Colchester Pond Road
Colchester, Vermont 05446
Colchester Pond Natural Area webpage
Colchester Pond Natural Area map
Colchester Pond Trail (AllTrails) webpage
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The AllTrails website has a description and map of a 3-mile hike at Colchester Pond.
The Colchester Pond Natural Area, managed by the Winooski Valley Park District, occupies 693 acres of forest and meadow, including a two-mile hiking trail that encircles the pond. I became interested in this area a year ago when a small flock of Ruddy Ducks took temporary residence on the pond during November and December. Ruddy Duck sightings are unusual in Vermont, so I jumped at the chance to see them. Voila! On my first visit to the pond, I immediately spotted 14 ruddies swimming close to shore. Since then I have included Colchester Pond on the shortlist of sites I visit regularly. In May I found a variety of warblers there, notably Yellow and Yellow-rumped. On several occasions throughout the summer, I got nice looks at a pair of Baltimore Orioles inhabiting the fringe of woodland adjacent to the meadows that form the border of the west shore of the pond.
Naturally, numerous species of ducks and geese can be found at Colchester Pond, including Canada Goose, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Mallard, and American Black Duck, to name just a few. Raptors, including Barred Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier have been reported to the Vermont bird list from Colchester Pond and I found several reports of Bald Eagles spotted here. A side benefit of visiting Colchester Pond is that there are footpaths off the hiking trail that lead to another birding hot spot, Brigham Hill in Essex. In truth, I admit I have not pursued these side trails, but a report on the Vermont bird list describes them well if you care to search them out.
To reach Colchester Pond take Route 7 to its junction with Route 2A and go right on 2A toward Colchester Village. In the village, turn left on East Road. Take the first right onto Depot Road and follow it to the junction of Colchester Pond Road and Curve Hill Road. Turn left onto Colchester Pond Road and proceed to the parking lot at the top of the hill. Though not well-known among birders, the Colchester Pond Natural Area is a popular spot for anglers, kayakers, canoeists, hikers, and dog walkers. At times, in fact, it is a little too popular for my taste. However, from October through early May the traffic drops off and the birding is excellent. At these times this area is well worth investigating.
From Bruce MacPherson, Green Mountain Audubon Society
About Colchester Pond Natural Area
Colchester Pond is an exciting spot to visit year-round. In early spring you’ll find an abundance of wildflowers including yellow Dutchmen’s britches and purple trout lily along the 3.5-mile trail that encircles the pond. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing paddle in the summer, and catch the amazing colors of autumn foliage. The pond is a favorite spot for fishing year-round, with many anglers ice fishing in the winter.
This natural area has been designated an Important Birding Area (IBA) by the Vermont Audubon. Currently, several shrubland restorations and management projects are taking place to improve and manage habitat for songbirds. The pond is a natural pond that was enlarged by a manmade dam in the mid-1900s is a mile in length and covers 182 acres, about a quarter of the park property.
In addition to anglers, bird watchers, hikers, canoeists and kayakers, the pond is visited by many water birds, including Canada goose, mallard, great blue heron, Virginia rail, and the uncommon American bittern. Beavers also frequent the pond, so remember to bring your binoculars!
Barbed wire fences and stone walls scattered throughout the forest indicate that much of the property was pasture at one time. Other signs of past human land use include an overgrown apple orchard at the northwest corner of the property, and an abundance of early successional trees such as bigtooth aspen, throughout the forest from past timber harvesting.
An aspect of Colchester Pond that sets it apart from other WVPD parks is its situation within a large tract of contiguous forest, extending from Indian Brook Reservoir in Essex to the Milton Town Forest. It is the only WVPD property where definite signs of bobcat and moose, two wide-ranging mammals, have been found. In all, 111 vertebrate wildlife species have been documented at Colchester Pond.
The WVPD asks for park users to please remain on the designated marked trails and to keep pets on a leash at all times while enjoying Colchester Pond! These efforts practiced by all help to maintain the natural integrity of the park for the many species of wildlife that it supports.
From Colchester Pond Natural Area webpage