Finally! It's been a super long time (many weeks!) since I was last on a nice long woods walk, and even longer since I was in the area of Naugatuck State Forest where I used to walk all the time and where I returned on Thursday morning.
The trails in this area of the forest were closed this past winter and spring so that the state could remove some trees and keep the woods healthy, and this is the first time I've visited since all this management work was finished. I still recognized these familiar woods, but they're airier now, with more space between towering pines and plenty of morning light coming in:
Most of the trees that I saw marked with paint last fall have been cut down, but this tree was somehow spared, and the poison ivy now seems to be trying to hide that mark with its leaves:
I was very happy to get to see some of my favorite woodland creatures again, like this lovely juvenile Red-spotted Newt (also known as a Red Eft):
It's a good thing I happened to be looking down at this point, because this eft was right in the middle of the path, and surprisingly difficult to see!
I almost forgot how adorable Red Squirrels are. This park is actually the only place where I've seen these creatures in my area of Connecticut, and I suspect it's the abundant conifers that makes this such a good habitat for them. Several Red Squirrels made an appearance during my visit, including this alert individual:
A Bullfrog sat on a log in a small shady pool next to the path:
Here's another pose (possibly the same frog) from later in the morning. I love that speckled throat, on both the real frog and its mirror-version self:
In an open area next to one of the lakes, banks of blazing goldenrod lit up the path:
And in the underbrush, sawfly larvae made a cool pattern around their leafy meal:
The woods were also filled with birds, including a large group of warblers in the midst of their fall migration. These very active birds stayed mostly high in the trees and away from my camera, but the sight and sound of so much fluttering, chasing, and feeding was cool even from a distance. This very plain-looking Pine Warbler (assuming my ID is correct) was one of the few birds from this group to come down to my level:
This little bird showed off some very impressive aerial skills when it spun down and snatched a decent-sized winged insect right out of the air. It then proceeded to enjoy its meal from a branch above my head:
Nearby, a House Wren called loudly from atop a log:
And a young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sunned itself, showing off its very pretty wings:
I'm very glad I got to wander around outside and enjoy the wonderful early-fall weather. I saw some awesome creatures, munched on wild grapes (yum!), and just had a great time. Hooray for the woods!