Powder Mills Park (Pittsford, NY) – #18

Cerulean Warbler © Dominic Sherony

The park is well-covered with trails and almost any area can turn up interesting birds in spring and summer. Cerulean Warbler © Dominic Sherony

HABITAT

The park occupies a deep hill pocket which was once the bed of an arm of the old Genesee River delta. It is threaded from north to south by Irondequoit Creek.

The hills and ridges are covered with heavy growth of oak, ash, maple, and walnut, while the stream beds are lined with willows.

In the low areas there are cattail marshes, mowed fields, and scattered shrubs.

DIRECTIONS

Powder Mills Park occupies just over 400 acres, about ten miles south east of Rochester.

From Rochester take Rte. 490 East to the Bushnell’s Basin exit. Turn left onto Rte. 96 South. After the traffic lights (Garnsey Road), take the first right (Park Road) to enter the park from the north east.

Powder Mills Park map

Click to view at larger scale.

BIRDING OPPORTUNITIES

To see reports for recent sightings go to http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspots and type in either ‘Powder Mills Park’ or ‘Powder Mills Park Fish Hatchery.’

SPECIALTIES

Powder Mills Park is best in the breeding season. Nesting species include a variety of warblers (Mourning, Cerulean, Blue-winged, Golden-winged, and hybrids have all been recorded), Belted Kingfisher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Scarlet Tanager, flycatchers, and woodpeckers (including three pairs of Pileated).

SUGGESTED BIRDING ROUTE

The park is well-covered with trails and almost any area can turn up interesting birds in spring and summer. The area south of Woolston Road is less used for recreation and is worth exploring. The route overleaf will cover a variety of good spots in about two hours of leisurely birding on foot.

On entering the park from Rt. 96 (see ‘Directions’), drive down the hill, passing the curious ‘mushroom house’ on your left. At the foot of the hill on the left is the parking lot for the Fish Hatchery. Start your walk here (point 1 on the map). There are two points of interest in this area: hidden in the trees behind and to the left of the Hatchery building is the Spring Pool, which supplies most of the water for the Hatchery. This is a good spot for Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, flycatchers, and warblers. Returning to the road, look for a variety of common birds around the house and fish pool, then cross Corduroy Road to the pond (point 2). In summer the wires over the pond usually hold a mixture of Cedar Waxwing, swallows, and other insect-eaters, especially in early evening.

On a spring morning it is worth a walk down Corduroy Road for the warblers and other singing passerines in the woods on both sides of the road. If pressed for time, there is a small gravel area off the east side of the road (point 3) where it is convenient to park.

From the Fish Hatchery, walk or drive on along Park Road to the parking lot by Rand Lodge (point 4). From the parking lot scan the tall trees across the creek:  Pileated Woodpecker has nested here in recent years. Cross the stream (past a preserved mill wheel) to Wadhams Lodge, listening for Red-Bellied Woodpecker which frequent this area.

Behind Wadhams look over the marsh to your right (Trillium Marsh). A variety of species may be seen and heard in the shrubs and trees in and beyond the marsh. Take the footpath into the woods and keep right along the edge of the marsh. This trail (5 on the map) is particularly good for nesting thrushes, which can often be called from the trees on either side. (This path can be rather muddy in wet weather.) At the far end the path emerges onto Woolston Road at the foot of a tall bluff (point 6) in which Bank Swallow used to nest before it became overgrown.

From this point two routes may be suggested:

For the first (shorter) route skirt the base of the bluff, then take the small path to the left which passes behind the small marsh shown on the map. Follow the path diagonally up the hillside. It becomes a little ill-defined at this point but continue up, emerging onto a broader path along the crest of the ridge (7 on the map). Continue along the ridge path, watching and listening for the canopy birds. At the end of the ridge take the left fork, which drops down to complete the loop just behind Wadhams Lodge.

For a slightly longer walk including some different habitat, walk along Woolston Road over the lrondequoit Creek bridge to the parking lot at the foot of the ski slope. On the way watch out for warblers and other small birds in the trees along the road. Cross the creek footbridge to your right, pass Powder Horn Lodge and climb the hill immediately ahead of you. At the top bear left and follow the path downhill, leaving the brush piles on your right. Stop at the top of the hill and scan the shrubs to the right of the path. At the foot of the hill, follow the main path through a sharp right bend and climb again until you see a picnic shelter through the trees to your left. Take the small path left past the shelter and down the grassy hill. Take the path in the trees on your right hand side: this follows the edge of a ridge and then drops abruptly to a bridge at Irondequoit Creek. The land across the creek is private (YMCA Camp Arrowhead). Turn right and follow the creek past a second – somewhat rickety – bridge. Beyond this point the path becomes rather overgrown and there are fallen logs to negotiate, but it soon emerges into the park by the side of Wadhams Lodge.

Two other spots are worth mentioning. Where Park Road crosses lrondequoit Creek in the north-west part of the park, there is a small parking lot (point 9.) From here you can walk either side of the creek for a few hundred feet north and west. Belted Kingfisher nest in this area and can frequently be seen flying up and down the river.

On the north (right) side of Park Road just outside the north-west park boundary is a small signposted wild area known as Willow Bend Natural Area. In spring and early summer a short walk along the trails here can be very productive; within a very small area there is cattail marsh, woodland, shrubs, and the creek. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest here annually.

ACCESS AND RESTRICTIONS

Powder Mills Park is a Monroe County park; access is free and the park is open all year. There are a number of picnic shelters and lodges, each with a parking lot, so parking on the roads should not be necessary.

PRECAUTIONS

Off the main trails there are clumps of poison ivy and some poison sumac. Trails in the lower areas can be very wet and a little muddy, so boots are recommended except in dry weather in summer. By midsummer most of the area along the creek becomes overgrown with poison ivy, leaving only the main trail accessible.

Observe the park speed limit of 25 m.p.h. The park is heavily patrolled by Sheriff’s cars, particularly during the summer.

SEE YOUR PHOTOS ON THIS PAGE!

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