Exploring Pine Acres Pond at Goodwin State Forest

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hampton - posted Tue., Sep. 3, 2013
Colchester residents (from left) Nilda Negron, Natalie and Shannon put on lifejackets in preparation for a guided exploration of the pond at Goodwin State Forest. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Colchester residents (from left) Nilda Negron, Natalie and Shannon put on lifejackets in preparation for a guided exploration of the pond at Goodwin State Forest. Photos by Melanie Savage.

As naturalist Emma Lorusso approached a group of visitors to the Goodwin State Forest visitors' center on Aug. 31, her outstretched hand revealed a large, brown praying mantis clinging to her extended fingers. “I found this guy next to the building, and I thought you might like to take a look,” she said. The mantis was a big hit with the assembled group, as it rotated its triangular head to look around. Larusso provided a few facts about the creature before setting it down on a picnic table to go over a list of rules.

The occasion was a Walk Connecticut Family Ramble co-sponsored by the Connecticut DEEP, and the event would take visitors out on Pine Acres Pond for a two-hour exploration of the water’s flora and fauna. With paddlers both novice and experienced heading out in canoes, Larusso had a list of instructions to issue. She ended with an encouragement to remain relatively quiet. “We’re going to try to see a lot of bird life,” she said.

After donning life vests, visitors launched into an environment teeming with life. Swallows twittered and swooped through the air. They were catching insects above the surface of the water, explained Larusso. A blue heron fished in the shallow water before taking wing, startled by the approaching canoes. Blue herons like to live and nest in dead tree snags, explained Larusso. “We don’t have any here, so they live across Route 6,” she said.

There were lily pads in abundance, with blossoms in shades of both white and pink. There were bright, ball-shaped yellow lilies. Pine Acres Pond used to be a brook and a white cedar swamp, explained Larusso. When the owner of the property, James Goodwin, observed beavers constructing a pond on the brook, “He decided that he liked the idea of a trout pond,” she said. Goodwin constructed a dam, and stocked the resulting pond with trout. “Unfortunately, they all died,” said Larusso, explaining that trout are a cold-water fish. Today the pond, which reaches a depth of 3 feet in most places, is home to a variety of species of warm-water, low-oxygen fish, including sun fish, pumpkin seeds, blue gill, yellow perch and small-mouth bass, explained Larusso.

The nutrients in the pond are the result of both the cedar trees that were the original inhabitants of the land, and trees that went into the pond after storms. The nutrients feed the abundance of flora. After enlisting the group’s children in a search for small purple and yellow flowers, Larusso plucked a specimen from the surface of the water.

Beneath the innocuous, dainty yellow blossom was a slimy green mass of vegetation nearly 2 feet long. “This is the bladderwort,” said Larusso, identifying the specimen as a variety of carnivorous plant. She pointed to bladder-like traps along the green length. “They’ll eat anything from microscopic protozoa to small tadpoles and mosquito larvae,” said Larusso. Bladderworts exhibit “one of the most specialized structures in the plant kingdom,” she added.

Visit www.walkct.org/rambles for a list of upcoming WalkCT Family Rambles.

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