This property was acquired in 1974 and has long served as NH Audubon’s statewide headquarters, the McLane Center. Primarily forested, this sanctuary is managed in conjunction with over 60 acres of adjacent open fields and woodlands owned by St. Paul’s School. Great Turkey Pond, the shoreline of which is protected through a NH Audubon conservation easement, is a key feature of this property, as is a 15-acre grassland field that is being managed for grassland birds through grazing and other practices. Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and American Kestrels are focal species of a nest box program, and Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows are targets of the grassland management. Another restoration goal being planned is a demonstration pollinator meadow.
NH Audubon’s education programs are evident in and around these lands. An extensive trail system includes field and woods loops, shoreline paths, and a traverse of an old apple orchard that is being managed for wildlife and was formerly a silk farm which gives the property its name.
In 1835, this land was the site of a short-lived silk farm, and evidence of mulberry and apple trees still exists. Over the succeeding years, the land supported more traditional New England agriculture, and eventually, much of it grew back into forest. This forest was damaged in the great hurricane of 1938. Hundreds of trees were salvaged and sunk into Great Turkey Pond to preserve them from rotting. These logs were later milled by the two sawmills that existed on its shores. Logs from this time period can still be found today from the shoreline. Today our forests are growing back and being carefully managed to provide the requirements for wildlife of woodlands and fields.
The spring flight display ‘sky dance’ of the American Woodcock can best be seen on warm evenings from the bike path along Silk Farm Road and the Old Orchard Trail. To quietly observe Wood Frogs breeding, look in the vernal pool complex behind the trailhead kiosk in the area of the wooden bridge. Please keep in mind that noise and movement will disturb them, and that no dogs are permitted here.
WENDY’S PATH (Forest Floor Trail) ♦ Red Markers
½ mile loop; easy; about 15 minutes
A nice, easy stroll through managed pine and hardwood that features wildflowers and nesting songbirds. Named in memory of former NH Audubon naturalist, Wendy Schorr.
GREAT TURKEY POND TRAIL ♦ Yellow Markers
1.2 mile loop, moderate; about 1 hour
A moderate hike that takes you through a hardwood forest to the shore of Great Turkey Pond, a waterbird hotspot and scenic natural area. This trail also serves as trailhead for the West End Farm Trail, a trail that runs through Concord’s west end over 7 miles to its end at Carter Hill Orchard.
OLD ORCHARD TRAIL ♦ Blue Markers
1mile loop, easy; about 45 minutes
Butterflies and birds (& sometimes cattle!) abound in the meadow. Enjoy the old apple trees as you leave and re-enter the forest towards Great Turkey Pond.
FIELD LOOP ♦ Unmarked
This short, easy mowed loop path across the stone wall in the parking area allows close views of nesting bluebirds and tree swallows, abundant wildlife, and cattle during summer.
How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold?
Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root, and in that freedom bold.—William Wordsworth
The New Hampshire landscape was once dominated by open spaces, fields laboriously cleared by early farmers and settlers. As people moved west to more productive farmland, the abandoned fields and pastures were reclaimed by the forests. Today, around 85% of New Hampshire is forested. Development and agricultural abandonment are quickly claiming the open meadows and hayfields that remain.
Meadows provide essential nesting areas for declining bird species such as bobolinks, Eastern meadowlarks, and a variety of sparrows. They also serve as fertile hunting grounds for everything from foxes to red-tailed hawks, which feed on mice and voles as they forage in the tall grass. Our meadows contains a healthy population of milkweed, an essential plant for the survival of Monarch butterflies. Through carefully planned grazing and mowing schedules, controlling invasive plant species, and providing nest boxes and brush piles for cover, we strive to keep our meadow ecosystem healthy and in balance.
NH Audubon plans to install pollinator habitat through a series of disturbance and planting events in the coming years to help conserve our native bees.
Photos, from the top: view of Turkey Pond from the sanctuary trails, staff photo; meadow next to McLane Center, by Phil Brown.