Nature at Dolan Pond

Blackberries at Dolan PondOn 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 biodiversity.

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 morning.

Boardwalk at Dolan PondNo 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

Ted Kuklinski