I was so excited to begin this trip so that I would finally get to bird watch in all the north shore state parks. My single prior visit to Gooseberry was a short stop to look at a falls that was tapped out in late summer. Just a trickle of water was falling that day and Gooseberry Falls was a bit more like Gooseberry Faucet. On May 15th that was not a problem as I could hear the falls from some distance away as I found myself hiking along the River View Trail. The views at Agate Beach and the surrounding area were amazing as I watched Common and Red-breasted Merganser swim about in the early morning light.
Agate beach at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Stone pylons and chains at Gooseberry keeping visitors from just walking off a cliff into the lake.
I was once again one of very few out and about early enough to enjoy the first bird song of the day. I soaked it in with Black-throated Green Warblers on territory. White-throated sparrows sang their cheery morning best as the winds picked up a lot from the night before making it feel relatively chilly.
An Eastern Phoebe bounced about near one of the park pavilions as I set my sights on the falls before any of the other humans got moving. Bird song was relatively thin, but I could hear the falls getting louder with each step and beginning to peak through the tree lined ridge I was hiking along. As the trail descended to the bottom of the falls more White-throated Sparrows scampered across the boardwalk trail.
A peaceful stroll at the river bottoms below Gooseberry Falls.
I soon found the bottom and was provided an outstanding solitary view of the falls as it cascaded down towards the lake.
I snapped my pictures and eventually climbed back to the top of the river valley heading towards my car.
Gooseberry Falls close up.
Upper Falls at Gooseberry, just as stunning as the main iconic falls.
A few more birds were awake and moving about by this time, but it was still relatively quiet. I repositioned my car to the main lot looking to see the top of the falls and begin a hike towards Upper and Fifth Falls as well. This hike put me on some great views of previously unknown to me falls and also some great backcountry land I didn't realize was a part of the park.
Hiking bridge over Fifth Falls at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
The trails were well maintained and it was a relaxing hike filled with several drumming Ruffed Grouse, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker intent on drumming out a message on a metal trail sign, and several more Black-throated Green Warblers.
A semi-cooperative male Black-throated Green Warbler working over a cedar tree and singing the entire time.
Though my visit only had 34 species total, the 4 miles of hiking over a 4 hour visit was outstanding. I noticed the landscape was not as densely forested as something much further north, but it was a great place to explore and the map shows miles of additional trails waiting to be hiked in the future. This may not be a pure birders park, but it is something to experience.
The Great: At the right time of year 3 sets of waterfalls really sing with a high flow of water. It was so peaceful to explore the space alone and intersperse bird song with moving water. With mild temperatures all morning it was a wonderful start to a north shore journey. I would highly recommend the park as a place to explore nature and pickup a few birds along the way.
The Meh: The 34 count was a bit lower than I expected. Though that in itself was instructive helping me to get to know the landscape of the area how it changes along the shore, it was still a tough lesson to learn. Somehow in my head warbler density would be sustained all along the north shore and that somehow I would be hearing birds sing from every corner of these parks. So far anyway that was not the case as it I suppose educational in the process.
The Verdict: Regardless of what species counts were it is hard to knock a beautiful landscape on one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world coupled with waterfalls and great hikes. Miles of trails await future trips and I look forward to taking them and exploring the park in several seasons. We were made to enjoy natural spaces such as these, go explore them.