On May 16th, Kris Ramsay, Orleans Conservation Trust (OCT) Administrator, led an educational walk along the trails within the Ice House Pond and Reuben’s Pond Conservation land. This area is composed of four gifts, making up just over 25 acres of land; the first of these was given in 1974, the last in 1996. The conservation area features 1.5 miles of walking trails, with frontage on Ice House and Reuben’s Pond. Once cleared for farming, the land has now had a chance to regrow, with the dominant habitat being a pitch pine-oak forest.
Arriving just before 9:00 am, we parked at one of the two trailhead parking areas – this one along the road at 245 Tonset Road, marked by an OCT sign and bulletin board. We began our walk with the understanding that mid-to-late spring is a great time to be able to notice invasive species. Part of their invasive nature, beyond the fact that they are not native species, is the way that they can out-compete native plants. These invasive species often bloom earlier, giving them an advantage in terms of spreading their seeds and propagating the species – thus taking over certain habitats. Some examples of invasive species that we were able to see on the walk included black locusts, sycamore maple, morrow’s (shrub) honeysuckle, and yellow iris. Some of the walk participants were disappointed to learn that poison ivy, however much of an inconvenience it is, is a native species (not an invasive) which adds to the biodiversity of these habitats.
One of the unique features of this conservation land is that walkers get to see two very different ponds. Judith Bruce, Chair of the Orleans Conservation Commission joined the walk today and offered insightful input on the state of these two ponds. She outlined the difference between oligotrophic (low nutrients & plant growth, clear water, and high water quality) and eutrophic (high nutrients & plant growth, low oxygen, low water quality) ponds and lakes, and we then walked by an example of each.
Stopping first at Ice House pond, Kris brought to our attention an invasive species along the edge of the pond – yellow flag iris – a beautiful but aggressive species. Ice House Pond is an example of an oligotrophic pond, its large size and depth contributing to the characteristics of an oligotrophic pond.We saw a fisherman on the far side of the lake, likely fishing for bass or pickerel, common finds in such a (relatively) shallow and warm pond. Ice House pond has some of the highest water quality in Orleans, but falls short of the quality found in Bakers Pond.
Farther along, we made our way to the loop around Reuben’s pond, which is much shallower than Ice House pond. The first of this season’s water lilies indicate a depth of no more than 4 feet. Reuben’s pond is an example of a eutrophic pond, in part a result of its small size and very shallow water. This generally indicates poorer water quality and an abundance of plant life. In contrast to this lack of aquatic animals, this pond is an excellent place to go birding, hosting a good variety of species.
This conservation area and the trails located within it are a fantastic example of a natural habitat on Cape Cod that has been preserved to preclude future development. With an expanse of trails and wildlife, it is a great place to take a short walk in the woods.
Join us for our next walk at the Mill Pond Valley Conservation Area on Saturday, June 1st, 2013 from 9:00am – 10:15am. Trail head parking can be found at 13 Champlain Road, Orleans. Bob Prescott, OCT Trustee and Executive Director of the MA Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, will guide participants on the one-mile hike through 12 acres of preserved land containing unique topography, freshwater ponds, vernal pools, and more.
Directions: From the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street in Orleans, drive east on Main Street (.4 mi) towards Nauset Beach. Turn left on Tonset Rd. at the lights and follow to Hopkins Lane where you will take a slight right (.5). Continue to Brick Hill Rd and bear left (1mi), take a slight right on Champlain Rd. and park along the split rail fence on the right.