This report summarizes the findings of the 2022 water quality monitoring program for Taylor Pond. Clarity readings and water quality measurements were conducted monthly from June through September by Woody Trask with additional clarity readings taken mid-May to late September by Michael Heskanen. Since 2004, Taylor Pond Association has been collecting its own water samples and performing most tests. Phosphorus analyses are conducted by the DHHS Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory.
2022 was an exceptionally good year for Taylor Pond. A record high single clarity reading (7.38m) and a new high average clarity reading (6.12m) were recorded. In addition, there was a low level of coloration especially in June and September. Both conditions might be attributed to having had very little precipitation; hence less run-off and infiltration.
Collecting a water sample for phosphorus.
The average 5 meter core sample phosphorus reading was lower than last year, but slightly higher than the historical average. The average 12 meter bottom phosphorus reading was much higher than last year due to a very high reading in September (an anomaly?). All other monthly readings were in the low to normal range.
Values for pH, alkalinity and conductance were all within the normal range of variation from the historic mean.
“Ice in” occurred on January 11, 2021, about a month later than last year, and the “ice out” date was April 4th making for a much shorter than average iced-over period. The historical average for “ice out” is April 14.
There’s a new way to connect with Taylor Pond neighbors when you are looking for that kayak that floated away, are wondering who to call to check out your dock’s drooping edge, or wanting to share a picture of the loons playing just offshore. A private FaceBook group, Taylor Pond Ripples, is now open to Taylor Pond residents, property owners, and TPA members. Within the first month of the group, 108 members have shared pictures, asked advice, and helped return wayward watercraft to owners.
Joining the group is simple, just click on the link for Taylor Pond Ripples on FaceBook. (You do need a FaceBook account to join.) When you ask to join, you’ll answer two simple questions about your connection to the pond and your agreement with the group rules. An admin will respond within 24 hours and you’ll be able to see and add posts to the group. If you are a member, you can also invite neighbors to join. Thanks for joining and connecting with neighbors online (as well as in real life).
Part of the experience of living on or near Taylor Pond is hearing the loon calls and seeing our resident loons circumnavigate the pond each day. But, according to many longtime residents, it has been more than fifteen years since a loon chick has been spotted on Taylor Pond. This is a concern as we look toward the future. This summer, local residents are working with Maine Audubon to address this issue.
While multiple attempts have been made in the past to provide a stable nesting platform for loon pairs, those efforts have failed. This year, in collaboration with the Maine Loon Restoration Project led by Maine Audubon, we are trying again.
Loon family, feeding the chick.
Maine Audubon started the Maine Loon Restoration Project in 2021 in partnership with Maine Lakes, the Lakes Environmental Association, and the Penobscot Nation. The project is funded by an oil spill settlement, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Trustees, resulting from an oil spill in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts in April 2003. It was estimated that 531 loons died as a result of that accident. Maine Audubon decided to focus a portion of the grant on efforts to increase the hatching success of loon pairs on Maine lakes that haven’t successfully fledged a loon chick in 3 or more years. Taylor Pond clearly qualifies and a floating nesting platform was launched in early May of this year.
According to Tracy Hart, Maine Audubon Wildlife Ecologist and head of the Maine Loon Restoration Project, other parts of the project involve outreach to reduce nesting disturbance and egg washout from boat wakes, as well as loon mortality from threats like boat strikes and lead tackle poisoning.
The project launched 27 loon nesting platforms in Maine in the summer of 2022. Of these, 9 were used for nesting, 8 chicks were hatched and 7 survived, which is an excellent success rate given that it can sometimes take multiple years for loons to start nesting on rafts. When asked how they defined “success”, David Morrill, a Seasonal Wildlife Biologist with Maine Audubon, said it was when a chick fledged. In other words, a chick has to hatch, be cared for by its parents for 12 weeks, learn to feed itself and be strong enough to fly away in the fall in order for that specific platform to be deemed a success. However, the rafts themselves can only help to address certain threats and once a chick hatches, the platforms no longer provide any protection.
For 2023, Maine Audubon Society is launching another 33 platforms, including Taylor Pond’s, for a total of 60. The plan is to relaunch these platforms each year that threats to nesting remain, understanding that it may take time for a breeding pair to become accustomed to the platform.
Hart believes, based on the data collected to date, that loon platforms can increase productivity for breeding pairs that struggle to hatch chicks year after year. But she emphasizes that rafts take maintenance and pose some risks, so should only be used in cases where loons continually fail to hatch chicks due to reasons that the nesting platforms can help address–like nest flooding from water level fluctuations or boat wakes, predation, or loss of nesting habitat. The platforms, made of cedar logs or other materials, are anchored but float so that rising water won’t swamp them. Some have extra protections like avian guards and wake guards. Our platform does have an avian guard.
Some of the greatest dangers to nesting loons are excessive wakes which flood nests, predators, rising and falling water levels, and disturbance by people who get too close to the nest. Lead contamination from lost or discarded fishing tackle remains a leading cause of death for adult loons, but it appears that boat strikes are now killing more loons and their chicks than lead poisoning. In terms of predation, raccoons, mink, skunks, gulls, crows, and even dogs predate loon nests. Eagles are new on the scene as predators and may well be part of the reason why we have seen so few chicks on Taylor Pond.
The nesting platforms, once launched, are essentially floating islands, complete with vegetation. Maine Audubon supplies the raft, flotation, and green avian guards made of lobster trap wire in locations where there is heavy predation from bird predators. Local volunteers working alongside trained Maine Audubon biologists then spread 2’” of topsoil over which they lay large pieces of moss to help hold the soil on the raft. Small native trees and perennials are then planted, in our case a cedar tree, a dogwood whose trunk reached through the avian guard, and a small patch of blue flag iris. The moss is smoothed to create a bowl or hollow in the center of the raft. The avian guard has to be at least 27” high at the apex of the arch over the raft to give the loons room to nest and sometimes, even mate on the raft. Cedar or pine boughs are then woven through the avian guard to provide shade until the planted vegetation is established and leafs out.
Now that the platform has been launched, it will be monitored on a weekly basis by Debbie Hammond, the new Taylor Pond Loon Counter. She will make online reports to Maine Audubon. Debbie is continuing a family tradition by taking over from her father, Peter Durgin, our long time Loon Counter, who died last spring. Maine Audubon will check on the platform several weeks post-launch and provide volunteers with additional information about how to conduct the surveys and observations about loon behaviors. Greg Hammond, Jan Phillips and Joan Macri worked with Maine Audubon’s Toni Rabasco and David Morrill to prepare the platform for launch.
It will be years before we know if the program has been successful. Loons are born and fledge on fresh water lakes. They migrate to the coast and winter on the ocean where they remain for several years. When they are strong enough to defend their territory, they return to their lake of origin to breed the next generation. Hopefully these efforts will ensure that the Taylor Pond community will continue to enjoy its loons for many generations to come.
The quick and simple answers to this question is no and maybe. Water from Taylor Pond is not considered safe to drink without treatment. The water is, however, safe for swimming but with some concerns.
Last summer the TPA board raised these questions about safety. Bill Turner offered to test some water samples as he had the expertise and an available boat. We only looked at Escherichia coli, abbreviated as E. coli. This bacterium is found in the intestines of wild animals, pets, and humans. The presence of E. coli in water indicates contamination with fecal matter. Because we have many wild birds, beavers, muskrats, and other animals that live on and around Taylor Pond we would expect to find some E. Coli. We are fortunate that most houses around Taylor Pond tie into Auburn’s sewer system and only a few homes around the pond rely on septic systems. Therefore, we are not likely to have significant amounts of E. coli due to human waste. The concern with the presence of E. coli is that if it is human in origin, other bacteria, viruses or parasites could cause disease.
Lake water is generally not considered safe to drink without at least chlorination to kill the bacteria. For drinking water, no level of E. coli is considered acceptable. For swimming, levels up to 88 (colonies of E. coli/100 milliliters) should not be exceeded in any one sample and no more than 47 on average of three samples over a 60-day period.
When Bill Turner performed testing in 2022, he found that E. coli levels ranged from 5 to 114. Of five samples taken, none were free of E. coli. He tested levels at the outlet on two occasions. We thought that the outlet would have an average amount of E. coli because it represented a mixture of all the water in the pond. On the two occasions he measured it, the numbers came back at 72 and 55, both below the acceptable level of 88 but above the 60-day average of 47 considered safe for swimming. On a private beach he obtained levels that ranged from 15 to 114. One measurement in the middle of the pond came back at the low of 5.
It is concerning that levels of E. coli exceed maximum levels recommended for safe swimming in certain areas at certain times last year. The drought and associated low water levels may have been an important factor. It is reassuring that most homes are connected to the city’s sewer, likely indicating that most of the E. coli found is wildlife in origin and not a hazard to humans. Anecdotally, I swim almost daily in Taylor Pond during the summer without any ill effects.
You can take certain actions to decrease your risk of disease. If you have a septic system, have an expert check to make sure it is functioning properly, especially if it is an aging system. Avoid attracting ducks, geese or other wildlife that will leave their feces on your lawn or waterfront. Finally, if you want to be certain that the water is safe, you can test the water in your swimming area. A&L Laboratory, 155 Center Street in Auburn performed the E. coli testing undertaken by TPA and will test your water samples for a fee. You can pick up a water quality test kit at the lab or order online. As with testing well water, they can test for various bacteria/minerals and the price will vary according to the tests you request.
On April 13 of this year, The Sun Journal published an article detailing the relationship between ice cover on Lake Auburn and water quality. This scenario applies equally to Taylor Pond. The less time a body of water is covered with ice, the longer the time for sunlight and warmth to stimulate algae growth and degrade water quality. Unfortunately, the effects of global warming have been reducing the duration of beneficial ice cover.
Ice melts from the shore, April 4, 2022.
“Ice-out” dates for Taylor Pond have been recorded since 1969. In 2018, recognizing the importance of having “ice-in” data as well, we started recording the date, although it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly . We can now calculate the total number of days that the pond is iced in and therefore less supportive of algae growth, however, we don’t have much historical data. We are responsible for reporting both dates to the Lake Stewards of Maine (www.lakestewardsofmaine.org) for compilation with data from ponds and lakes all over the state.
The average “ice-out” date for Taylor Pond since 1969 is April 14th. The records reveal that recently ice-out has been occurring earlier, with April 11th being the average for the last 15 years. The average “ice-in” date since 2018 is December 24th. However, there were two years – 2016 and 2021 – when total ice-in didn’t occur until well into January making for very short periods of total ice cover.
In the short time that ice-in has been recorded, the average number of days that the pond is totally covered with ice is 110 days – the shortest being 83 days and the longest 137 days. This year we had 104 days of ice cover, which looks good compared to the 70 days reported in the Sun Journal for Lake Auburn. To take a quote from the paper, “the less time the lake is covered in ice, the more likely the lake will have problems later in the year.” We hope that 104 days translates into another good year for Taylor Pond.
We had a successful day despite drenching rain, wind and cool weather, we visited over 800 properties in the watershed. We had seven teams of three or more people who spread out over the area in seven separate sectors to cover over 13 square miles. A technical expert led each team, four paid for by Taylor Pond Association (TPA) and three paid for by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Twenty-four volunteers provided valuable assistance. A team with Alaina Chormann from the DEP, Emma Lorusso from Androscoggin Soil and Water Conservation District; Barbara Mitchell and Dana Little from the board of Taylor Pond Association, led the effort. Results will be tabulated by Emma and presented to TPA when completed. Sites of soil erosion into the pond were identified and each given a priority score based on the severity of the problem. Once the final report is completed, the TPA board will have a blueprint on how to keep our pond healthy.