Honeysuckle Pond  is the main attraction of Lakeland County Park. Visitors have to follow a complex of board walks to reach it. I first caught sight of it through an opening in the forest. When I first sighted the Pond, I was surprised. It is much smaller than what I remember thirty years ago. I expected to see water like I did back in the 1980’s when it looked more like a small lake than now. I saw a large. pure grassy area where the pond used to be. I soon found out why. The pond level is three vertical feet lower. As a result, the wildlife living there has greatly reduced. I saw turtles and slender silver fish, possibly minnows. What left is kidney-shaped. The boardwalks were built decades ago to prevent visitors from slogging in mud and protecting fragile plants. Drought is the main cause over the past two years. Not enough rain water has fallen to soak into earth to keep the water table higher

As an amateur naturalist, I wanted to explore the former edge of the pond. As I circled my shoes remained dry. I reacquainted myself with wetland plants: Here is my list:

Touch-me-not                      Cinnamon Fern

Ladies Thumb                     Cattail

Joe-Pye Weed                      Elderberry

Pepperbush                          Button Bush

Tupelo trees                         Swamp Rose

Red Maple trees                   Sassafras

Goldenrod                          Nodding Burr Weed

As I walked the boardwalk, I came across a sign that said “Do Not Remove turtles from the pond. They will not survive living far from the habitat they were born in.”

On a previous visit, I saw several red-eared slider turtles basking on a snag in the sun. I took a step closer and they all dropped into the pond like stones. The pond is perfect habitat. The water has suspended algae which gives it a bluish-green color. Once the turtles drop, they disappear.

I decided to spend some time hanging out at one of three observation platforms. I recall some three decades ago standing here with political candidate Bill Bionci. He was running for county office. He asked me to help him campaign at the pond. A Newsday reporter was present. Bianci scooped up water and let it fall. The photographer got the shot. Bianci wanted to  preserve the wetland and save it from a planned industrial park. He has asked me to come along to speak about the necessity of preserving the area because it is the headwaters for the Connequot River. Eventually the county bought it claiming the sensitive habitat.

Several years later Lakeland County Park became a reality. Honeysuckle Pond was much larger long ago.     Back then, Great Blue Herons stalked the edges. Not now. Today, its mainly turtles. The pond surface was glass smooth. I watched a dragon fly zig zag below. Quickly, a disturbance created a beautiful circular wave slowly across the pond. It was a turtle that dove. I saw turtle heads that stuck an inch out of the water. They’d take a breath and disappear.

Tree reflections and cloud reflections covered the surface. Turtles turned their heads like periscopes, then dove. They began to climb out for sunbathing. They are ready to drop, to dive, and to disappear. The observation platforms were built high to accommodate the rise of the water level.

I stared at the surface for long moments hypnotized by turtles surfacing and cloud reflections. Honeysuckle Pond. I saw a large dark shadow close to shore. It is a snapping turtle. This is is a peaceful, magical place.

 

Tom Stock

Tom Stock has been involved in the Long Island environmental and outdoor education community for decades.

He has published two books; THE NISSEQUOGUE RIVER: A JOURNEY and HIDDEN AGENDA; A POETRY JOURNEY.He has also published many essays and poems in such journals as the Long Island Forum and The Long Islander.

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