple trail heads past old railroad car wheels which were used to haul granite during the quarry operation.

Railroad Wheels

Railroad Wheels

The Purple Trail continues heading north climbing over the rocky quarry.

Quarry Trail

Quarry Trail

The height here is an estimated 450 feet above sea level.

Derrick

Derrick

Derrick anchors which once held heavy quarry machinery are still fastened in the rocks along the trail.

Purple Trail 4 Old Automobile

Old Automobile on Purple Trail

From here, the trail starts to descend the quarry and heads west passing an old abandoned car.

Continuing north the Purple Trail comes across the remains of a stone cutting shed.

Stone Cutting Shed Ruins

Stone Cutting Shed Ruins

After exploring this area, follow the Purple Trail south until it meets with the red trail. From here, take the red trail southwest with Cranberry Lake to your right. Continuing south, retrace your steps until you pass the cascade with the bench at an intersection with the Purple Trail that you previously took into the Quarry territory. Continuing south, the red trail passes South Pond to the West.

South Pond 2

South Pond

South Pond is man-made and was created during quarry activities.

Bird Tower on South Pond

Bird Tower on South Pond

A Bird Observation tower appears to your left. This tower provides great views of South Pond.

Remains of Stone Crusher

Remains of Stone Crusher

The red trail passes near the remains of a stone crusher foundation. The stone crusher was capable of crushing up to 1000 cubic yards of gravel per day when the quarry was active.

Water Supply Land No Trespassing

Signs for NYC Watershed appear to east of the trail.

Hush Pond

Hush Pond

From here, the red trail turns west and temporarily leaves CLP & enters White Plains watershed land and passes Hush Pond to the south.

Stone Wall by Red Trail

Stone Wall by Red Trail

From Hush Pond, the red trail passes a couple of connector trails and turns north following an old stone wall delineating NYC watershed property from CLP. According to David Steinberg who wrote a description of Cranberry Lake Preserve in his book “Hiking the Road to Ruins” the lower, crude, sharper-tipped walls are of colonial origin and the larger, cut-stone flat-topped walls are NY DEP watershed boundaries dating from the 1960s.

Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe

It was here that I found Indian Pipe growing when I visited in June of 2012. Continue following the red trail north with the wall to your left until you reach your car.

Black Cap Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee Cranberry Lake Preserve

Directions

Cranberry Lake Preserve contains diverse habitats within its 190 acres. It is worth checking out yourself!

  • 1609 Old Orchard Street, North White Plains, NY
  • Park hours: Park open dawn to dusk. Nature Lodge and front gate are open Wednesday-Sunday. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Phone: (914) 428-1005

Click here for Directions!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Check out David Steinberg’s description of this hike in the book “Hiking the Road to Ruins

Click here for more information!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1. The Nature of New York – An Environmental History of the Empire State – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State

Click here for more information!

2. Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

Scarsdale’s Greenburgh Nature Center!


Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center!

Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center!

Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center! The Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) is a 33 acre nature preserve located in Scarsdale, NY.

Greenburgh Nature Center

GNC features 27 acres of woodland, a pond, nature trails, gardens, outdoor and indoor animal exhibits and a greenhouse.

Manor House (2)

Manor House

The manor, constructed in 1918, contains nature & animal exhibits. The property was previously owned by the Hall family and was purchased for $725,000 using funding from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and a bond issue from the Town of Greenburgh in 1973 to prevent development of single family housing which was proposed for the property.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Inside the manor, for a fee, (free for GNC Members), visitors can tour various educational exhibits on the environment and visit the indoor animal exhibits.

Taking Nature's Course

Taking Nature’s Course

Nearly 140 reptiles and mammals are present in the indoor animal exhibit from all over the world displayed in ecologically realistic settings. Native animals include the Eastern Screech Owl and American Bullfrogs among others.

Live Animal Museum

Live Animal Museum

Special nature themes of interest are also displayed from time to time.  When I visited in June 2012 there was an exhibit featuring information on the wonders of dirt.

Beautiful Dirt!

Beautiful Dirt!

There is also information on the nearby Bronx River where a tributary from the GNC flows into. An aquarium populated with fish found in the Bronx River is also displayed.

Do You Know These Bronx River Facts?

Do You Know These Bronx River Facts?

The preserve features several outdoor exhibits such as a barnyard habitat and an Aviary among other attractions.

Goat and Turkeys in Barnyard Exhibit

Goat and Wild Turkeys in Barnyard Exhibit

Birds of Prey Aviary

Birds of Prey Aviary

The Green Roof Exhibit was created in 2008 through generous sponsorship funds from Con Edison and provides an example on new views towards sustainability. Vegetation keeps buildings cooler and helps absorb storm water runoff.

Green Roof

A complete list of outdoor exhibits can be seen on the map below (taken from the Greenburgh Nature Center website).

Outdoor Exhibits

The Great Lawn (2)

The Great Lawn

The nearly 2 acre great lawn  was created around 1918 when the estate was first built.

The lawn features Beehives and an organic garden.

Honeybees

Honeybees

Organic Garden

Organic Garden

Geology

The Greenburgh Nature Center’s Manor House was built from stones quarried from the surrounding property in 1918.

Portion of Wall from GNC Manor

Portion of Wall from GNC Manor

The rocks found in the GNC consist of Fordham Gneiss. Rocks of Fordham Gneiss were altered by high heat and extreme pressure for around 1.1 billion years.  The alteration caused the sedimentary rock to recrystallize forming black-and-white banded, metamorphic rock.

Blurry Eastern Chipmunk on Fordham Gneiss

Blurry Eastern Chipmunk on Fordham Gneiss

The Orchard area of the preserve features sandstone in addition to the predominant Fordham Gneiss and is the only part of the center property that features this geologic deviation.

Trails

Trail Map

2020 Update: The map above is current as of June 2020. The trail map above was taken from the Greenburgh Nature Center website. The trail descriptions below were as I found them in 2012 when I visited. At the time there were only four trails.

2012 Trail Descriptions

The preserve features four trails. The trails were originally developed by the previous owners of the land for quarrying and logging purposes.

Forest Trail

Forest Trail

The blue blazed Forest Trail is the main trail which begins and ends at the Manor house in a loop fashion for about a third of a mile in length.

Forest Trail Path

Forest Trail Path

The main focal point of the Forest Trail is Woodfrog Pond.

Forest Trail Pond

The Woodfrog Pond area is the main source of water for GNC fauna and features freshwater wetlands at its northern and southern borders. Woodfrog Pond originated as a vernal pond which was created from past glacial activity. In 1980,  GNC dredged the pond and constructed a small dam to retain water. The water which forms the pond originates from an underground spring and from rainfall. An outflow from the pond drains to the Bronx River which in turn drains into the East River.

Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond is unsuitable for fish due to its warm shallow water. Amphibians such as Spring Peepers, Green Frogs, Bullfrogs and a variety of salamanders breed and lay their eggs in the pond (and yes, Wood Frogs make an appearance here too in March to lay eggs).

Turtles on log in Wooodfrog Pond

Turtles on log in Wooodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond was restored in the fall of 2008. The pond and surrounding area had become degraded due to erosion and high usage. The restoration helped to increase the biodiversity of the pond itself as well as the surrounding wetlands. The Greenburgh Nature Center received a grant from the NYC environmental fund for $9,700 to partially dredge and fortify the pond as well as replant the surrounding area with native trees and shrubs.

North Forty Trail

North Forty Trail

The North Forty Trail meanders around the northern section of the preserve and eventually connects with the Forest Trail. The North Forty Trail passes near wetlands and traverses pass the  Scarsdale Country Club in an easterly direction to connect with the Forest Trail near Woodfrog Pond. The North Forty Trail is also accessible from the Oak and Orchard Trail from the west.

Scarsdale Country Club

Scarsdale Country Club

Sylvia Stein Nature Trail

Sylvia Stein Nature Trail

The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is a short trail which traverses through the center of the woodlands heading in a north – south direction. The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is accessible from the Forest Trail. Ms. Stein was active with mycological groups and led field trips for both mycological groups and the Torrey Botanical Society.

Oak and Orchard Trail

Oak and Orchard Trail

The Oak and Orchard Trail leads from the North Forty Trail and heads southwest past the great lawn to the 3 acre orchard which is also a Box Turtle nesting site.

Box Turtle Nesting and Hatching Site

Box Turtle Nesting and Hatching Site

Flora found at the Greenburgh Nature Center includes:

Fauna includes the below along with many others:

American Robin

American Robin

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

1The preserve is small at just 33 acres but it contains many diverse habitats and is worth a visit.

The Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, off Central Park Avenue, Scarsdale, New York.  There is free parking available.

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!