On June 22, Orleans Conservation Trust (OCT) President Bob Prescott led a leisurely walk at OCT’s Whites Lane Conservation Area. Twelve members attended the walk on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The property, located on Henson’s Cove and The River, which connects Meetinghouse Pond to Little Pleasant Bay, was acquired by the Trust through four different gifts, made between 1982 and 1996. The largest single gift, donated in 1989 by George and Louise White, contained more than 8 acres of land and 1,000 feet of frontage on The River just south of the River Road Town Landing. In 2009, OCT received a $100,000 state grant to restore the property to a field habitat, creating ideal habitat for a number of species, including threatened diamond-backed terrapin, which use the property for nesting.
Bob explained that the diamond-backed terrapin subpopulation in this stretch of Pleasant Bay is one of the most endangered in the state. The property’s “turtle gardens” create easily accessible nesting habitat for the turtles, as they come out of the salt marsh to lay their eggs in the late spring and summer. Volunteers working with MassAudubon regularly patrol the property looking for any signs of these nesting terrapins so that nests can be enclosed, protecting eggs from predation. In 2014, 60 terrapin hatchlings were documented at the site, in addition to a smaller number of box turtle hatchlings.
Attendees learned that the field habitat of composed of upland grasses that characterizes the Whites Lane Conservation Area has become increasingly rare on the Cape, as forests have been allowed to reclaim formerly cleared grazing and agricultural lands. Therefore, many of the species that depend on open grassland habitat have come under threat, and White’s Lane has provided critical habitat for some of these more rare species. Many uncommon flowers and grasses attract a large variety of birds, butterflies, and insects. Nestboxes added to the property shortly after the state funded restoration project have been busy with nesting tree swallows, chickadees, titmice, and house wrens, and OCT hopes to see bluebirds using these boxes soon. Bluebirds are seen at the site regularly and could be using one of the many natural cavities in one of trees there.
Bob also educated the group on many of the invasive species that require continued attention, while also noting some of those that provide favorable ecological services. Black locusts, which dominated much of the site before the restoration project, require annual cutting so they do not recolonize the area successfully. Bob also spoke of the natural succession of species that would likely occur at Whites Lane over the coming years, while also explaining the role that invasive species could play in this succession process if allowed to exist there.
Members who were not able to make it to the walk and those who are not familiar with the Whites Lane Conservation Area are encouraged to explore this beautiful waterfront property.
Join us for our next walk Thursday, July 16 from 9:00-10:00am at the Christian Property Conservation Area, located at 80 Portanimicut Road, South Orleans! The Town of Orleans acquired the 7.85-acre Christian Conservation Area in South Orleans in 1999 for environmental preservation. In 2000, the Town acquired the abutting 8.9-acre white cedar swamp to provide a wildlife corridor and additional natural habitat. This parcel also abuts the Orleans Conservation Trust’s 4-acre Seikel gift, which was donated to the OCT in 1991 for conservation. The Christian Property was a priority acquisition for its close proximity to Pleasant Bay and its unique Atlantic white cedar swamp located within the property. Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly and the saw-whet owl are native to these swamps, respectively feeding or nesting on the Atlantic white cedars. The trail is less than 1-mile in length and considered by most to be an easy walk.
Directions: From the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street in Orleans, follow MA Route 28 towards Chatham for 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Quanset Road and veer left at the Y to stay on Portanimicut Road. Follow Portanimicut Road to the trail head entrance on left (0.6 miles). Entrance is a small dirt driveway.