Saturday, March 31, 2007

Guiffrida Park In Meriden Connecticut

I didn't have much time for birding this morning. I decided to choose a spot that would be close to where I was having my truck serviced. The Place I chose, was Guiffrida Park in Meriden Connecticut. There was no problem with dogs today, as I posted below after a previous visit.
I saw several kids with their families, learning about nature. One mom was leading her son through the woods while puffing away on a cigarette. Another family seemed to be on some sort of scavenger hunt.

I took a short walk along a row of pine trees. I enjoyed a great view of some
Golden-Crowned Kinglets. The golden crowns were showing beautifully on this sunny day. When I tried to get a picture of them, all I captured was pine trees. The way they were moving around, they looked like they had more caffeine in them than I did.

I also saw plenty of Turkey Vultures moving about, taking advantage of the updraft from the ledges.

It certainly was a beautiful day today with sunshine and a light breeze. It probably hit about 60 degrees in the afternoon. I also finally figured out that you can drag and drop photos where you want them.-What a genius I am!

Should Dogs Be On A Leash At Public Parks?

I'm sure there are much more pressing issues to worry about these days but I have to make mention of this. Lately in Connecticut I've been noticing that dog owners who keep their dogs on a leash has become the exception and not the rule. Signs that state "All dogs must be on a leash" are routinely ignored.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a friendly Labrador Retriever approaching me while I'm birding, but I get a little annoyed when I see a Pit Bull coming. Many owners have very well trained dogs--but there are exceptions. I've had dog owners respond- "No, he's not"- when I've asked them if his unleashed dog is friendly. I've also seen one dog attack another. I've seen dogs run up to kids and growl.

Recently, I went to a beautiful park in Meriden CT. for the first time. I encountered twelve dogs that were allowed to run around without a leash. The dog owners all knew each other, and said that they do this every week. Maybe there should be special parks just for people who want to let their dogs run loose.

What's your opinion on this subject?

Note taking And Checklists-How Much Is Enough?

I recently posted a 1972 Checklist from a CT. Birder. After I saw that list, I started to rethink my current system of keeping records. What is that system? Therein lies the problem. I haven't stuck with a consistent way of recording what I see.

When I started actively birding, I simply kept a life list. I then progressed to taking notes and recording the different species I had seen at each location. The problem with this method, was that the combination of field notes and a list of species seen made for a mess.

I bought some Thayer birding software called Birder's Diary to try to clean things up. This worked very well for about two years. I kept records of what I had seen at each location. It allows you to generate a very handy report. It does allow you to get a profile of what types of birds you are seeing in each area. I compiled a bunch of information over the two years. Then I started thinking-who cares? Is it really worth the extra time and effort to do this?

When I saw that 1972 report, I thought that it would be interesting to look back on what birds you were seeing form 30 years back. I decided to go back to the basic checklist method to record not just the species seen but also the actual numbers of birds. I realized after one day of trying to do this that it was not for me. I can't go out to watch birds and try to get an exact count at the same time. It just disrupts the flow of things. It just takes the pleasure out of it.

This week I came up with a compromise for myself. I came up with a system that would allow me to keep a record of species seen as well as a rough estimate of number of birds seen. On the checklist I will do the following:

  • A single diagonal line in the check box means that I have seen less than five birds of a particular species.

  • I will make an x in the box if I have seen 5-10 birds of a particular species.

  • If I see a flock of 10-50, I will fill in half of the check box.

  • If the flock is over 50, I will fill in the whole box.

  • If it is a flock of over 100, I will fill it in and circle it.

This may seem complicated, but it is much easier for me than to try to count actual numbers of birds. I also keep a small sketch pad to make notes or sketches.

That's where I'm at for the moment. Trying to maintain a balance between keeping some kind of record without taking the fun out of birding. Hopefully, this system will work out. Do you keep records of what you see? What type of system do you have for keeping records?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Declining Numbers of Wild Turkey In Connecticut

I read a recent article in the Hartford Courant which stated there has been a big decrease in Connecticut's Wild Turkey population over the last few years. They are attributing much of the decline to the wet spring weather we've had in Connecticut over the last two years.

If there is a lot of wet weather when hens are sitting on the nest, they don't have a chance to dry their feathers. This causes them to give off a stronger scent which makes it much easier for predators like coyotes and fishers to find them. After the predators find them they generally don't want to make small talk-they just eat them. Last June there was more wet weather, causing some of the newly hatched young turkeys to get a pneumonia-like illness that kills them.
Wild Turkey was one of the last birds to make it on to my January List. A couple of years of good spring weather should bring the numbers back up.

Here are a few interesting facts about the Wild Turkey :

  • A Wild Turkey can run as fast as 25 miles an hour (especially around Thanksgiving).

  • They can reach flight speeds between 50-55 mph in a matter of seconds.

  • A wild turkey has a field of vision of about 270 degrees.

  • There are five subspecies: Eastern, Osceola (Florida), Rio Grande, Merriam's and Gould's.

  • The color of their heads and neck can change with their mood, a solid white head and neck color means that they are excited (normal color bluish head/red throat).

  • Benjamin Franklin didn't like the idea of the Bald Eagle being the national bird and suggested the Wild Turkey instead.
They are going to be tracking sightings of Wild Turkey in Connecticut between June 1st and August 31st. This should help them get a better idea of what the numbers are at now. They estimated the poulation at about 40,000 four years ago. If you would like to report a sighting starting in June , you can call 860-642-7239 or e-mail-

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Day I Decided To Buy A Camera

One spring afternoon in 2005, I was walking along a path that follows the Connecticut River. It is only a few hundred yards from my house. I remember it being an extremely windy day, and was curious if the wind might have any effect on what birds might be around.

I was searching for birds in a small wooded patch about 5o feet from the river bank, when a very odd bird caught my attention. My first thought was, -What's that odd looking seagull doing in a tree?-Seagulls don't sit in trees do they?-Hmm- it doesn't have gull feet-. After a couple of minutes of observation, I reasoned that it definitely wasn't a seagull.

What the heck is it? Wow-It has red eyes, and look at that little wispy feather coming off of the back of the head.-Hey, wait a minute-I've think I've discovered a rare tropical bird!-It has to be.-At this point I started to take notes and tried to make a sketch. -(That is not a pretty sight.- I am a lefty who was converted to a righty by a second grade teacher. I had forgotten all about it, until my sister pointed it out to me a few years ago. She noticed I was writing with my right hand instead of my left.

Besides having poor penmanship, I also have a dyslexic tendency to flip flop letters in words. -I wonder why the teacher decided to do this?-any ideas?)

After I had made a sketch, I ran back to my house by cutting though a neighbor's yard. They must have thought there was something wrong by the way I was running. I grabbed a disposable camera -the only kind I'd ever used. I took pictures of it until the film ran out.

When I went back to the house, I started rifling through a field guide. My notes and sketches had paid off. There was no doubt that what I had seen was a Black-Crowned Night Heron. It was a very exciting find for me, but a fairly common bird. I went from being Roger Tory Peterson back to me in just a few seconds.

After having the pictures developed, I was in for another shock. The bird looked like the size of an ant! I couldn't even tell it was a bird by looking at the pictures.
-That was the day I decided to get a digital zoom camera.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Up In the Tree-Is That a Honeybee I see?

As I was walking along the river late last summer, I looked up and saw this nest of honeybees?

I'm wondering, why are they all on the outside of the nest? What is the yellow stuff-wax ?-If anyone knows about such things, I would like a bit of info.-thanks

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mourning Dove

Some facts about Mourning Doves:

  • Its scientific name is Zenaida macroura.

  • The mother is able to produce a milky substance that is fed to the young ones through its mouth.

  • Breeding partners often stick together for a very long time.

  • The cooing sounds they make marks the commencement of such important periods as asserting territory, nesting, and raising its young ones. (I used to think that the sound was being made by owls).

  • Any slight threat from predators can easily drive away a nesting couple, leaving eggs and younglings behind.

I have no problem with mourning doves. They are much more well-behaved than pigeons at my feeders.

I've noticed a couple of things about doves in the backyard. One thing is that they like to sit on the edge of the birdbath without drinking or bathing. Another is that they seems to wink a lot during mating season. I think this may be tied in with courtship.

How Did You Choose Your Binoculars?

When I started actively birding about 3+ years ago, I had a pair of 7x35 Tasco
Porro Prism Binoculars. (It's actually just binocular but that doesn't sound right). They were as good as Leica's or Swarovski's since I didn't even know what those were at that time.-To me, the $35 Tascos were perfectly clear and sharp.

It wasn't until I started to go birding with other birders, that I became aware that my Tascos were socially unacceptable. Every so often, someone would tease me a little about them. They would offer to let me try their fancy roof prism binoculars, to see how I liked them. I liked them o.k.-until they told me how much they payed for them.-No way was I going to pay $1500 for binoculars.

Then came the 100 degree day when I left the Tascos on the dashboard of my truck. The glue that held the lenses melted like the wicked witch and my precious binoculars were done.

Next came along the little Nikon Travelite V porro binoculars that my brother-in-law gave me. These nifty little bins could focus in on something five feet in front of me. They provided a great view for $75 binoculars. The very small field of view wasn't sufficient for birding in the field. I now keep these handy to watch birds at my feeders. They are perfect for that purpose.

I bought 8x56 Orion Mini-Giants online for about $120. My plan was to use them for some light astronomy.They aren't bad but wouldn't recommend them.I keep them in a cooler in my truck in case I see some birds while commuting to and from work. I also recently bought
Nikon action 7x35's for my wife. They are good entry level binoculars and are a good back up pair (for me too).

After two years, I realized that I was going to be hooked on birding forever. At this point, I decided that I needed better binoculars. This is when I discover a major problem with binoculars. There are too many of them! With the amount of time I spent reading reviews, I could have worked overtime and bought top-of the-line bins and been done with it. There are just too many "pretty good" ones to be able to figure out which ones to get. I don't know of a shop that carries every brand and model to try out. It is just too much trouble.

Although reviews help give you basic information, its not worth obsessing over them. If you can't or don't want to buy the best, go to a local binocular dealer-try them-buy them and be done with it. If you can afford the best-try them buy them-and be done with it. You can't rely completely on someone else's review. What works for their eyes may not work for yours.-You need to try them first. Another good way of doing that is trying out other people's binoculars.

After all the fussing, I chose the Swift Ultralite roof prism binoculars.

They have the following features:

  • are extremely bright (ultralite refers to the brightness not weight).

  • they are waterproof

  • a lifetime warranty(which I recently made use of-excellent service).

  • a very fast focus wheel

  • they are relatively sharp

  • sell for about $300

  • Bak-4 phase coated optics

These are excellent roof prism binoculars for the price. When I was at the Eagle Fest , I decided to try out binoculars at the optics tents they had set up. Most of the ones I tried were o.k. but didn't really impress me. When I tried the Swarovski 8.5x42 that changed. They fit my eyes perfectly, and have to admit they were sharper, more comfortable, and had a better field of view than my current ones. Will I break the bank and buy some?-Yes-as soon as I can.

Here are two binocular reviews: Cornell Binocular Review & Better View Desired.

How did you go about choosing your binoculars?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spiderweed Preserve

After a day of Mud, hot dogs, and shotguns on Saturday, I was looking to get a little exercise by taking a walk in quiet area . Of course, I'm always interested in seeing what birds may be around too.

I chose a little known area owned by The Nature Conservancy called Spiderweed Preserve.

This preserve is located in a rural section of Middletown Connecticut called Maromas. The word “Maromas” may have come from the old English Word “marmoric” pertaining to marble. There seems to be a lot of Granite and Marble throughout much of the area..

After walking about a mile up the trail, I came upon an abandoned house (above photo) in the middle of the woods. I wonder how old it is? Who used to live there? Why is it still there?-I'll have to contact the Nature Conservancy to find out more about it.

I wandered further in to the woods past some massive rock formations. The sound of traffic was replaced by the soothing gurgling sound of the numerous tiny brooks throughout the area. The air was damp, cool, and refreshing. The entire area was sheltered from any kind of wind. Except for the lack of sun, it was a nearly perfect spring morning.

There were more birds that could be seen than heard. This included the calls of PILEATED WOODPECKER and RED-SHOULDERED HAWK. I did get a view of some of the more common woodland birds of this area. Encountering the first EASTERN PHOEBE I had seen since last December was a welcome sight.

Along the way I passed by some old stone walls, remnants of farms from many years ago. I walked for two hours before encountering another hiker who was carrying a walking stick. She was kind enough to put me on the right track back to where I started and gave a synopsis of the trails in the area.
By the time I returned to my truck, I felt healthier in more than one way. It's not just about the birding. It's also about the places that birds can lead you to.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

From what I am told, the name of this dragonfly is the Widow Skimmer. I took this picture at Nehantic Forest in Lyme Connecticut last August. I couldn't seem to get a picture of a bird so I resorted to insects.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

One day of birding in 1972

I would like to share with you a list of birds that was compiled by 2 Connecticut birders back in 1972. It was not so much the number of species that was shocking but the actual number of individual birds for each species. I have been to the areas listed here. It is nowhere near the shoreline. They are still considered to be good birding areas but we will never see numbers like this again.-Note that this was described as just a typical day.-

I obtained this information from CT. Birds Digest which is a new feature provided by the COA that allows birders to have open discussions about birds in Connecticut.

A day of birding on May 18, 1972 - Paul Carrier / Winston Williams -from
8:30 to 3:00 PM.
At: West Hartford reservoirs, incl res #6, and Dearcliff Rd., Farmington.
(only warblers and other neo-tropical bird migrants shown):-

Myrtle Warbler(65+) Redstart(41+) BT Blue(35) Parula(20) BT Green(75+!)
Blackburnian(12) Blackpoll(2) Yellowthroat(10) Magnolia(13) Canada(3)
Bay-breasted(12) Louisiana W
Thrush(12) B&White(33) Yellow Warb(16) Ovenbird(28) Prairie(8)
Nashville(12) Chestnut-sided(38)
Golden-wing(2) Cape May(3) Blue-H Vireo(16) Towhee(22) Swainson's
Thrush(15) Veery(22) Wood
thrush(34) B Oriole(32) Least Flycatcher(10) Indigo Bunting(17) S
Tanager(31) Red-Eye Vireo(65+)
Ruby Hummer(6) Yellow-T Vireo(15) Yellow-b-Cuckoo(3) Black-B-Cuckoo(5)

Daily note: Day-overcast, cool, mid 50s, Birds were alternately singing
and quiet, In the case of
warblers, they were found at times in large waves traveling together of
many different species,
many not being counted. (Ed) - This was a typical day for mid May "Back

You've Got Ring Around The Collar!

I suppose a lot of people get tired of seeing Canada Geese. They sure make a mess of the area . It's estimated that the total number of resident Canada Geese is roughly 3.2 million. That is a dramatic increase from a few decades ago.

Most of the 11 subspecies of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) are encountered in the lower 48 States only during the fall, winter and spring of the year and migrate to the arctic and sub-arctic regions of Canada and Alaska to nest.

Despite the fact that resident Canada Geese may be a nuisance, I have come to enjoy searching through flocks of Canadas. One reason is to try to see if something different is mixed in with a flock-like a Cackling Goose, for example. The other reason is to see if I can find one with a yellow marked collar. I saw for with yellow collars today.

They use these to track the Geese to gather information about migration, population, and other important data. I enjoy getting the number off of the collars reporting them. Have you ever reported a collared neck band before? Where was bird(s) you reported banded? -If you haven't this will give you something new to search for.

Send the information to:Patuxent Wildlife Research Center . They will respond with an e-mail and letter telling you where the bird was originally banded.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Laughing Frog

There's a local trail near my house. One of the trails was named the laughing frog trail. I always wondered why. One day as I was passing by, I saw it.-Can you see the Laughing Frog?

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Case Of Mistaken Identity

Last August I bought a 1 gig sd card which meant I could take a lot of pictures with my camera at one time instead of the limit of about 10 that I had before that. I was very well pleased with this new option-which gave me an idea. I thought-I should leave my binoculars and field guide at home so that I can concentrate on taking lots of new pictures-maybe even some that are worth looking at.

So here's what happened. I was driving around town looking for some photo opportunities ,when I passed by the town dump and saw some Turkey Vultures---a lot of them.

I walked in slowly (it was closed), and started clicking away. I noticed that a few of the vultures didn't have red about the head and figured they must be immature . -no problem.

Later that day, I took a look in my field guide at the Turkey Vultures and saw that the immature ones didn't have red on the head.-"O.K. that must have been it"-I said.

A Black Vulture never even crossed my mind at the time, because I've never even seen one reported around Portland. I'd never seen one myself before, and they're still very uncommon for most of the state. They are known to be more aggressive than a Turkey Vulture, capable of driving them away from a carcass. They hunt by sight, not smell and occasionally kill small animals to eat.

Months later , when I keyed in on the two vultures in the photo, the light bulb went on-then a sick feeling came over me. I decided to pull out the field guide to look up Black Vulture. Wouldn't you know the description matched my photos to a tee. I had missed out on what have been an exciting find for me.

I'll never intentionally leave my binoculars and field guide behind again.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Along The CT. River In East Haddam, Connecticut

There are a good number of Ducks and Eagles to see at The Salmon River Boat Launch in East Haddam CT. this time of year. This is where the Salmon River empties in to the CT. River.
My wife, Joan, was very impressed with what she saw today. She spotted several eagles before I did and is starting to become a bit of a birder herself. She especially enjoyed seeing the Wood-Ducks.
It seems ironic to me that after all the effort has been made to help increase the Bald Eagle population, some people are worried that the Eagles have come back too much. Over the past two days I've heard from one avid birder who is concerned that the Gulls have diminished in an area that used to be loaded with them . He has witnessed Eagles feeding on gulls in that area on several occasions. I heard similar complaints from another birder concerning ducks.

Friday, March 9, 2007

My Pal- The Skunk

Maybe I've thrown a little too much cracked corn on the ground. This morning, at about 6am, I looked out the window to see a skunk having breakfast under the bird feeders. I think that they may be setting up house under my shed.

That brings to mind a couple of skunk stories. One day, a couple of years ago, I looked out the window to see momma skunk followed by four baby skunks. They walked in perfect profile across the yard.

Last Summer, as I was lying out at night in a lawn chair stargazing, two skunks entered the yard and started to approach me. I was afraid to move. The skunks brushed right up against the side of my chair. I slowly tapped a key on my chair, and they gradually walked away. Have you ever had a close encounter with a skunk?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Not All Floods Are Bad

Portland is a small town in Connecticut that borders the Connecticut River. During most years, the river level rises to the point that the water covers a good portion of main street. This area is well past the center of town. The floods, most commonly occur in spring after the ice and snow melt to the north of us.

When most people think of floods, destruction and devastation come to mind. It is not a serious problem here, just an inconvenience to people who drive this route and for the those few who own buildings in the flood zone.

If truth be told, the floods are considered by many Portland residents to be an annual event. People seems to look forward to opportunity to view the floods in the same way they would go to watch a fireworks display. They drive right up to the edge of the flood line to see how it ranks with past floods. They also take pictures like the one I took.

Every year, people will try to drive through the flooded area. Some make it; some get stuck. I tried it once and made it. The floor of my pick-up was soaked by the time I got through. Once you start, you'd better not stop. You can hear exhaust chugging and gurgling as the water pours across your hood. It is a harrowing experience, to say the least.

There are other reasons that people look forward to the spring floods. Shad fishermen know that with the spring flood, comes the American Shad heading up river.Not long after that, the Striped Bass come to feed on th Shad.

Here's my favorite part. The flood extends in to our local fairgrounds transforming the area in to a temporary hotspot. Once the flood recedes enough to be able to drive to the fairground, there will be some great birding opportunities. This would include ducks such as The American Wigeon and Green-Winged Teal that enjoy feeding in the flooded fairgrounds (say that 10 times fast). Wilson's Snipe and various shorebirds also make an appearance. You can a great close-up view of all these birds from your car window. Now that is something to look forward too.

Monday, March 5, 2007


Having been out on a few birdwatching field trips, I've noticed that not a lot of people seem to be very enthusiastic over Turkey Vultures. You hear comments like-"oh-it's just another Turkey Vulture" or 'They've got a face not even a mother could love" etc. Well -Turkey Vultures are mad as heck and they're not going to take it any more!

I learned a lot about TURKEY VULTURES today thanks to some very interesting information from The Turkey Vulture Society. Turkey Vultures, or T.V.'s as some birders like to call them , are a more complex bird than I had realized. I knew that they like to hang out in dumps and that they take advantage of thermals to glide around for long periods of time. I also heard that they vomit from their noses when frightened.

Some people might confuse Turkey Vultures with immature Bald Eagles when see flying in the distance. Both are dark and have large wingspans . The Turkey Vulture, however, has it's wings tipped upward in a dihedral (v-shape). They also rock slightly from side to side when gliding. Bald Eagles glide with their wings basically flat -(no dihedral) and do not rock.

Someone once told me that Turkey Vultures were imported in to Connecticut from Texas to help clean up road kill. I think they were putting me on. What actually happened was that their range expanded northward to the point that they have become common . Prior to the 1920's they were rarely seen in Connecticut. There aren't as many seen in the winter because some of them migrate south as far as South America. Manchester Landfill , The Portland Transfer Station, and Cromwell Meadows are three good places to view them in Connecticut.

-A few quick facts about Turkey Vultures:
  • They have an excellent sense of smell detecting a potential meal from a great distance.

  • Sometimes play dead if cornered by a human.

  • spend 2-3 hours a day preening themselves.

  • do not kill animals , although Black Vultures do.

  • scientific name-Cathartes Aura means pacifier or cleanser.

  • Have been known to keep company with humans.(see T.V. Society website).

  • enjoy elaborate flight games.

  • defecate a mixture of feces and uric acid on their legs which acts as a powerful anti-bacterial agent

Learn more interesting facts at The Turkey Vulture Society Website -at: They have a lot of interesting information about them.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Peregrine Falcon and Northern Pintail today!

I went for a walk out in Glastonbury Meadows today:

It was nice to get out after working 26 hours between Friday and Saturday. I should have brought my scope because there was a nice assortment of birds on the water.

I saw my first NORTHERN PINTAIL today! . There was also COMMON GOLDENEYE, AMERICAN WIGEON, WOOD DUCKS, BLACK DUCKS, MALLARD, and COMMON MERGANSERS. There were other ducks that I couldn't identify mixed in with several hundred CANADA GEESE.

In the fields were very large flocks of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD and HORNED LARK. I also saw 2 BALD EAGLES, and 4 RED-TAILED HAWKS. The fields themselves , were covered with puddles and shoe-stealing muck.

My most exciting moment came when I looked across the field and saw a Peregrine Falcon. I've only seen one other one that close before. At first I thought this one was going to be a Merlin because one had been reported at this location in the past. Unfortunately, the lighting was bad and my camera batteries died just as I was trying to get some better shots-drats!-Oh well-at least I got a picture.

Other birds included the regular winter visitors (Juncos gone?) which I am going to make a link for so I don't have to keep writing them.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

I Have Bad Days Too

I've noticed that some of the bloggers will write about having a bad day. I don't talk about my personal life much, but I have bad days too.
Today, for example, was a bad day for me.
It started out when I woke up with a sore arm. This was the same arm that I had broken last fall raking leaves. If only I had been more careful, I never would have fallen out of that tree.

It gets worse. After I arrived at work, I realized I had locked my keys in the car. It took me 15 minutes to break the window and get out.
There's more-Both my brothers lost their jobs this week. One of them was fired from the orange juice factory-apparently it was due to his lack of concentration. My other brother was let go from The M&M candy company. How was he to know that you're not supposed to throw away the W's?
Wait a minute-Now that I think of it, I don't have any brothers.-Maybe it wasn't such a bad day after all!
East-Haddam is home to one of the most scenic stretches of The Connecticut River. The town has a nice mix of history and natural beauty.

Show here is Gillette Castle in East Haddam CT. as seen from the opposite side of The Connecticut River in Chester.

This castle was home to William Gillette. He was a famous stage actor in the 1800's. He was most known as the the actor who brought Sir Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes to the stage. He added many details to the character such as the pipe and hat that many people have come to associate with the character of Sherlock Holmes.

Gillette never referred to the home as a castle even though it was designed after the ruins of a medieval German fortress. The castle stands 200 feet above the CT. River on a ledge. It is 14000 square feet with 24 rooms. The Walls are made of solid native granite and are five feet thick at the base. There are many secret passageways. Gillette also built his own miniature working railroad so he could entertain his guest by giving them rides around the property. One of his most famous friends was Mark Twain.

Today the whole area is a park with plenty of acreage. It contains trails and picnic areas. It's also a good place to find a nice variety of birds throughout the year. If you are ever in the area, it is well worth checking it out.