Article and Photos By Terence Philippe
Ashland Pond, tucked away below Quiet Village on the north side of town, is one of Ashland’s best kept secrets. Experienced birders know it as one of the area’s birding “Hotspots” where the variety and concentration of birds is awe inspiring. If you visit now expect to see new developments as a community collaboration between students at Helman School, Lomakatsi Restoration, and the city work to restore habitat along Ashland Creek and beside the pond. Eleven acres of invasive blackberry thickets have been removed and native plant and tree species are being planted in the cleared areas. The goal is to improve stream-side habitat along Ashland Creek by returning it to a landscape that more resembles a stream before invasive species came to dominate such areas and to return the streams to healthy spawning habitat for wild salmon and steelhead. In the process all other species that visit this habitat will benefit as it returns to a more natural state.
If you visit Ashland Pond this winter expect to see a wide variety of waterfowl that use the pond as both a smorgasbord and for nesting sites. Waterfowl species include Canada Goose, Mallard, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, and many more. Also seasonally expect to see Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, and Kingfisher. American Robins are beginning to show now in larger numbers and there are still a wide variety of sparrows and finches as well. Juncoes, and the ubiquitous scrub jays and towhees are also present. Raptors that are commonly seen are red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and American kestrel. Less common but seen are merlin, osprey, and great-horned owl, and last year a barred owl made an appearance in late January.
And don’t be surprised if you see something that resembles Nessie of Loch Ness fame: it’s only the curious and charming river otter family that also calls the pond home. If you hear a great splash near the water’s edge it’s not a herd of water-buffalo, but instead the rather plump beaver making an ungainly jump into the pond! To get to Ashland Pond go down Oak, Helman, or Laurel streets to Nevada street, turn left on Nevada, proceed to Glendower St and turn right and drive to its end and park. A short access road will lead to a short loop trail around the pond and beside Ashland Creek. Be sure to respect local property owners and only park in proper locations. If you take a dog, keep them on a leash and use the provided bags to clean after your pet.