There’s amazing wildlife in every corner of our world. 

There's a breathtaking diversity of life to see every time you look out the window.  Even, in the most unlikely of places. 

Behind my 4th floor apartment lies a small settlement pond, designed to capture and help treat stormwater of several large parking areas in the surrounding neighborhood.  Despite its functionality, and the sea of gray surrounding the small pond, it hosts an abundance of life!  

It came as a great shock however, when on the 22nd of December, 2022, to my bewilderment, a young River Otter (Lontra canadensis) took up a winter residence in the pond.  Contrary to everything I knew of the secretive animal, this River Otter remained a daily sight from my window until the final week in February 2023 - more than 8 weeks.  

[Photo - Right] The young River Otter (Lontra canadensis), mentioned above, taking refuge on the wooded shoreline of the pond.  Photographed through binoculars with cellphone by IPC Outreach Coordinator - Taylor Swanson. 

The time I’ve spent admiring my own pond's wildlife has only highlighted for me how much there could be if we took the time to cherish our sacred waterways.   No matter where the water flows. 

What is a Settlement Pond?

A settlement pond is a large-scale stormwater management practice in which water flows from large impervious surfaces and collects at a central pond, before flowing onward to a final destination.  If maintained properly, they can serve to help trap harmful pollutants (like, trash-waste, nutrient rich sediments & detritus, and more) picked up by fast flowing stormwater, allowing them to “settle” to the bottom, preventing those harmful pollutants from being carried downstream.  This helps keep waste out of our waterways, and promotes unhealthy algal growth in the settlement pond rather than in its final destination (in this case, the Chesapeake Bay).  When the water level reaches a certain height, the cleaner surface water spills over and begins to flow towards a significant tributary.  

About an acre in size, this particular settlement pond helps to mitigate the effects of fast flowing stormwater coming from my own apartment complex, and 2 nearby shopping centers.  In certain storm conditions, feet of water can flow into the pond.  Eventually, this water flows to the old Annapolis City Reservoir, and from there to the Chesapeake Bay. 

Meet the Wildlife!

This settlement pond has an abundance of native plant species surrounding it, as well as direct connectivity with adjacent woodland and waterways, likely explaining where the otter came from.  This abundance of native species and connectivity to a greater habitat helps this pond support a tremendous array of wildlife throughout the year. 

However, while available habitat may have attracted the otter, what kept the otter at this particular pond is, oddly enough, a non-native species.  Goldfish! 

This pond is teeming with thousands of goldfish, each about 3-4” in length, thriving in the algae rich environment.   Despite their quantity, there is no evidence that these fish are breeding.  While their arrival is unknown, their presence is beneficial towards nutrient management of the ecosystem, and they are attracting a huge host of native species who love eating fish!  

[Video - Left/Above] Watch the River Otter enjoying a meal of fresh Goldfish! Video by Taylor Swanson.

Beyond our celebrity River Otter, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Black Crowned Night-Heron, Snowy Egret, Osprey, Kingfisher, Snapping & Painted Turtles, Raccoon and Fox have all been sighted enjoying a goldfish meal from the pond.  

[Picture - Right] An American Toad male (Anaxyrus americanus) calls out for a mate beneath the lights of a near-by apartment complex.  A hopeless romantic, standing on cherry blossom petals.  Photo by Taylor Swanson.

It’s an incredible example of how important habitat interconnectivity is, and how quickly our native species will utilize and discover available space.  

The River Otter has since left, but there is still an abundance of wildlife, including new wildlife taking advantage of the space.  Now, Canada Geese contest for nesting space on the small pond, and the sounds of American Toads fill the air as they call out for a mate. 

Imagine what could be of this place, if these species had the habitat they truly needed. 

Are you Interested in Creating Habitat for Wildlife?

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake is committed to helping our communities of faith tackle the environmental problems of their own region and watershed.  

Many of our native species are in trouble because their preferred habitats have been dramatically reduced, changed, and altered by human activities.  Planting native species is a perfect way to support many different species, and is a longer-term solution towards their health.  Whether planting meadow habitat, creating stormwater infrastructure, or revitalizing woodland, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake and our partners can help you make the right decision for your property.  For some ideas, check out our available resources on stormwater practices.

Are you interested in pursuing conservation work geared towards wildlife?  Please contact your local IPC regional coordinator to learn more about what could be right for your congregation, home, and community!