Three Ponds Conservation Area Educational Walk Recap 5-3-2014

On Saturday, May 3, 2014 Bob Prescott, Executive Director of MA Audubon Wellfleet Bay and OCT Trustee, led a 1.5 mile walk woodDuck1through the Thee Ponds Conservation Area in South Orleans. Bob led the group of 10 nature enthusiasts around Sarah’s Pond, Meadow Bog Pond, and finally through the Twinings Pond Conservation Area trail system.

Along the way Bob gave a brief background of how the land was preserved, but primarily the group focused on the diverse bird species that were observed along the way. While overlooking Sarah’s Pond Bob pointed out that one duck species that was particularly fond of the pond was the Wood Duck. Wood Ducks are one of them most attractive of all waterfowl. Males are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather. The elegant females have a distinctive profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. These birds live in wooded swamps, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around lake margins, much like the one found on Twinings Pond. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches.

Another very distinct bird species that can be found in Meadow Bog Pond is represented by the resident pair of Mute Swans. These swans, which are of Eurasian descent, are one of the largest aquatic birds on earth and are closely related to geese and ducks. Swans12Swan Swimming in general, especially this pair, are known for their fierce temperament. Due to their large size, swans have few natural predators. Only our local coyotes, foxes, and raccoons will prey  on the swan itself and its eggs. Although swans do not mate for life (as many believe), couples do establish strong bonds  and often mate for a few years.

Leaving  the Meadow Bog Conservation Area, the group walked briefly along Quanset Road before returning to the woodlands of  the Twinings Pond Conservation Area, where another large bird species was spotted high in the sky. Unlike the swans, these birds were riding the thermal air waves. Any guesses? The group had spotted the less majestic Turkey Vulture.

The Turkey Vulture, also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard (or just buzzard), is the most widespread of the New World vultures.These birds are scavenger feeders, living almost exclusively on carrion. The birds find their food using turkey_vulture_3their keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gases produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. Unlike most song birds, these birds roost in large community groups. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. The birds nest in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. While these birds have very few natural predators, in the United States the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Lastly, as the hikers rounded the western part of Twinings Pond, a number of song birds were observed “jumping” from tree branch to tree branch. One particular bird that caught the group’s eye was a Red-winged Blackbird. Bob explained that these birds are one of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored. This bird is most often seen among cattails, along soggy roadsides, and on telephone wires. 

The glossy black males have scarlet and yellow shoulder patches that they can puff up or hide, depending on how confident they feel. Females are a subdued, streaky brown, almost like a large, dark sparrow. These birds are omnivorous, feeding primarily on plant materials, including seeds from weeds and waste grain such as corn and rice, but about a quarter of its diet consists red_winged_blackbird_359of insects and other small animals, considerably more so during breeding season. It prefers insects, such as dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, moths, and flies, but also consumes snails, frogs, eggs, carrion, worms, spiders, and mollusks. Bob explained that the Red-winged Blackbird forages for insects by picking them from plants, or by catching them in flight, but if you would like to try and lure these birds to your backyard bird feeders, try using bread, seed mixtures and suet.

If you missed this walk, join us for our next walk to Pochet Island on Saturday, May 17th, 2014 from 8:00am- 11:00am. Hikers are encouraged to meet at the southern end of the Nauset Beach parking lot. This will be a casual 3 + hour walk, often through loose sand, to and around Pochet Island. Along with hearing about how and when the island was preserved, participants will learn about the native tree and animal species that can be found on the island and what recent restoration work took place.  Given the length of the hike, hikers are encouraged to bring their own water and snacks, and to dress appropriately for weather variations.

Directions: From the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street in Orleans, head east on Main Street towards Nauset Beach. Follow Main Street (which turns into Beach Road) for 3 miles. Enter the Nauset Beach parking lot and take a quick right. Go to the far southern end of the parking lot to park.  Walkers should meet at the off-road vehicle entrance.