Last Saturday I went to Caratunk in Seekonk WITH some wildlife, hoping to SEE some wildlife. I met my brother & his family and my sister and her youngest son for a walk. Caratunk is part of the RI Audubon Society, but it is in Seekonk, Massachusetts.
I stopped in the little shed attached to the main barn to see if there were any trail maps for a gentlemen that was there who did not know the property. There were not any maps. There is a book to sign in there and also a little hole in the wall to put $ in. I deposited some $ and checked out the Whiteboard where people log the fauna that they have seen in Caratunk, but I did not get to read all of it because my 4 year old niece was demanding my attention.
We then went over to the kiosk, there was a large poster and explanation of the woodcock dance that they do at this time of year to attract mates. This is a very special thing to see and I believe Caratunk hosts members to see this display in evening gatherings. There were warnings about ticks and a list of other Audubon properties, but there was no map there either.
When I explore Caratunk, I usually start out on the trail that is to the right of the kiosk, but it was a little chilly so I thought we should head out across the meadow trail which starts next to the wildflower garden in front of the large barn. We followed this trail through the large meadow and through the opening in the stone wall and then took a right.
This trail led us through some woods and rock walls on our right, with another large meadow on a hill to our left. We took the trail that runs along the eastern edge of the meadow and stopped at the observation station. There we could see a hawk flying in the distance, but we could not make out what type of hawk it was. After everyone hydrated themselves and had some trail mix, we took off through a wooded area where there are ponds and brooks, several times stopping along the way to explore trees, rock, lichen
or moss and to play with sticks and the water. Overhead we heard some raptor noises and 2 of them were circling overhead, I am not sure if they were warning us to stay away from their nest or if they were just flirting with each other. I tried to get a photo of them, but they were very high in the sky. After showing this photo to my friend Dick Graefe, we have determined that it is probably a Broad Winged Hawk. Thanks Dick!
In this area of the refuge there is a pond on the left and a small brook running on the right.
From there we went up an incline and crossed the electric company right of way and continued our walk on the blue trail through some very boggy areas.
The last time I was here it was quite wet, but there has since been simple boardwalks put in which will protect fragile fauna and flora, and also keep your shoes out of the muck. We could hear noises in one of the vernal ponds that we were adjacent to. I had the kids stop and listen and asked them to guess what the noises were. One guessed geese and the other 2 didn't know. This was my first hearing of peeptoads for the year, one of the best noises one can hear to signify that spring is indeed on its way, and admittedly, one of my favorite songs.
We followed the blue trail in this part of the refuge, through some hemlock, until we came to an area where the trail markings just seemed to disappear so we retraced our steps back to the boardwalk over the vernal pool. My sister-in-law and I got there ahead of the kids and we were able to more thoroughly enjoy the beautiful harmonies of the peeptoads. We also tried staying very still to see if we could get them to think we were not there and perhaps they would stick their eyes up out of the water, but too soon the children arrived
and we could not coax them at all to stand like statues, so we didn't get to see the rascals.
We got back to the electric company right of way and took the meadow there further south to catch the trail on the other side of the refuge. Along the way Terry and I saw a small bird on top of a birdhouse, but we could not make out what it was. I wonder if it is too early for bluebirds. The connector trail here is very difficult to find, and I did not see it until I was right on top of it. The return trail going to the lower section of the refuge is narrow and can be a little steep in some areas, so caution with your footing must be taken. This section is populated by glacial erratics
and the brook that winds throughout the property. We stopped here for a rest (the adults) and for some playing in water with sticks time (the children). The 13 year old decided to walk across the brook on a log that is there and he was successful on the first try, but on the return of the second try he lost his footing and landed very ungracefully, thoroughly soaking the front legs of his jeans.
After the drama involving that and some concern (by the child, not the parents) that back surgery would be imminent, we once again took to the trail. Someone found a snake,and all the other members of our party marveled over it while I stayed a safe distance of at least 150 feet away. I have a huge phobia of snakes and cannot bear to even look at them, or pictures of them.
The trail here winds through some large rocks, one of them being named as Monument Rock and some dead cedars. We came to another little wooden bridge over the pond where the kids found some leeches and my 4 year old niece had a mild spaz attack when she picked up a rock and found some very miniscule baby leeches.
We then took the trail that follows the edge of a golf course and through some very tall red pines, where there is a lot of pine needle carpeting, coming to yet again another bridge over the brook. At this bridge there were 2 young people sitting and one standing next to the bridge. The standing person told me I'd have to pay a toll to cross the bridge. I asked him if he was the troll under the bridge and he said yes, and the payment to cross was one smile, so we were allowed to proceed. Taking a left after the bridge to walk back to our cars, I could hear a male cardinal making himself known to all the lady cardinals, so Terry and I checked the tree tops until we spotted him, a beauty at the top of the highest tree.
After we returned to the car and I checked the time I realized that we had been exploring for over 3 hours. This trail can be done in a shorter period of time, but I think it was just right.