Nature on Taylor Pond 2005

by Dana Little 6/19/05

The ice on the pond closed in December this year. Just before it closed the migrating ducks moved through: small groups of Hooded Mergansers, American Mergansers, Buffleheads and Goldeneyes. These ducks joined the loons who remain on the pond until the ice closes in. They stuff themselves with fish, mussels, snails, crayfish and frogs. The mergansers will sit on the surface bobbing on the waves until ready to fish. When fishing they swim with just their heads submerged looking for prey. When they spot a likely fish they dive rapidly, catching it in their serrated bill. If you watch carefully, as they surface, you will notice they flip the fish up in the air and swallow it head first so that the spines on their fins do not catch in the throat. After they fatten up in the pond, and the ice chases them away, they travel down to the coast for the winter, feeding in the ocean. In spring they will return once again on their way to Canada to breed. Only the Hooded Merganser and the Loon remain to breed on the pond.

When the pond froze solid we had a couple of weeks of good skating. At night the ice expands as it freezes. The ice seems to sing and groan from the stress. Sometimes the ice cracks beneath as you skate along. A starry night with the moon shining and the ice singing is an unbeatable experience. We had a few nights where we saw the Northern Lights but they were not as spectacular as last winter. The ice boats made it out a couple of times and achieved some remarkable speeds.

This winter the ice fisherman were busy. Five ice shacks were erected for protection from the bitter cold north winds that cross the frozen snow. Many fisherman did not have a shack and just wore their warmest clothes. The prize for their efforts included many large pickerel, bass and perch, as well as the privilege of being outside in a beautiful spot.

Wendell Nason spotted a deer carcass on the ice just before it broke up. Over the next few days he spotted many crows visiting the site. A Bald Eagle made several visits to feed on the meat, as well as a coyote. Once the ice opened up muskrats could be seen diving for mussels which they would bring up onto the ice and eat.

In the winter of 2003-2004 a Mr. Tufts came at the behest of some of our neighbors and trapped 5 beaver off of the marsh on my property. The beaver are trapped underwater and drown. When we protested, the game officer pointed out that Mr. Tufts needed no permission to trap if he could access the beaver lodge from the frozen pond. This last summer, after intensive trapping all winter, we noticed three large beaver swimming about, no young, however. My reading tells me that trapping does not decrease the beaver population. If all the beaver are removed, new ones move in; if not all beaver are removed, they reproduce at a higher rate due to less competition for food. I know that Beaver cause much destruction as they have cut down a number of my crabapple trees. Four-foot-high turkey fencing firmly staked provides the best protection. Two years ago they tore off and reached over three-foot-high chicken wire to neatly cut down my young trees.

April 8, before the ice and snow were gone, the Wood Frogs started announcing their mating season. By April 22nd egg masses were spotted in the marsh. Spring Peepers started singing the next week and then the Leopard Frogs the following week. Early May the Common Toad began its chorus and the Green Frog was heard first May 20th. When the Bull Frogs begin singing in June we know that warm weather is upon us. On warm and rainy spring nights the amphibians move about. Large numbers of frogs and toads can be seen crossing the roads around the pond. May 21st my son went out with his flashlight and found a half dozen Yellow Spotted Salamanders crossing Garfield Road. Twice that many had been killed by cars. Black with yellow polka dots and up to 9 inches in length, they were spectacular to see. I know of one community in Massachusetts that values its salamanders so highly that it built a tunnel under the road to allow safe passage.

Frog Wood

The first to be heard in the spring, a Wood Frog.

In early April we were flooded out with 5 inches of rain over a couple of days that melted off the winter’s accumulated snow. People who have lived here longer than myself tell me the pond was at its highest in 20 years. We had a few days where we had to canoe down the driveway to get home. The level rapidly dropped and we were grateful that we did not have to ferry the groceries in the canoe. The beavers swam all around the house. One morning on my way to work the beaver kept slapping his tail at me as I waded down the driveway to my parked car. The beaver seemed to be telling me that this was beaver, not human, territory.

Taylor Pond Water Levels & Flooding Report

By Marc Tardif, 7/3/2013

Last year, the TPA newsletter included an article by Dana Little and Susan Trask summarizing some of the many considerations associated with water level control. The article was largely in response to inquiries the board received from the general membership concerning the extensive flooding we experienced in June of last year. To further address membership concerns, the board established a water level committee with the task of identifying the natural and manmade influences having the biggest impact on water levels and flooding. The ultimate goal of the committee is to determine if viable opportunities exist to reduce the extent and duration of flood events. The board does not endorse control of normal water levels on Taylor Pond, and the water level committee is not engaged with any activity in that regard.

Over the past year, the water level committee has been very active with field surveys and meetings with professionals knowledgeable in hydrology and local conditions. The committee would like to acknowledge and thank the following organizations for their contributions of time and expertise which has led to the preliminary conclusions contained in this report: Stony Brook Land Use Consultants; Jones Associates Land Surveyors; John Field Geology Services; Auburn City Engineers office, Auburn Water and Sewer District, and the Auburn Public Works Department. A substantial amount of information has been provided by these sources and will be made available to view on the TPA website.

Flooding is a function of the broad and complex subject of hydrology. There are three primary factors that affect the extent and duration of a flood event. 1) The amount and rate that water is introduced to the watershed. 2) Storage capacity of the watershed at the onset of precipitation. Before flooding occurs, features in the watershed that are capable of holding water need to fill and overflow. This includes depressions in the land, soil saturation, dams, and the pond itself. 3) The rate at which water is allowed to exit.

Taylor Brook is the primary outlet for water exiting the pond in both normal and flood water conditions. Six features of the brook have been identified from the pond outlet to the Kendall Dam 1.5 miles downstream that affect both conditions in and around Taylor Pond. The brook elevation drops dramatically immediately after the dam, so there is no impact on the speed of pond water level recession from conditions located further downstream.

The first feature effecting the time it takes for water levels to recede is the fact that there are only two feet of elevation drop over the 1.5 mile stretch. The very gradual slope provides minimal energy to move water downstream and away from the pond. Thick vegetation throughout the stream course further reduces flow rates and results in what can be described as a very sluggish waterway.

The second feature of interest can be found a few hundred feet downstream from the pond outlet. Here we find a heavily vegetative area rooted in silt deposits that have raised the bottom of the stream channel. This raised area is referred to as a berm and extends the full width of the brook. The bottom of the channel in the berm area is higher than any other point along the 1.5 mile course. The significance of this naturally created feature is that this is the point where water would stop flowing from the pond and into the brook under receding low water conditions. Water levels below this elevation would be the result of water exiting by ground infiltration, evaporation, and transpiration. The berm has little or no significance relative to flood water dynamics.

The third significant feature is located just downstream of the berm where two culverts are installed at the point that the brook passes under Hotel Rd. Unlike the berm, this feature has no effect on normal water levels. However, under flood water conditions, this feature acts as a dam of sorts that limits pond discharge to the maximum flow capacity of the culverts. Another negative characteristic associated with this feature under flood conditions is that large amounts of water accumulating from the downstream Taylor Brook watershed backs up against the culverts further reducing water discharge rates from the pond.

The fourth feature encountered traveling downstream from Hotel road is a large beaver dam located adjacent to the Granite Mills Estates development. The dam traverses the entire width of the brook, and water elevation drops one foot between the upper and lower sides of the dam. This feature doesn’t have much if any effect on normal water level since its elevation is slightly below the height of the berm. The dam does have some negative impact on mitigating a flood event in that the water volume retained by the dam is volume that is not available for storage of storm water accumulations.

The fifth feature of interest is the slab bridge located on the driveway to the Kendall property. This is probably the most significant manmade influence affecting the time it takes for flood water levels to recede. The bridge acts in the same manner as the Hotel Road culverts by restricting flow rates. The restricted flow at this point exaggerates the backed up water condition at the Hotel Road culverts. The only impact this feature might have on normal water levels in the pond would be the slight increase in the time it takes for water levels to recede.

The sixth and last feature to discuss is the Kendall Dam which is located just below the Kendall driveway bridge. The dam has a higher flow capacity than the bridge, and is equipped with a currently inoperable sluice gate which might be used to further increase flow in a flood event. Flow restriction over the dam is somewhat moot at this time since the upstream bridge is more restrictive than the dam. The dam has little or no effect on normal water levels in Taylor Pond since the elevation of the dam’s spillway is below the berm elevation. The Kendall dam has the same effect as the beaver dam under flood conditions in that the volume of water retained by the dam is volume not available for storage of storm water accumulations.

The information used to prepare this report is reliable and adequately detailed to support the conclusions expressed above. Given the heightened level of understanding we now have, several options to reduce the extent and duration of flood events have been suggested. The most promising options entail methods to increase the flow capacities of the Kendall Road Bridge and Hotel Road culverts. Unfortunately, the existing data we have is not adequate for the purpose of quantifying the extent that any one feature contributes to the overall problem of flooding. If undertaken, the next step in this process would involve an  expert analysis to determine benefits which would be realized by modifying existing features. The value of any proposed benefit would need to be weighed against the cost to implement modifications. To be viable, several state and local authorities having jurisdiction would need to be on board with the process. The concerns articulated by Susan and Dana in the 2012 newsletter remain pertinent and should be revisited before additional action is taken.



by Dana Little, 6/25/13

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.

Female snapping turtle seeking a nesting site.

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.

Painted Turtle hatchling

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.

Turtle painted (2)

Painted Turtle