Off The Beaten Path – Comstock Ponds

Join us for a special treat! Our long-time volunteer and resident adventure-seeker, Brenda Mott, will be sharing her adventures in her blog series, Off The Beaten Path. With so many adventurous places in the Finger Lakes region you may have already heard of, Brenda is sharing the not-so-heard-of hidden gems that are right under our noses.  Brenda will be exploring these gems to share them with you so you can begin your own adventures Off The Beaten Path. 

Let’s begin this journey with Brenda’s story of an interesting turkey encounter during one of her visits to Comstock Ponds…

Stay connected for more intriguing blog posts coming soon!

The turkey suddenly burst from the bushes in front of us and took off on a hard sprint down the trail.  All three of us were momentarily startled since we didn’t know it was there.  The girls (my black labs) were young and still developing the ability to use their noses.  Zoey recovered first and took off after it.  Maty glanced over at me and then followed after Zoey.  The trail was wide and the turkey was on a dead run right down the middle with the girls closing in from the rear on either side.  It was early spring and the field had not yet greened over so it was the perfect backdrop of dull colors to watch this progress.  The turkey’s neck looked like one of those dancing air tube people outside a car dealer as it looked back left and right, checking the progress of its pursuers.  I could almost see its eyes widen a little as Maty started to close the gap between them.  I never knew a turkey could run so fast.  Maty continued to gain ground and Zoey was not far behind.  The turkey continued to run.  I thought the turkey would have taken to flight by now, but it didn’t.  I had the sudden thought that maybe it couldn’t fly.  I immediately brought the whistle to my lips ready to give the signal for the girls to stop.  As I did that the turkey’s wings unfolded like blankets in the wind.  I could hear the air underneath them as they flapped hard and strong, “Wumpf, wumpf, wumpf”.  It was instantly in the air and headed for the safety of trees.  I looked down the trail at the girls.  They were sitting on either side of the trail.  They watched the turkey as it flew to the trees and landed up in the high branches where it perched and looked down at them.  It was a good distance from where I stood, but I swear I could hear the turkey snicker and had to wonder who was playing with whom.  The turkey could have flown off at any time, but let the girls chase it on foot for 60 yards or so.  Maty and Zoey looked at each other, looked at me and then back at each other.  They sat for a minute, like they were trying to process what just happened.  They got up and headed back down the trail towards me still buzzing with energy from the chase. Our morning walk was almost done and the work day was soon to start.  It would be a good day.  It was always a good day when it started with an adventure.

This is a true story.  It happened on one of our (myself and my 2 dogs) many morning walks on the Marcus Whitman School Eco Property, AKA: Comstock Ponds.  I admit it happened quite a few years ago, but the property is still a hidden treasure.

The property is located in Middlesex, NY. Not far from Canandaigua Lake.  There is no actual address since there are no structures on it.  The GPS coordinates for the Kiosk in the parking lot are: N 42.76072 degrees, W 077.27001.  It is on the southside of Rushville Townline Rd just off Route 364.  One of those, “If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t know it was there” places.  There is no sign at the road either, just a driveway.  When you turn off of 364 onto Rushville Townline Rd. there is a cobblestone house right there on the southside.  You will go past their 2 driveways and the next one is into the parking lot of the property. It is 172 acres and has 2 ponds, a creek, fields and some wooded areas.  There is a large assortment of wildlife and it is a well-known spot to local bird watchers.  A considerable variety of waterfowl can be found at any given time. The trail between the two ponds is a favored nesting place for Canadian Geese.  You can find Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Birds of Prey and the usual North Eastern birds and of course, Turkeys.

I even saw a bear once.  Well, the back ½ of a bear as it wandered back into the woods.  At first, I thought it was my dog Zoey until I realized she was standing next to me growling at the bear and then it dawned on me that there wasn’t a tail attached to that back ½……. Note to self, “Be more aware when you are in the wilderness”.

You can wander around the ponds (there are benches for sitting) or follow the entrance trail past the ponds through a small section of wooded area to the field.  There are usually trails cut through and around the field.  Be sure to wear hiking boots as it can be wet in some areas and the ground can be uneven.  There is not a lot of foot traffic in the field so the trails are not “packed down”.  You will really need to watch your step.

There are picnic tables at the entrance to the field where Marcus Whitman holds some of it’s Ecology classes.  Keep in mind that if there is a class in progress when you stop, that takes priority over your outing.

The property was originally owned by Comstock Michigan Fruit Division (hence, Comstock Ponds).  They had a food processing plant down the road in Rushville.  The ponds were used as “holding ponds” for this plant.  There used to be 3 ponds, which is standard for this type of use.  It is said that this plant processed mostly beets.  I am told the pond water used to be red.  That had to be sight.  I wonder what any waterfowl may have looked like if they stopped to check out the ponds back then.  Many a tint of red, even pink?  I bet a few uninformed birders were sure they had found a new species.  

When Comstock closed the plant, the property was sold a time or two.  It was eventually purchased by the Lundquist Family Trust.  They only wanted the plant buildings and the property the buildings were on.  They tried to sell the property where the holding ponds were but there were no buyers.  They ended up gifting it to the Marcus Whitman School.  Thankfully.  At some point 2 of the ponds were combined into one larger pond.  While the school does allow the public to use the property for hiking, birding or just spending some time outdoors they can close it to the public at any time if the property is misused.  If you are in the area, pop in and check it out.  I’m sure you will agree it is a hidden gem.  If you do stop, please be respectful of the wildlife and carry out what you carry in.  

So, until next time- get outside!  




The Greatest Adventure is what lies ahead – JRR Tolkein


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