Mill Pond Valley Walk Recap (12-14-2013)

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On December 14, 2013, Kris Ramsay, Administrator of the Orleans Conservation Trust (OCT), led a small group of hikers on a mile-long walk through the Mill Pond Valley Conservation Area in Orleans. Though the air was cool and the sun was just peeking above the tree line, the dense woodland helped protect hikers from the early morning breeze.

At the trail head, Kris explained that this 12 acre conservation area, containing rolling hills, freshwater wetlands, and a coastal plain pond, was once part of a much larger “estate” owned by Orin Tovrov, a founding Trustee of the Conservation Trust in 1970. Orin, who was most famous for writing the hit radio series “Ma Perkins”, which ran 1933 to 1960 and featured more than 7,000 episodes, would sit in his house directly across from today’s trail head, writing the dialogue for the shows and looking down into the valley, marveling like we do today at the variety and uniqueness of the plants and animals that make up the conservation area. Orin was an avid planter of trees and today you still find white paper birch, spruces, and a very large European Beech that he likely planted in the 1930s and ‘40s.mile-long walk through the Mill Pond Valley Conservation Area in Orleans. Though the air was cool and the sun was just peeking above the tree line, the dense woodland helped protect hikers from the early morning breeze.

As the group entered the conservation area the first thing that strikes all that visit the parcel is the English (European) Ivy that dominates both the understory and tree canopy. Kris explained that the ivy is a species of flowering plant native to most of Europe and western Asia. This rampant, clinging evergreen vine is a familiar sight all across town in gardens, waste spaces, on house walls, and tree trunks.

This evergreen climbing plant grows to 66–98 feet high where suitable surfaces are available. It climbs by using its aerial rootlets with matted pads which cling strongly to tree bark and other surfaces. Kris noted that like other exotic species, the ivy has predominantly been spread to areas by human and bird action. It is presumed that this ivy was planted by neighbors, or Orin himself, at a time when the ivy was not considered an invasive species.

Kris also noted this conservation area is a fabulous spot to see songbirds and water fowl because of the abundance of freshwater on site. One particular bird species that you will see frequently on site is the American Robin, which travels in large flocks to the area each spring.

The American Robin is a migratory songbird of the thrush family. The Robin is widely distributed throughout North America, wintering from southern Canada to central Mexico and along the Pacific Coast. According to some sources, the American Robin ranks behind only the Red-winged Blackbird (and just ahead of the introduced European Starling) as the most abundant land bird in North America. Since the Robin’s diet consists of invertebrates (such as beetle grubs, earthworms, and caterpillars), fruits and berries, it makes sense that they flock to this conservation area each spring when the Ivy is starting to produce its plentiful berries.

Forging ahead, hikers had the opportunity to note a State-certified vernal pool, a frozen coastal plain pond, where a Great Blue Herron was roosting, and lastly Mill Pond, a tidal pond just south of the Town’s Mill Pond Landing. While walking along the edges of Mill Pond, hikers could see the properties that the Trust holds private Conservation Restrictions over as well as “fee-owned” lands abutting the landing itself, which Orin also donated.

Join us for our next walk at Hosea’s Swamp on Saturday, January 4th, 2014 from 10:00 – 11:15am. Hikers are asked to park along 70 Quanset Road in South Orleans. This walk will be led by Todd Kelley, Native Naturalist and owner of Kelley Trail Blazers. During this relatively short, but enchanting walk into a globally rare Atlantic White Cedar swamp, Todd will discuss the significance of this Atlantic White Cedar wetland, the legend of Hosea, and the importance of protecting and preserving watersheds across Cape Cod.

Directions: From Orleans center, head east on Main Street and turn right on Rt. 28 towards Chatham. Turn left after about two and a half miles onto Quanset Road. Stay right on Quanset and follow for about a half a mile to the entrance of the Town Water Department facility. Look for orange traffic cones and a white Ford Ranger.