How to Reduce Flooding and Need for Flood Insurance on Taylor Pond
Removing obstructions to the free flow of Taylor Brook under Hotel road and Stevens Mill extension could reduce the chance of flooding on the pond. The Taylor Pond Association hired Joseph McLean of Wright-Pierce engineering to advise us on how to prevent the flooding of so many homes from events like the 9 inches of rain we received in June of 2012. After a year of study he presented his preliminary report at our last association meeting in August 2017.
Beaver dams and debris in the outlet have often been blamed for causing flooding. However, Mr. McLean determined that beaver dams, located below Hotel Road, prevent water levels from dropping too low in the summer but do not cause flooding. They block water flow most of the year, but during high water events water easily flows around, over or through the dam. Removal of any beaver dams would result in lower water levels in the pond but no decrease in flooding events.
The Hotel Road culvert through which Taylor Brook flows on leaving Taylor Pond does restrict flow and acts like a large dam during high water events. In 2017 we learned that the state Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to improve this culvert. DOT held a public meeting May 2nd at which I and several other members of the TPA board and pondside residents were present. We learned that work will likely begin in 2019 and will finish by winter. TPA is working with the engineers at DOT to ensure that the project will have a sufficiently large span to reduce the chance of flooding. According to Joseph McLean’s calculations, if the current culvert (about 18 feet wide) is replaced by a 30 foot span, the high water mark in a 100 year flood would be 4.8 inches lower.
Two other sites that restrict water flow are the dam on Taylor Brook located on the Kendall property and the Stevens Mill Road extension which crosses the brook and allows access to the Kendall home. We have spoken to the Kendalls and they plan to leave the dam alone. The Stevens Mill Road extension passes over Taylor Brook, is owned by the city and acts as a dam during high water levels. Replacement of the current bridge with a 35 foot wide bridge, in combination with improvements to the Hotel Road culvert, would lower the 100 year flood level by a total of 14.4 inches.
One final finding of the engineering report could help reduce the estimated 100-year flood elevation by almost two feet (from 245.5 to 243.6). For certain property owners this could eliminate the need to pay for flood insurance. To change this level, set by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), we would need to contract with Wright-Pierce or appeal to the city to work with FEMA to change the current flood maps. With the proposed improvements to Hotel Road, the Stevens Mill extension, and estimates for 100-year flooding, we could see not only the reduced chance of flooding but also elimination of flood insurance payments for many homeowners on the pond. TPA will continue to work for homeowners on the pond to accomplish all three of these goals.
Over the years many people have enjoyed ice sailing. Nothing quite beats sailing across the ice with the wind at your back! Peter Garcia of West Shore Road has had a sail boat for many years and in approximately 2004, TJ Thayer took it for a spin.
Well into the 1950’s many scores of local men earned money in the winter by harvesting ice. Wesley Urquhart lived on the west side of the pond and had an ice operation. The ice would be cut into huge slabs, often more than 20 inches thick, floated in channels that had been cleared to the “haul way” where they would be pulled ashore and stored in hay in an ice house. When Peter Durgin bought his property on Waterview Road from Sumner Peck, he found debris from the ice operation including lumber, chains, belts, and pull-ups. If you boat near the edge of the property, you can still see the 12” square wooden stanchions filled with rocks that marked the entrance to the haul way. The ice was used in ice boxes throughout the community. Prices probably varied from 15 to 60 cents depending upon supply and demand as evidenced by the sign Peter Durgin discovered in the old Lake Auburn Ice Company when he was a teenager.
Winter on the pond is always special. The colder is gets, the more still the air becomes. Sheeted in crystal and white, it is a lovely image to hold onto for those hot sun-filled days of summer!
Taylor Pond, which once was a summer destination for local residents, has come to have more and more year round houses over the years. People have often asked me what percentage of properties have seasonal homes and what percentage are year round. So I decided to see what I could find out. Although this is not 100% accurate (since some houses deemed “year round” are not really used year round and a few deemed “seasonal” may be lived in year round), of the approximately 228 properties on the water or with deeded access to the water, about 148 are year round, 68 are seasonal and 12 are pieces of land only that might be buildable. That would put the percentage of year round homes on the pond at approximately 64%. In the past 5 years, 19 properties have sold through the Multiple Listing Service with the help of realtors at an average sale price of $332,000 for year round homes, $170,000 for seasonal properties and $130,000 for land only. Three new year round homes have been built, several have been improved or converted to year round, and a handful of others likely have been sold by owners or transferred to family members. The sale price of homes on the pond did dip when the housing bubble burst in 2008, but not as much as prices in the area overall. Because the supply of properties on the pond is limited and the demand for waterfront property right here in town is always there, properties have continued to sell well. Because Taylor Pond tends to be somewhat of a “local” waterfront community rather than a “destination” lake, prices tend to remain lower than some of the other (especially larger) waterfront communities, but have still been fairly steady. “Out-of-staters” that buy on the pond often have a tie to the area through family, Bates College, etc. The more expensive the property, the longer it often takes to sell, while the smaller seasonal camps often sell quickly with buyers frequently converting them to year round homes. Of course, conversions are subject to numerous complicated zoning ordinances, both state and local. The most well-known ordinance relating to non-conforming waterfront property expansion is likely to change later this year. New nonconforming structure expansion provisions have been enacted by the Maine Legislature and are contained within the proposed rulemaking to amend the Department of Environmental Protection Chapter 1000. Once that has been done, Auburn will most likely adopt the same guidelines shortly after. For years, expansion has been limited to less than 30% of the floor area and volume (whichever was less) over the lifetime of the structure (since the ordinances went into effect in 1989) and height limitations based upon the distance of the structure from the shoreline. Under the new standards, a nonconforming structure would be able to be expanded up to 30% of the footprint (including decks) of the structure or up to a certain established limit (based on setback from the shoreline), whichever is greater, without regard to volume. Structure height is also limited, much as it was with the previous expansion provisions, except that the new language allows the structure height to be either the established height limit or the height of the existing structure, whichever is greater. These new regulations simplify the calculations and may be less restrictive for some properties and more restrictive for others. Of course there are many other complicated guidelines that must be adhered to when building, rebuilding or expanding on the water, so it is important to check with the city before making any plans or buying or selling property on the pond to be sure you understand what can and cannot be done to the property. Auburn City Planners are very helpful in assisting residents make the most of their properties within the guidelines to preserve the water quality and, therefore, the value of everyone’s property on the pond. (For more specifics regarding current shoreland zoning ordinances you can go to: www.maine.gov/dep/land/slz/citizenguide.pdf One other thing to take into consideration in buying, selling, or expanding a property on the water is flood insurance. If the structure is in a flood zone as determined by FEMA, a lender will require flood insurance if there will be any type of mortgage or home equity loan on the property. So, just because the current property owner does not pay for flood insurance, this does not mean that a new owner won’t be required to because previous owner may no longer have a mortgage on the property.
Past flood events around the Pond, and concern for future recurrences have been the subject of much discussion amongst Taylor Pond residents for many years. The annual TPA newsletter has included articles on the subject in each of its last three editions. This year’s article is meant to serve as an update on current efforts to mitigate the problem. Readers interested in having some background information on the subject can visit the TPA website to peruse the related articles from previous editions of the newsletter. Any meaningful remedial work will be expensive, which means securing funding will be the largest hurdle. The board is involved in ongoing discussions with city staff regarding the issue. The current thought is that we should pursue several funding alternatives which might include a FEMA grant or a Clean Water related fund. Last year, Maine citizens voted in favor of a $50,000,000 ballot question regarding “The General Fund Bond for Clean Water and Safe Communities”. Eligible recipients for this program include 501(c) (3) entities like TPA, and municipalities like Auburn. City staff are presently reviewing the application process. The initial feedback we’ve received from the DEP is that there’s a reasonable chance of being awarded a grant from this fund. In the case of Taylor Pond, the prime consideration for grant approval is the public safety risk associated with the potential for public sewer and private septic systems to comingle with lake water as the result of a flood event. Additional benefits from flood mitigation could be realized from increased property values and reduced flood insurance costs.
Who has seen the wind? / Neither you nor I: / But when the trees bow down their heads. / The wind is passing by. –Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
The weeping willow outside my window, roots firm in the waterlogged soil, bends and sweeps away from the north wind. A wind from the south brings warmth. Upturned leaves of red maples announce a coming storm. As I dig in my garden, a steady breeze keeps the black flies away. Leaves scuttle across the water and pile up on the beach, giving me mulch for blueberry bushes. A northeast winter wind brings piling snow. We can’t see it but we feel its effects. And living here, there are so many things to learn about the wind.
If you stand on the shore facing into the wind, the water from the pond is pushed towards you and is slightly deeper where you stand. This oscillation in the water level is called a seiche. And in summer, the wind acts primarily on the surface, causing the seiche to push warm water towards you, giving you a deeper layer of warm water. If the wind is at your back however, the seiche will take away warm surface water, making your swim colder than usual. Any time the wind blows it creates turbulence in the water. This creates spirals which rotate in opposite directions. These spirals travel in parallel lines in the direction of the wind and are called Langmuir rotations. Where two spirals meet they are up-welling on one side and down-welling on the other side. Heavy particles collect on the up-welling side; buoyant particles (foam, bits of plants, etc.) on the down-welling side, creating lines on the surface of the water like small streams. The water between the lines may form smoother areas, creating surface patterns that shift with the wind.
At times, we also see foam on beaches. It’s typically a light tan, has an earthy or fishy smell, and dissipates quickly when the wind dies. Decaying plants in the water release natural compounds that function like surfactants in the same manner as soap. Then, when wind agitates the water, we see the formation of large bubbles. Excess phosphates in the water form runoff or soap can also cause foam which will be white, have a perfume type odor and persist after the wind dies. On windy days, the foam I find on my beach has always been composed of natural substances and indicates only that we have a biologically productive pond.
One of the most reliable winds on the pond is the sea breeze that comes off the ocean on warm summer days. Sun heats up land faster than water causing air over the ocean to be cooler than over the land. In summer, all along the coast of Maine, warmer air over land rises, and cool ocean air rushes in to fill the void—a sea breeze, also called an onshore wind. On Taylor Pond, starting about 2:00 PM, this sea breeze blows from Crescent Beach on the south end up to Lapham Brook at the north. On hot summer days a strong sea breeze often appears; then, waters at Crescent Beach can be as smooth as glass for the swimmers, and at the north end you see sailing classes battling foot-high waves. The same day, the same pond, two entirely different experiences.
Zephyr winds form in the same manner as the sea breeze but are formed right on Taylor Pond. Fetch describes the longest distance wind can travel across the water unimpeded by land. Taylor Pond is roughly 4000 by 9400 feet measuring east to west and then north to south. When sailing on Taylor Pond, keep away from shore so that fetch is maximized to increase your speed. Hills and trees obstruct the flow of wind, often cutting sailing speed in half. Winds on the pond can be fickle and shift 90 to 180 degrees at a moment’s notice, dumping unwary sailors into the water. A sailor reads the wind on the water’s surface. Waves on the Pond form perpendicular to the direction of the wind. A set of waves from a new direction mean the wind will change direction even before the waves reach your boat. Ripples on the surface changing to small wavelets, indicate a stronger wind.
In summer, on a sunny day, when the winds blow mostly from the southeast, the cove where I live on the southwest corner of the Pond is protected from the wind. The water may be as smooth as glass here, but a hundred yards out there will be visible ripples in the water. To catch the wind, I have to get my sailboat to those ripples. And farther out, looking at the waves and knowing the Beaufort Scale, I can estimate the speed of the wind. The table below describes part of the Beaufort Scale. When speaking of wind speed over water we usually speak of knots with one knot being equivalent to approximately 1.15 miles per hour.
Wind Speed (in Knots)
Smoke rises vertically
Ripples without crests
Smoke moves in wind direction, leaves do not move
Small wavelets, crests not breaking
Wind felt on exposed skin, leaves rustle.
Large wavelets, crests begin to break, scattered whitecaps
Leaves and small twigs constantly moving, light flags extended
Small waves with breaking crests, frequent whitecaps
Dust and loose paper raised, small branches begin to move.
Moderate waves, many white caps, small amounts of spray
Branches of moderate size move, small trees in leaf begin to sway.
Long waves form, white foam crests frequent, airborne spray present
Large branches in motion, whistling heard in overhead wires.
The scale continues on to 12, which indicates hurricane force winds, over 63 knots. For sailing I am reluctant to go over 5, for canoeing I generally will not leave shore if the number exceeds 2, and for kayaking, 6. For most people, long rolling waves, white caps and spray in the air signal the need to stay on shore and simply enjoy the wind blowing in their face.
Feel it, smell it, taste it, Wait for it, dread it, fight it. Ride it, embrace it, thank it, Who can ignore the wind on Taylor Pond? Neither you nor I.
This report summarizes the findings of the 2015 water quality monitoring program for Taylor Pond in Auburn, Maine (MIDAS ID#3750). Secchi disc readings were conducted from June through September. Due to having to send the DO meter out for repair, testing for dissolved oxygen, temperature and other parameters was only conducted monthly from July to September. Additional Secchi readings were taken throughout the summer, with several readings taken to coincide with satellite overflights as requested by VLMP. Since 2004 Taylor Pond Association has been collecting its own water samples and performing most tests. Phosphorus analysis was conducted this year by the DHHS Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory.
Result summary: The results were rather conflicting as the clarity of the lake was quite a bit better than last year and the historical average but the Phosphorus readings were slightly higher and have increased slowly over the past three years. This bears watching as higher levels indicate an increase in the likelihood of experiencing algae blooms. No changes in color, pH, alkalinity or conductance were observed.
The ice out date was April 21. The historical average is April 14.
The results of this year’s monitoring are given below:
Mean for Taylor Pondsince 1975
Historical Mean for all Maine Lakes
Total Phosphorous5m core sample, µg/L
11.7vs. 11.5 in 2014
Total Phosphorousbottom grab, µg/L
17vs. 15 in 2014
Secchi depth (meters) minimum
4.45vs. 4.0 in 2014
1.7 (minimum ever recorded)
0.5(0.9 in 2012)
Secchi depth mean (m)
5.48vs. 4.78 in 2014
4.81(5.2 in 2012)
Secchi depth maximum
6.09vs. 5.8 in 2014
6.5 (maximum ever recorded)
15.5(13.4 in 2012)
Trophic State (by Secchi disk)
Trophic State (by core Total Phosphorous)
* all bottom samples where taken at 12m depth to avoid contamination by bottom sediments
Color: Organic material that remains from dead plants and animals provides most of the water color. Lakes drained by areas with more coniferous forests tend to be brown in color due to the slow degradation of the leaves of these trees. Taylor Pond had a color measured at 20 in 2015, which is slightly higher than the reading of 23 for 2014 and lower than the mean for all Maine lakes of 28. When the color is greater than 25 a lake is considered “colored” and the transparency is reduced.
PH: A measure of the acid-base status of the pond. Taylor Pond had a pH of 7.2 in 2015 which is slightly higher than the mean of 6.82 for all Maine Lakes. Acid rain caused by industrial pollutants can cause the pH in lakes to drop below 6. This drop in pH kills off the healthy zooplankton (microscopic animals) leading to death of fish and overgrowth of algae. The pH of Taylor Pond has been very stable over the years.
Alkalinity: A measure of the capacity of the water to buffer against a change in the pH. Taylor Pond’s alkalinity in 2015 was 20 (the same as last year) compared to a mean for all Maine lakes of 11.9. This indicates that our pond is unlikely to have a problem with acidity. The level of alkalinity in Taylor Pond has remained little changed and is not of concern.
Conductance: Conductance indirectly measures the relative number of dissolved ions in the water — the higher the concentration of ions the greater the conductance. Conductance is used as a rough estimate of the amount of pollutants which usually are present as ions. Although conductance is easy to measure it is not considered highly reliable. Taylor Pond’s conductance for 2015 was 89 compared to a historical mean of 89.9 and a mean of 46 for all Maine lakes.
Total Phosphorous: The phosphorus Measurement of phosphorous provides the most reliable measure of the capacity of Taylor Pond to have an algal bloom. Algae in Maine waters tend to be limited by the phosphorous content of the water. If you provide enough phosphorous algae grows rapidly. Algae cause depletion of oxygen in the water which kills animal life, colors the water green and when it dies creates unpleasant odors. Taylor Pond’s phosphorous was done using a 5 meter core and bottom grab sampling technique. Taylor Pond’s phosphorous this year averaged 11.7 µg/L which is close to the historical mean of 10.1 and slightly lower than the 12 reported for all Maine lakes. It is also below the critical level of 15, at which level one tends to see algal blooms. Lakes are categorized as oligotrophic (low level of biologic productivity), mesotrophic (intermediate) or eutrophic (high biologic productivity) based on how much phosphorous they contain. A lake with a phosphorous of less than 10 is considered oligotrophic, between 10 and 30 is considered mesotrophic and over 30 is considered eutrophic.
Secchi Disk: Secchi disk readings provide the easiest method for measuring the clarity of the water. Algae, zooplankton (microscopic animals), natural water color and suspended soil all reduce the transparency of the water. Algae cause most of the change in transparency in Taylor Pond. The mean transparency for 2015 was 5.48, 0.7 meter higher than last year and significantly higher than the historic average for Taylor Pond of 4.62 and higher than the historical average for all Maine lakes. The higher than normal readings may have been due to the unusually dry summer which resulted in less suspended matter being introduced into the pond.
Trophic State: This is a measure of the biologic productivity of the pond — the higher the number, the more biologically productive the lake and typically the poorer the water quality. The scale ranges from zero to over 100. Ponds in the range between 40 and 50 are considered mesotrophic (moderately productive). Values greater than 50 are associated with eutrophy (high productivity) and values less than 40 are associated with oligotrophy (low productivity). Taylor Pond measured at 35.5 by Secchi Disk readings and 39.6 by phosphorous readings (considered the most accurate). Taylor Pond’s Trophic State as measured by the Secchi disk is lower than the state average of 45.
Dissolved Oxygen Profiles: The amount of dissolved oxygen is measured at one meter depth intervals throughout the summer. Generally down to a depth of 5 meters the oxygen level remains at a high level to sustain all animals. Below 5 meters the oxygen levels early in the summer are high, but as the summer progresses the oxygen levels drop to levels (below 5 ppm) unable to sustain fish and other aquatic animals. Warm water fish (such as Sunfish, Perch, Pickerel and Bass) have no difficulty in Taylor Pond because they stay near the surface where the water is well oxygenated. Cold water fish (such as Trout and Salmon) need the deeper colder water, below 20 degrees Celsius, to thrive. By August, this colder deeper water no longer contains enough oxygen for the fish. In addition to the difficulty for fish, oxygen depletion near the bottom of the pond tends to release phosphorous into the water. This is demonstrated by the higher phosphorous levels found in the bottom grab sample (17 at 12 meters* depth vs. 11.7 for the 5 meter core sample). The oxygen depletion found below 4-8 meters is similar to what we have found in the past and continues to reflect the fragile state of Taylor Pond.
Conclusions: The conclusions remain unchanged from last year. The water quality of Taylor Pond is considered to be average compared to other Maine lakes. The potential for an algal bloom continues to be moderate and has not changed significantly from prior years but shows a concerning upward trend. Taylor Pond remains one of the 181 Maine lakes on the Maine Department of Environmental Protections Nonpoint Source Priority Watershed list. This list contains those lakes considered to be threatened or impaired by nonpoint source pollution from land use activities on the surrounding watershed. In addition the Stormwater Management Law considers Taylor Pond to be a lake “most at risk”.
Taylor Pond fails to meet standards for the highest water quality due to the depletion of oxygen found at depths below 5 meters during the summer. In addition, phosphorous levels remain just below the threshold of 15 which could trigger an algal bloom. Monitoring of Taylor Pond has been conducted regularly since 1975. During this time there has been no consistent trend in the parameters measured. In the years we have been monitoring Taylor Pond ourselves, since 2004, there have been no notable algae blooms.
Because of the shallow depth of the pond (mean depth 17 feet) and low flushing rate (1.34 flushes per year, the number of times the water, on average, empties from the pond) Taylor Pond will likely always remain vulnerable to phosphorous loading and therefore algal blooms. Because of oxygen depletion of deep water during the summer, the pond will likely never sustain a cold water fishery. In addition, the oxygen depletion at depths below 5 meters releases an increased amount of phosphorous to the water. Finally, each new structure or expansion of an existing structure, whether a home, garage, driveway, road, lawn or beach, increases the phosphorous loading of the pond.
Taylor Pond continues to have many attractive qualities. The shallow depth means that it quickly warms in the summer to provide excellent swimming close to the towns of Auburn and Lewiston. It freezes quickly in the winter to provide skating, skiing and ice fishing during the winter. It has an abundant bass and pickerel population that thrives in its warm waters and attracts people who enjoy fishing. The Department of Marine Resources considers the pond to be prime spawning habitat for Alewives and trucks adult fish above the dams on the Androscoggin River into Taylor Pond. It has a naturally high level of biologic productivity that sustains an abundant wildlife population for all to enjoy. It remains a place that never ceases to astound us with its beauty.
METHODS: Samples are collected near the deepest point in the pond. This point has been determined previously and the historic location has been noted on maps available to the samplers. This spot is reached by boat and verified each time by visual triangulation for Secchi disk readings. In addition to visual triangulation an ultrasound depth meter is used before collecting core and grab samples. Grab samples are taken using a Van Dorn Water Sampler. Core samples are taken with a core sampler home-manufactured from a 50 foot flexible PVC tube. The method for grab samples at a specified depth and core samples are done according to the protocol of the Maine Bureau of Land and Water Quality, Division of Environmental Assessment.
COLOR: Performed on core samples using a Hach color wheel (CO 20-100) and units are in Standard Platinum Units (SPU).
PH: Performed on core samples using a Hach Bromothymol Blue test kit for pH.
CONDUCTANCE: Performed on core samples using a HM Digital, Inc. Model COM-100 water quality tester for EC/TDS/Temp. Conductivity is measured in uS/cm.
ALKALINITY: Performed on core samples using a titration method with a Hach color wheel measured in milligram per liter.
PHOSPHOROUS: Performed on core samples and bottom grab samples. Samples are collected in the field, refrigerated and sent to the DHHS lab by mail. Measurements are in parts per billion (ppb). The results are the average of four samples taken once a month from June to September.
SECCHI DISK: Performed using the method taught by the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program. Only certified users performed this task. Measurements of depth are in meters.
DISSOLVED OXYGEN: Performed in the field using a YSI 550A DO meter with 50 foot probe which measures temperature and dissolved oxygen from the surface to maximum depth. The sampler and meter is yearly certified by the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program as to method and accuracy. Measurements of dissolved oxygen are in milligrams per liter (mg/l). Water temperature at each depth tested is also recorded.
TROPHIC STATE: Carlson’s Trophic State Index (TSI) is used in these calculations. For Secchi disk depth TSI = 60 – 14.41 x (Natural Log of Secchi disk depth in meters). For total phosphorus TSI = 14.42 x (Natural Log of total phosphorous) + 4.15.
Is the water warm enough to swim? Each spring, our son, Rob, made a ritual out of jumping into Taylor Pond before the ice was completely out. My grandfather, who lived on a lake in Wisconsin, reportedly took his weekly bath all winter by cutting a hole in the ice. For most of us, temperatures of at least seventy are desirable. That means we enjoy swimming on the Pond from the Fourth of July to Labor Day.
Lakes located in temperate climates like Taylor Pond have four distinct seasonal temperature patterns (see diagram).
Spring: After ice out, winds are brisk and the water freely circulates from top to bottom. In Taylor Pond, water temperature typically runs at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and oxygen level measures at 10 (milligrams per deciliter, close to 100% saturation).
Summer: The water separates into three layers.
1. Epilimnion, the top layer with the warmest water, usually measures 15 feet deep and averages 68-77 degrees. Oxygen from the air dissolves in the water and is circulated throughout this layer by the wind. Light penetrates easily and algae uses light through photosynthesis to produce oxygen and sugar on which fish and other wildlife survive.
2. Thermocline, the middle layer where temperature and oxygen levels rapidly drop. About 3-6 feet thick, this level acts as a barrier which prevents mixing of the upper and lower layers of water. Below this depth oxygen levels drop too low to sustain most life.
3. Hypolimnion, the deepest layer with the coldest water. Temperatures usually hover around 54 degrees. Below 18-21 feet, little light penetrates which reduces the amount of photosynthesis. Most of the nutrients that exist here are those that filter down from dead organisms above. Their decomposition uses up any oxygen that may be present. Fish that require cold water, such as salmon and trout, cannot live here due to the lack of oxygen. The deepest parts of Taylor Pond are found in the northern and eastern portions and down the center.
Fall: Weather turns cool, water temperature drops to 50 degrees, the thermocline disappears, and winds once again circulate the entire body of water. Now, the temperature and oxygen levels become fairly uniform at all depths, including the deepest parts of the pond.
Winter: Cold weather freezes the top layer of water. Within days, the ice will be thick enough to hold one person, and by the end of the winter it will be 18-36 inches thick. Just below the ice, the temperature hovers around 34 degrees; deeper down, it’s about 40 degrees.
Each year Taylor Pond cycles through these four stages. In spring, if you were to jump into the 40 degree water, you would become hypothermic, shaking uncontrollably, within minutes, and lose consciousness within 15-30 minutes. In summer the sun warms the top layer and the thermocline keeps cooler water down deep. Having a thermocline allows us to swim comfortably most of the summer.
Living on the pond’s edge, we occupy prime turtle habitat. Both the large snapping turtle, up to 20 inches long and 60 pounds, and the smaller, more colorful painted turtle thrive in Taylor Pond. At our house, every June, a female snapper emerges from the mud on the bottom of the pond, and appears on our lawn or driveway. She’s searching for a nesting site. Over several hours, she digs up spot after spot in the soft mulch of our gardens, before settling on the right one. There, she lays and buries 20-30 white eggs, about one inch in diameter. She returns to the water and often, within 24 hours, we find the location of her raided nest by the broken egg shells strewn about by a marauding fox, mink, raccoon, or skunk.
Mother Snapping Turtle searching for a nesting site.
Any remaining eggs will hatch in the fall. The sex of these little survivors is determined by the temperature of their environment. Females thrive at the extremes, low or high; males, at intermediate temperatures. Because the temperature in a nest varies with depth usually a blend of males and females occur. The young hatch within 24 hours of each other and emerge en mass, overwhelming predators with their numbers to enhance their chance of survival. They may climb to the surface immediately or wait until spring to appear.
Snappers, on average, live 30 years, although they can live much longer in captivity. Aquatic plants compose about a third of their diet. They often wait hidden in the mud on the bottom of the pond or suspended in the water where they will ambush fish, small birds, frogs and snakes. Do snappers bite people? On land their slow speed makes them vulnerable so they will snap if you get too close. Swimming in the Pond, I’ve met snappers on many occasions. They simply turn and swim away when they spot me. I am told snappers make good soup. Unfortunately, they may harbor high levels of toxins. I prefer to watch rather than eat this creature that’s been around since the dinosaurs ruled.
Baby Painted Turtle
Painted Turtles get their name from the bright red, orange and yellow markings on their dark underside shells. They prefer warm, shallow water where underwater plants are plentiful. They love to bask in the warm sun. When space is limited, up to four turtles will pile on top of each another. During the summer they chase small creatures such as insect larvae, baby fish and tadpoles. They also consume cattails, pondweeds and long strings of algae. Although they can occasionally be spotted swimming beneath clear ice, in the winter they usually bury themselves in the mud to wait for spring. Female painteds prefer to lay about 20 eggs in sandy soil in the sun. Painted turtles have been known to live for 13 years but probably live much longer.
When out in a boat, check that floating piece of log again; it may be a snapper’s head. Scan logs at the water’s edge for basking painted turtles. If you want to see the snapper or the painted turtle in the water, put on a mask and snorkel, and float quietly in the shallows.
The earliest findings of plant use by people are flowers placed in a Neanderthal grave site found in Iraq dated 25,000 years ago. Crop agriculture in the Fertile Crescent area of the eastern Mediterranean dates back to 10,500 years ago. The Chinese cultivated rice 8,000 years ago along the Yangtze River. Early farmers in Mesoamerica, Andean South America and eastern North America all independently developed agriculture. Our backyard gardens today contain representatives from all over the world: potatoes from Peru, broccoli from the northern Mediterranean region, corn from Mesoamerica, beans of various types from Afghanistan, Egypt, Peru and North America and various kinds of squash from Mesoamerica.
When people find a plant that especially attracts them for its food or aesthetic value they transport it long distances. Where would we be without the spicy peppers that came from Mexico found in Szechuan cooking or the tomatoes that hail from Peru and characterize Italian cuisine? Our gardens would be impoverished without the roses first cultivated 5,000 years ago in China and poppies grown 4,500 years ago in Southern Europe and North Africa.
However, some plants can become a nightmare when transported to new locations. We call such plants invasive. Invasive plants may cause problems by crowding out a more desirable native species, shading slower growing plants or reproducing faster than native plants. The Japanese brought Kudzu, also called the “Mile-a-minute Vine”, to the bicentennial celebration in the US in 1876. In Japan they ate the starchy roots and livestock grazed on the green leaves. In the US, people loved the purple flowers and the shade provided by the rapidly growing vine. In the 1930s the government planted millions of seedlings in the South to control the erosion that tobacco and cotton farming created. Without natural predators, it grew up to 60 feet yearly, smothered native vegetation and climbed over anything in its way, including trees and homes. By the 1970’s the US declared Kudzu a weed and today economists calculate it costs the forestry industry 100 million dollars a year.
Beekeepers and plant lovers first transported another invasive plant, Purple Loosestrife, to the US in the 1800’s. The plant produces three million seeds every year which are rapidly carried by wind and water to settle in any moist soil. Now large tracts of wetland have few plants other than Purple. Scientists fortunately have discovered that the introduction of a number of insect pests can control it.
Another invasive, a species of grass, Phragmites australis, comes from Europe where grazing cattle kept it under control. In the US Phragmites grows anywhere from 6-18 feet tall and spreads at a rate of 30 feet per year, quickly shading out the native cattails and other wetland species. Bird and mammal diversity drops rapidly when this grass takes over. We see monoculture Phragmites swamps for many miles along 495 driving down to Boston. We have a small colony starting on the southwest cove near my home.
Phragmites on the east side of the pond intermixed with Button Bush and Cattails.
You can find lists of invasive plants at www.invasive.org or www.eddmaps.org . Plants commonly sold in nurseries are listed on these sites and include Barberry, Oriental Bittersweet, Norway Maple, Honeysuckle, Russian Olive, English Ivy and Winged Euonymus. There are nearly 1200 plants native to New England. Buying native plants ensures that you will not spread invasive plants. If you educate yourself before transplanting new plants you will keep our pond healthy.