Wild West Newton
Nature at Dolan Pond
a recent Fall morning, a committee of Conservators board members,
armed with a copy of the 1995 naturalist report by John Richardson,
went exploring the back areas of the Dolan Pond Conservation Area.
Led by naturalist Jon Regosin, Beth Schroeder, Cris Criscitiello,
and Ted Kuklinski were evaluating the area for evidence of some
of the plants, trees, ferns and shrubs detailed in earlier reports.
Stepping through muddy areas, across logs, and through thickets,
the group's watchful eyes scanned for the unusual. "Ah-a Royal
Fern-is that on our list yet?"
Due in part to the foresight of the city's environmental
planner, Martha Horn, plant and animal inventories have been done
for most of our conservation areas. This Conservators committee
had in mind the possibility of producing a small nature guide to
highlight each of our open space areas. With its recent renovation
with trails, boardwalks, and overlooks, Dolan Pond was a good candidate
for such a guide.
All of our open spaces are treasure troves of nature, with a variety
of mammals, reptiles, insects, flowers, trees, and plants. And most
of us walk through often unaware of what is really there! Any area,
when watched over time, will surely yield unanticipated surprises.
Since discovering Dolan Pond while out jogging, it has become my
favorite respite, a place where I can spend peaceful moments watching
birds and other wildlife. Despite its small size, it contains tremendous
As in most of our areas, that diversity is threatened in various
ways-by the pressure of non-native invasive species (garlic mustard,
knotweed, even Norway maple), by abutters who disturb vegetation
too near the ponds or streams or who think nothing of tossing their
yard waste into a conservation area, by others who toss trash and
beer cans into the ponds. The fresh tracks of an all-terrain vehicle
were all too evident on the recently chipped path on our visit that
matter what the season, I have yet to come away without witnessing
something that made me glad to have visited Dolan Pond. It might
have been the prehistoric beauty of a snapping turtle crawling through
the woods to find an egg laying spot, the delightful trill of the
spring chorus of Bufo americanus in the ponds, the magic of witnessing
a mother Wood Duck swimming with her newly-fledged ducklings, the
strangeness of finding a Long-billed Dowitcher working the mudflats
at the edge of Dolan Pond in a sewing machine-like rhythm, the fragrant
beauty of a stroll down the new boardwalk through a lush canopy,
the hopefulness of seeing the early spring marsh marigolds and watching
the fiddleheads unfold themselves into ferns, the drama of a garter
snake trying to swallow a toad five times bigger than its mouth,
watching a Great-blue Heron patiently stalking tadpoles, witnessing
a muskrat diving down into the entrance of its lodge, discovering
fox and coyote tracks on a frozen pond after a fresh snowfall, the
surprise of a Ruffed Grouse bursting forth when unexpectedly flushed,
the distinctive sound of the Scarlet Tanager in the tree canopy
behind Irene Forte's house, or the artificially vibrant yellow of
the Prothonotary Warbler found in early May that delighted so many
birders from afar who came to take its picture.
Grab a copy of the new Trail Guide and
get out there to make nature memories of your own at your local
conservation area! You are welcome to receive the free Dolan Pond
News email newsletter put out by Friends of Dolan Pond. Send a request
to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.dolanpond.org.