A Cloudy And Dreary Morning Hike in Fort Washington State Park.

A Cloudy And Dreary Morning Hike in Fort Washington State Park.

Fort Washington State parks (18 of 49)
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I was hoping to observe, and photograph,  some migratory song birds on my  first visit to Fort Washington State Park. My hopes were somewhat dashed when  I got  up early Saturday morning to cloudy skies and  light rain in the forecast.  I wasn’t going to sit in my hotel room,  so after  a couple of cups of coffee,  I drove the 2 miles to the urban park. When I arrived  at 7 a.m.  I found the access road didn’t open until 9 a.m.  A couple of hikers told me the park was open but not the parking lots.

I parked at an  access area for fishermen along the Wissahickon Creek and walked about a 1/2 mile to the park under the gray threatening skies. 

I hiked a short distance on the trail along the Wissahickon Creek and, like the previous day, I didn’t see much bird activity. It was a cool 48 degrees and this could have been the reason.

Apple tree blossoms ,

wild violets and

ground ivy along the trail added some color to the dark and gloomy morning.

I left the Wissahickon Creek trail and followed another trail on a pole line next to an active railroad track. I love exploring new trails and was enjoying  my hike despite the  weather. This trail took me below the  Hawk Observation Deck I visited the previous afternoon. Here   I had to make a decision. I was going to try and hike the loop trail  and all of the  side trails in the park. However  wasn’t sure where to begin. I decided to start my hike  by walking up the steep hill to  the observation tower, and follow the trail that led to the campgrounds. 

I stopped at the observation deck and observed and photographed a few of the birds feeding there, including a red-bellied woodpecker, 

a red-winged blackbird and 

a common grackle

I continued on the Hawk Watch loop trail which took me up to the ridge where George Washington positioned troop in November of 1777.    Fort Washington State Park was named after a fort he built in nearby Whitemarsh. Here I found an older  hardwood forest. 

There was again very little bird activity in these  woodlands. I only saw, and heard,  some  white-throated sparrows. These sparrows   spend the winters in Pennsylvania and are heading north  to their breeding grounds.

There were some plants growing along the trail  including  one of my favorite the native mandrake or May apple 

and the invasive but edible garlic mustard. 

As I continued my hike up the ridge along the access road I soon smelled the wonderful aroma of breakfast cooking at the campsites. There were quite a lot of campers for this early in the season. And most of them were already up and active. It was nice   the children running around and enjoying nature on this cool, dreary morning. 

After walking  through the campsite I  continued on the trail which now descended  the ridge through  a forest of large, old trees.

 At the bottom of the ridge the land flattened and the trail took me through some picnic grounds and a disc golf course.

There were a lot of folks in the area of the park, walking running and exercising their dogs. As I was walking on the trail I saw what I thought was a large dog. It  looked to me  like a collie. Having  recently been  bitten  by  a dog what I thought was a friendly  I was upset at the owner for allowing the dog to run free. As the animal approached me, I realized it wasn’t a dog, it was a beautiful red fox!  It was very close to me when it  first noticed me, and quickly turned around and ran away. Had I known it was a fox I could have had some beautiful photos of it face, instead I had to settle for only a rear end view as it ran into the woods . 

The trail now went back up the ridge and into a more dense woodland of older trees.

Here I found more critters, squirrels, 

a lot of deer, mostly bucks. 

They seemed used to folks hiking up here and did not appear to be to afraid of my presence. 

The trail continued on the ridge top.  There were residences below the ridge but it was still quite and peaceful,

as I walked through the old trees atop the ridge, including this odd looking maple tree. 

The trail ended near a golf course and looped back along a highway. It was noisy on the trail on this side of the ridge. 

but there were still many song birds high above me in the treetops.  My Merlin iPhone App identified a number of  different of birds in this tree, including  vireos, warblers and flycatchers but I couldn’t see them high in the treetop with the backlight and overcast sky. 

I followed the trail back down the ridge and along a private  golf course.

Here I finally saw a few birds including a few of my favorite , northern mockingbirds, 

American robins, 

some Carolina chickadees,

a few northern  cardinals, this is a female and, 

this pretty, but constantly moving, blue-gray gnatcatcher.  

 

There were a few passing showers during my hike but the rain had stopped when I came to the same  trail along the pole line and old railroad right of way where I began my hike.

The skies began to clear as  I followed the trail. I found many red maples with their colorful samaras, the winged seeds  along this  trail and 

a lot of yellow lesser celandine flowers on the ground.

I saw a northern flicker on a tree top and

a few European starlings. I don’t like these birds  who often come to my feeders and drive off the other birds. They are invasive and are now one of the most numerous song birds in North America. They were introduced here by from England by Shakespeare  enthusiasts who wanted to release all of the birds mentioned in his writings to North America.

In my opinion it  wasn’t a good idea.  They would be the last birds I would see on my hike. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike in Fort Washington State Park.  Fort Washington birds April 22 2022 

I was finishing my 7 1/2 mile hike back along the Wissahickon Creek, and, of course, the sun broke through the clouds as I approached my Jeep. I could here the song birds start singing in the woods across the creek. I was tired from my long hike but might have kept walking if I  didn’t have to check out of my hotel. I didn’t see a lot of the migratory songbirds I hope to see, and I found the park not as densely wooded as the parks back home in Northeastern Pennsylvania but I still enjoyed my visit to this small urban park. I hope to return soon.  Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike in Forth Washington State park. Fort Washington State Park. April 22 2022. 

“Nature surrounds us, from parks and backyards to streets and alleyways. Next time you go out for a walk, tread gently and remember that we are both inhabitants and stewards of nature in our neighborhoods.” – David Suzuki

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