Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trail maintenance, Frankenstorm, and disc golf

This past weekend, with storm clouds looming in the days ahead, Holly and I led a Schenectady ADK trip to our adopted section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail, near Lake Durant.  We've been the ADK Trail Stewards on this section for 19 years now, and make two trips each year to remove blowdown, cut back brush, and clear leaves and debris from drainages, allowing the trail to dry out (theoretically).  On this trip, we had seven of us, many of whom had helped us out before, and we got a lot of work done.  Then it was home to get cleaned up to first drop in briefly on a birthday party before finishing off the day with a concert.  Busy day.

Sunday was spent battening down the hatches in preparation for the remnants of Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Nor'easter Sandy.  Fortunately, when Sandy arrived on Monday, the Capital District suffered only a glancing blow and endured only some high winds and scattered power outages, nothing like the damage in other parts of the East Coast and New England.

Today, with Sandy's winds still gusting to near 50 mph at times, but under partly sunny skies, I got out for a couple of rounds of disc golf.  Discs tend to wander when thrown under these windy conditions, but I finished with rounds of 66 and 68, not horrible all things considered.  I did need to be acutely aware of the sounds coming from the trees overhead, in case a sudden change of location became necessary, but never actually had that problem materialize.

One side benefit (?) of the winds is that a whole lot of leaves now litter my yard, so cleaning that up looks like the next thing on the agenda.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Biking - Mohawk River Loop

Six weeks off the bike.  That's been unthinkable for the past 5-6 years.  But that's where I found myself this week when some friends and I decided to once again take a leisurely tour of the Mohawk River, between Rexford and Crescent.  We do this ride several times a year, but it's especially nice in the fall, when we stop for cider and donuts at Riverview Orchards.

This was mostly a social ride, with lots of conversation and an easy pace.  It felt good to be back in the saddle again after a long stretch of mostly walking and hiking, and the 28-mile loop passed quickly and easily.  We're hoping to do more rides like this if the weather continues to cooperate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Walk - Exploring the Christiana Natural Area

This morning after helping Holly with some yard work, I made a stop on the way home to explore a place that's been on my list for a while.  The Town of Glenville acquired the 48-acre lands making up the Christiana Natural Area late in 2008.  The upper reaches of the Indian Kill flow through the wetlands here, and I didn't expect to be able to go very far because of the wetness.  But the town has done a lot of work and a great job laying out trails here that mostly stay relatively dry, recent wet weather notwithstanding.

The trailhead, kiosk, and parking area are on Onderdonk Road, just northwest of Droms Road.  The white line above outlines the property, and the blue and yellow dots represent the two trails.  I started out by walking the blue trail along the eastern edge of the wetland, hoping to do a loop and return via the yellow trail.

Near the trailhead, a couple of bridges had washed downstream in a time of higher water.  These two streams were narrow enough to jump across and continue on.

Approaching an area of open water behind a small beaver dam, I scared up a bunch of mallards who were obviously surprised to see me.

Open water, minus ducks
The bulk of the area within the trail loop is a large marshy area, with lots of birds flying around.  The trail here was mainly wide and grassy, and occasionally wet, as it followed the edge of the marsh.  A lot of work has been done to clear shrubs and smaller trees to open up these trails.

Soon, I came to the stream crossing at the northern end of the preserve, where the blue trail changes to yellow on the other side.  There was no bridge here, and it was too cool to swim, so I turned around and headed back.

Reaching the start of the yellow trail, I followed it along the western edge of the marsh.  This trail was farther back from the marsh in open woods, and somewhat less wet for the most part.  I found the views from the blue trail much more interesting.  Soon I was standing across from where I'd been a few minutes before, at the end of the yellow trail at the same stream.

Heading back to the car, it was clear that this preserve is still a work in progress, but a lot of progress has already been made.  Kudos to the town for acquiring this gem, and thanks to Mr. Christiana, its namesake, for deciding to keep it as open space.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A walk, some disc golf, and trail maintenance - Another catch-up entry

I've been falling down again at keeping this up to date, so this will be a quick note to fill in the last couple of days.

On Monday, I joined a walk in Wolf Hollow, west of Schenectady, location of the Hoffmans Fault, and a ravine rich in history.  On a beautiful morning, about 40-50 people showed up to this event sponsored by the local League of Women Voters and the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy.

In the afternoon, I headed over to Schenectady's Central Park for a round of disc golf.  I hadn't played in almost a month, and the winds were significant, so I didn't expect any miracles.  I almost got one, though, as my tee shot on 160-foot #9 bounced off the chains and fell to to the ground, robbing me of my first ever ace.  I finished with several birdies and a couple of double bogeys for a respectable 63 (+6), right on my average.

This morning (Tuesday), I joined friends from the Environmental Clearinghouse as we performed our annual maintenance and clearing of the cross-country ski trails in Featherstonhaugh State Forest, near Mariaville.  We cut back brush and moved a few larger fallen trees, and left the trails in better shape for the winter season.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hiking - Knobs west of Moxham Mountain

Yesterday, I joined a Schenectady ADK hike to a series of small knobs on the west end of the ridge near Moxham Mountain, near Minerva.  A new trail to Moxham's summit was cut this past summer, shown below in yellow, and we used it to reach the top of the ridge before turning west.  There, we left the trail and bushwhacked a clockwise loop (red) around some of the trailless western knobs, all with open rock and great views.

Pictures below are keyed to the numbers shown
Leaving the trailhead, we soon reached the top of a ridge (0) with great views of its own, right on the trail.

View to the north from Ridge #0
Moxham's summit from Ridge #0
Reaching the main southern ridge and leaving the trail, we climbed steeply to the south-facing cliffs of Knob #1, where there was a great view back toward Moxham's imposing summit.

Moxham from Knob #1
Continuing on to Knob #2, I stood at the top of a sheer cliff to get this picture back to the east.  Distant views were not so good early in the day, but the nearby terrain more than made up for it.

Cliffs on Knob #2
By now it was getting windy, and standing around for very long was a bit chilling.  We continued on to Knob #3, where we found a wide open summit with more great views and reindeer lichen everywhere.

The open summit of Knob #3
This was as far west as we planned to go, so we headed northeast to visit a parallel series of knobs to the north.  Knob #4 had a great view toward the northwest, where we could see NY-28 snaking up the hill toward Indian Lake.

View northwest from Knob #4.  NY-28 is at center.
We found a sheltered spot among the pines here, and stopped for lunch out of the increasingly biting 40-degree wind.  Once refreshed, we set our sights ahead toward Knob #5, our final climb before returning to the trail.

Knob #5 from Knob #4.  Knob #2 is at right.
This was pretty rugged terrain, with dense undergrowth.  But once we climbed up out of the col, we found some of the easiest bushwhacking of the day, through tall red pines and very little beneath them.  The faint traces of a path that we'd encountered throughout the morning were the clearest here.  The skies were beginning to clear as well, and distant views were steadily improving.  Knob #5 seemed to provide the best views of the day.

Panorama from south-facing cliffs on western end of Knob #5
Crane Mountain in the distance
One last open view of Moxham's summit from Knob #5
Before the trip, in looking at Google Earth, we had mapped out several places on these knobs that appeared to have open rock and potential views.  So far, we were batting 100%, so were confident that the last target would continue our streak.  There was a large whitish patch on the northeast corner of Knob #5 that appeared to promise views to the north, which had been a rarity today.

A northern view from Knob #5?
Arriving at that "cliff", what we found instead was a large open patch of the same whitish reindeer lichen we'd been seeing all day.  Much hilarity ensued.

A large very FLAT patch of reindeer lichen
Descending now back toward the trail, we encountered some pretty thick brush and blowdown, and also some wet areas, but finally reached the trail somewhat below where we had left it earlier.

On the way in, we had passed a trailside beaver pond without stopping for a look, so we made that slight side trip now.  It was a pretty spot, with an old dam and beaver lodge still in evidence.

From there, it was a short climb back over Ridge #0, and then downhill to the cars.

This was a spectacular hike with rugged terrain and a plethora of views from the various knobs.  A return visit to Knob #5 alone would be well worth the effort.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

High Peaks Weekend Wrapup - 2 out of 5 ain't bad

This past weekend, I'd be joining my brother Bob and his friends as they completed the Adirondack 46 on Mount Marcy.  So first, let me lay out the overall plan, which got a little complicated because they'd be camping and probably incommunicado, while I'd be driving up for a day hike and trying to time my arrival on Marcy with theirs.

The three of them would drive up on Wednesday, and spend the night at Adirondack Loj. The next morning, they planned an early start, backpacking to Feldspar leanto, setting up camp, and then climbing two trailless peaks from there, Cliff and Redfield, before retiring for the night.  On Friday morning, they would climb Gray and Skylight, followed by their arrival atop Marcy, where I'd be waiting with their ADK 46R patches to celebrate their accomplishment.  We would try to coordinate the timing by cell phone if possible, but otherwise we had a mutually agreed upon turnaround time, in case somebody got delayed for any reason. They would then return to their camp for the night, and I would return to the car and a motel in Lake Placid, and we would meet up for dinner after they packed out on Saturday.  On Sunday, we'd all drive home, they to Syracuse, and I back to Schenectady.  An ambitious plan on their part to say the least, even in good weather.

They drove up as planned on Wednesday, and I had no further communications with them before I arrived at the trailhead on Friday morning.  The view of the peaks shrouded in clouds was not encouraging as I started down the road from NY-73 to the Heart Lake parking area.  Oh, and was that snow on the ground and the peaks?

Indeed.  It had snowed overnight, and there were reports of several inches of new wet snow at higher elevations.  Hope the guys had a good night out there, and what would they decide to do now?

With Marcy itself 7.4 miles away, I started in on the trail to Marcy Dam, and even at these lower elevations, there was a dusting of snow all over everything, a real pre-winter wonderland.

The weather forecast for the day called for temperatures falling through the 20s in the afternoon, and the teens atop Marcy, with winds there gusting to near 40 mph.  And with the clouds, there would also be no view whatsoever, just cold wind-driven dampness.  The further I walked, the more this seemed like a really stupid idea.  A dangerous idea, considering I was heading up there alone.  I vowed to make a decision one way or the other when I arrived at Marcy Dam, 2 miles from the car and before the real climbing started.

What I found at Marcy Dam
When I arrived at Marcy Dam, it was snowing lightly, and the peaks were nowhere in sight.  The temperature was already below freezing, and would be dropping further, especially as the trail climbed higher.  All of the wet snow and mud on the ground would likely be iced up by the time of my return trip from the summit, if I even ever got there, making things pretty treacherous.  Being old enough to know better than to continue, I decided to call it quits here.  Since I had cell service here, I called Bob and left a message, letting him know I was heading back, and urging them not to do anything stupid.  I had a feeling that they'd be driven to continue despite the conditions, but really hoped they be smart about it and either bail out, or be extremely careful.  Then I headed back the way I'd come, got in the car and drove away, hoping for a phone call from them sometime soon. The helicopter heading toward the High Peaks did nothing to assuage my concerns.

It was still several hours before I could check into my motel, and I was dressed for hiking, so I thought about someplace else I could go.  I remembered Haystack Mountain between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, so headed in that direction.  The sign at the trailhead proclaimed a hike of 3.3 miles and 1,238 feet of climbing to this summit, which I remembered having very good views.  Being much lower, it wouldn't be in the clouds, and they were starting to break up a little anyway.  What I didn't remember were any details of the trail, but my memory would soon be refreshed.

About a mile in, my phone rang, and it was Bob.  "Where are you?", he asked, so I explained.  He hadn't received my voice message, but told me they had also made a good choice, and were bailing out and not trying the other three peaks today.  They had managed to climb Redfield and Cliff the day before, as planned, getting back to camp after dark with headlamps just as the rains and snow arrived.  Heavy rain and snow, along with incredible winds overnight, had left much of their gear wet.  They'd be climbing the peaks with wet gear and returning to a wet campsite, with temperatures Friday night dropping well into the teens.  The only sane choice was to pack out on Friday instead of attempting those other three summits.  They were on their way out when he called me, and we arranged to all meet for dinner in Lake Placid.  Great news!

So, back to Haystack.  This trail had a significant amount of uphill immediately, followed by what seemed like an even greater amount of downhill.  After about 2 miles, I checked the GPS and I was lower than the elevation I had started at.

I parked at the left, and gave up at the right, with still 1,200 feet to climb.  Crazy trail!
And then I saw the summit in the distance, with still over 1,200 feet to climb in the final mile.  I'm not sure why I turned back, but I just lost interest at that point.  I ate lunch, checked into the motel, cleaned up, and looked forward to dinner.  The guys showed up a little later, and we all headed over to the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery for burgers and a few beers as we recounted our stories of the day.  Then it was an early night.

Saturday dawned clear and brisk, but with a warmup expected later on, I talked the guys into doing a couple of short local hikes with great views.  Our rooms were prepaid for Saturday night, so we had a day to kill anyway, and they agreed.  After a hearty breakfast at the Downtown Diner in Lake Placid, we geared up and headed off for a couple of short walks.

First on the list was Baxter Mountain, off of NY-9N south of Keene.  It's a popular 1.1-mile walk to the summit, which has great wide-open views of the High Peaks and the Johns Brook Valley.  Snow-covered Marcy is in the distance, a little left of center.  Fall colors were still abundant at the lower elevations.

We lingered here for a long time enjoying the spectacular scenery.  But then it was time to head to another local institution. the Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley, for a light lunch.  Over lunch, we talked about maybe adding on another short hike for the afternoon, since it was still pretty early in the day.  Just up the road, off of NY-73, tiny Owl's Head Mountain fit the bill perfectly.  This one is only 0.6 miles to the summit, though a somewhat steeper scramble than Baxter.  Once again, we were treated to wonderful views for only a small amount of effort.

After we spent a considerable amount of time here as well, the clouds began to roll in, and we needed to get back and get cleaned up for dinner, so headed back down to the car.

Dinner was at Jimmy's 21 on Main Street in Lake Placid.  The Italian food was excellent, but the same could not be said for the service, which involved delays, forgotten requests, and even one incorrect entree.  And all at a somewhat inflated price!

The rains came again Saturday night, and it was a wet drive home on Sunday.  As we all headed for home, the guys weren't 46rs yet as they'd hoped, but had managed to add two more tough peaks to their list, and we'd all had the opportunity to take in some very nice scenery on the one day that turned out well.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hiking - Cliffs on Moose Mountain

After an unremarkable walk in the Albany Pine Bush yesterday that included trails being closed and lots of Thruway noise, it was nice to get out for a real hike today.

Entire yellow trail was closed.  Short noisy roadside walk on the rest.
Every Columbus Day weekend for the past 10-12 years, Holly and I have bushwhacked up Moose Mountain, near Wells, NY.  It's become a tradition of sorts to come here and enjoy the fall colors, away from the hordes, and having a mountaintop all to ourselves.  It's about a 3.5-mile round trip, and besides never seeing another soul, this place also has numerous views from its south and west-facing cliffs.

Our route, starting on NY30 just south of the Sacandaga Campground
Having done this one so many times, we have it down pat, knowing where the swamps are and how to avoid them, and navigating by feel once we hit the ridge.

We always hit the westernmost viewpoint first, and have the beginnings of lunch there.  We're never exactly sure what we're looking at, but usually the colors were much more vivid than they were today, with many trees already bare.

After lunch, we headed back to the col between the two summits, and then up to some more major cliffs on the eastern side.  Somehow we'd managed to miss this view on several previous explorations of the far eastern end of the ridge.

Cathead Mountain in the distance, and the Sacandaga River with NY30 left center
Heading back west, we paused for the rest of lunch at our favorite spot, a wide open sloping ledge with similar views.

Our favorite spot to linger a while
After a nice break, it was time to head down and back to the car.  The usual ice cream stop didn't happen today, a cool weekday in October, but it was otherwise a great day outdoors.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Walk - John Boyd Thacher State Park

Today I got out for a short walk at Thacher State Park.  Having heard only recently about a special Youth Firearms Deer Hunt this weekend, I was scratching my head a bit trying to figure out a good place to go to avoid it.  I figured that the developed area at Thacher would be safe enough, so that's where I went.

Fall colors were in abundance at Thacher today, as were the people.

Cars at the Overlook Parking Area
I parked at the south end of the Overlook Parking Area, and walked in the opposite direction from the crowds, into the always quiet Glen Doone Picnic Area.  There's a nice view off the cliff edges all along this area, and I hardly ever see anybody there.  The one exception today was what seemed to be a wedding celebration in one of the pavilions, but I was soon out of earshot of that and saw nobody else during my walk.

Leaving the park, I drove some back roads near Thompson's Lake and on back down to Altamont a different way.  The colors were farther along up in the hills, and the valleys still have a ways to go.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hiking - The new Moxham Mountain trail

After a pretty dreary and wet week, yesterday promised better weather, so Holly and I got out for a hike to enjoy the fall colors.  They were expected to be near peak in the Adirondacks this weekend, so we headed north to a recently created trail up Moxham Mountain, near Minerva.  I had hiked this mountain last year with a Schenectady ADK group before there was a trail, and found it a spectacular summit with great views.

The new trailhead is on 14th Road, off of NY-28N south of Minerva, with room for 4-5 cars.  Including ours, there were 4 cars as we left the parking area, and we met all of those people during the day.  The trail immediately climbs to the top of a ridge, turning SE to some open rocks with views along the SW side of that ridge.  Descending about 200 feet to the edge of a beaver pond, it then climbs steadily to the south to the main Moxham ridgeline.  Turning SE, the trail follows that ridge to Moxham's summit, with many open rock views along the way. 

Mud Pond

Marshy area below the ridge
The fall colors were mostly browns, yellows, and oranges, with most of the brighter red leaves on the ground beneath our feet.

Soon we came to another rock ledge with a great view of our destination.

The summit ahead
The summit faces south, into the sun, and it was also a very hazy day, so photos taken in that direction were somewhat difficult and results disappointing.  Gore Mountain is the most prominent feature, with the village of North Creek at its feet.  To the west, Snowy and Blue Mountains were visible through the haze, but not captured by camera.  The best views were in that direction, away from the sun.

The ridge we had just climbed, with several ponds far below
After about an hour on the summit, we descended back the way we'd come.  This time, a slight detour off trail to the beaver pond yielded an interesting view.  Close-up views were better today because of the haze in the distance.

Most of the other cars were gone when we reached the parking area and headed for home.  The total round trip distance for this hike is about 5 miles, with about 1500 feet of total climbing, not a bad hike for the views we got.  As usual, an ice cream stop in Warrensburg capped off another great day outside.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hiking - Moose River Plains bushwhack

Yesterday, I joined a Schenectady ADK hike in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, southwest of Indian Lake.  By way of introduction and context, here's the trip description as posted in our chapter's newsletter:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 
Sly Pond bushwhack

Rain date is October 24. I have been to Sly Pond by the trail but this is an explore to find a route shown as a trail on the 1903 USGS West Canada Lakes topo map and used by a group that included Almy Coggeshall on a three week camping trip in August 1933. I have a copy of Almy's 40 page journal with photos that was an inspiration for this explore. I also have a copy of a journal of another participant on the expedition, Mary North. Almy was 16 years old at the time and this trip was very significant in the development of his interest in the Adirondacks. This will be four to five miles of bushwhacking with a 900 foot ascent and a wade of the Moose River. Sly Pond is located at the 2877 foot level on the side of Little Moose Mountain in the Moose River Plains near Wakely Dam and Cedar River Flow. Little Moose Mountain is one of the hundred highest mountains in the Adirondacks.

We parked the cars at a campsite on Moose River Road, and headed south through the woods toward the South Branch of the Moose River.  There had been rain just prior to our arrival, and the foliage was very wet, making for a pretty sloppy bushwhack.  The plan was to find a suitable place to wade across the river and continue following the 1903 route uphill along the Sly Pond outlet to the pond.

Arriving at the river, the water was running a little high, and although there were those who would have made the attempt, most of us weren't comfortable with this location for a crossing.  At the same time, a look at the clock made it clear that we would never make it to the pond and be out before dark.  We'd gotten a later start than anticipated after a long drive from home, and it just wouldn't have been a good idea to continue with the original plan.  Instead, we decided to scout upstream for a better crossing point that would work in times of lower water for the summer of 2013 trip described above.  So we bushwhacked along the banks of the Moose until we came to its tributary, Silver Run, which we then continued to follow upstream to a campsite where a former road had once crossed that stream.  By now, it was time for lunch, and since there was a picnic table here, we stopped and had a bite to eat.

There was some discussion about crossing Silver Run here and exploring some more, but the group's enthusiasm for this option was non-existent, so we walked back down the road to the cars after about 2 miles of total hiking.

Since it was still early, we decided to add on a short hike to Sprague Pond, off the Cedar River Road.  We'd be passing right by the trailhead anyway, and it was only a half-mile each way to the pond, which most of us had never seen.  Along the way, we made several photo stops, and after the short hike to the pond, we all headed home.

The real star of the day was the fall foliage, and I've included a few samples below.  The light was fairly flat, and these pictures don't really capture just how awesome it really was.

Silver Run
Beech leaves
Unnamed pond along Moose River Road
Cedar River Flow from Wakely Dam
Sprague Pond

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Walk in the Lisha Kill Preserve - Tall trees and misplaced technology

After yet another rainy morning, and an aborted trip to the disc golf course, I got out this afternoon for a walk in the Lisha Kill Natural Area, in nearby Niskayuna.  There were no other cars in the lot, and I Iooked forward to a quiet walk.

Shortly after leaving the car, I came upon a sign like this one, but with the #1 on it.

For the uninitiated, which up until a few weeks ago included me, that funny pattern at the lower left is called a QR code, a specialized form of bar code.  Most smart phones, including my new one, come with a code scanning app that can read these things, and perform some action like opening a web page for further information.  The Nature Conservancy has installed a series of signs like this throughout the preserve as a means of providing an audio tour to those carrying such a smart phone.  I'll get to my thoughts on this in a minute, but first the experience.

I scanned the code with my phone, an easy thing to do, and was taken to a web page in the phone's browser.  Here's the link it took me to:   CLICK HERE   It would have been better if it had taken me directly to a page for that particular numbered sign, but oh well...

On that web page are several supposed links to MP3 files containing the audio for each tour stop.  The links aren't numbered on that page to correspond to the signs, so that was part two of my first complaint.  Second, I was unable to zoom that page in my phone's (Android) browser, despite that working OK everywhere else.  That made the links exceedingly small and hard to tap the correct one with my fat fingers.  Strike 2.  Finally, once I did tap one of the links, I got the following message instead of any audio file:

Strike 3, and you're out.  No audio tour for me.  But then I started thinking about it.

-- begin soapbox--
In many ways I was glad this did not work.  I'm actually more of a technogeek than most, and at first the very idea that this was even possible was somewhat fascinating, which was why I just had to try it.  But the other half of me found the presence of this capability here somewhat jarring.  Maybe not so much the technology itself, but the medium.  I can see the potential educational value of something like this, but I don't think audio is the right approach here.  It seems out of place, an intrusion on the quiet and majesty of this forest.  It would have been a lot worse if I'd happened upon someone listening to one of these snippets through their phone's speaker.  And let's face it - how many people are normally carrying headphones when they go for a quiet walk in the woods?  Not me.  An audio tour like this would be a great idea at a museum or historic site, but I found I didn't like it here, and did not consider it an improvement at all.
-- end soapbox --

I e-mailed myself the URL of the web page, and tried again when I got home, with the same result - something's broken, or you have to donate to get the audio.  I won't be trying to find out which.  For those who are interested, this web page DOES contain the correct links for the audio if you'd like to listen to them from home.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Walk - Schenectady County Forest

With several rainy days lately, it was time to take advantage of a break in the action and get outside.  I wanted something close to home, so settled for the Schenectady County Forest, on Lake Road in Duanesburg.  The longest loop possible there amounts to about 3 miles, and that was my plan.

Leaving the parking area and the road, the first thing I encountered was the pond, with some fall colors beginning to show.

I continued on the 1.5-mile blue loop until I came to a side trail to a Town of Duanesburg parcel that's adjacent to the forest.  That parcel has its own 1.5-mile loop, adding up to the overall total. 

It was a windy day, and there was quite a bit of small debris on the trails, much of which I cleared, though several big downed trees are still obstructing things. This was a nice easy walk, and I didn't see another soul, just a couple of great blue herons I spooked as I circled the pond.