Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snowshoeing Norcross to Elliot Hill 2/8

Elliot Hill on the Templeton/Royalston border, has been on my mind as a hawkwatch site for the past 15 years. However, I have never stepped foot atop the hill, let alone conducted a hawkwatch. Today I took the first step and made a 4 1/2 mile round trip snowshoe trek from Norcross Hill to Elliot Hill by following the edges of fields and bush whacking through the woods.

While driving up Norcross Hill Road I spotted ~45 Snow Buntings, perched in an apple tree near a backyard feeding station.

A digi-scope image of a portion of the approx. 45 Snow Buntings on Norcross Hill Road.

After a brief bush whack through a forested area, I snowshoed the edge of a large field were I flushed a dozen Wild Turkey. In all there were about 50 to 75 present, many flushing from high in the white pines once I was back in the woods. The "patterns" in the snow are all Wild Turkey tracks.

After another woodland bush whack I got a view of the farm house, across a field, a little way up Elliot Hill. The view toward Elliot Hill, its top (to the left) obscurred by falling snow.
The snow had a firm crust with 3-4" of newly fallen snow on top, most of the time the crust would support my weight. Without snowshoes, I would have sunk at least thigh deep in most places. The walk up Elliot Hill enjoyable as the tree line sheltered me from the stiff NW wind that was beginning to intensify.
The view back toward Church Hill.
A relatively new wind turbine near Narragansett Regional High School in Templeton (center), Wachusett Mountain is to the left.
Looking NE across the field.
A forlorn juniper and ominous clouds, atop of Elliot Hill

The view SE toward Wachusett Mountain, the steady snow was subsiding but snow squalls continued.
The view North toward Monadnock as wind gusts picked up.

Mt. Monadnock was obscurred by low clouds, but one can see its base near the center of the above photo.
The view from the hill top was excellent, with open viewing from the NW, NE and to the S, perfect for a fall hawkwatch! The farm (part of the Templeton Developement Center) at the bottom of the hill did recently graze cattle in the fields, I am not sure if they still do in the summer and fall months. After enjoying the a new "perscpective" of North Central Mass. scenery and a cup of hot tea, I made my way back.

Another view toward Elliot Hill on the way back, with better visibilty. I had followed the left (west) side of the field near the tree line on my way to and from the hill top.
Springtails (Collembola) were abundant on top of the snow in the forest.

Approaching the parking area on Norcross Hill.


Alexander Dunn said...

Hi Tom,

I enjoy your blog and wanted to pass on the blog I've been working on for the past few months. I live in W. Boylston but gear this towards beginner birders throughout the Northeast. Thought I'd send it your way for a look.



Don said...

Thanks for the information and pictures of your visit to Norcross Hill. Looks like another place I'd like to visit.

In the last photo, you mention a parking area. Where is that exactly? What road is it on?


Tom Pirro said...


I parked on Norcross hill Road, right where the pavement ends. Keep in mind some of this area is posted, though somewhat unclearly. Most of the property belongs to the state's Central Massachusetts Developement Center(many "inhouse" patients with mental disabilities reside here for care), mainly on Church Hill and the farm house 1/3 way up Elliot Hill. So it would ESSENTIAL to stay away from ALL buildings...the state has allowed an archery deer hunt in the wooded areas. The route I took this week followed the edge of a few field an is the woods.

Hilke Breder said...

You have some wonderful landscape photos. You really have to see them full-size to appreciate their beauty.