Saturday, December 26, 2009

Toad Pond Site

Some of my planned projects will result in drastic changes to the landscape. Water flows from many points on the left side of this photo and concentrates at a point to the right. Just out of frame on the right is my combination vegetable and native plant garden. Runoff water used to flow through the center of the garden site, but I built a low diversion to carry the water around the garden. The diversion works perfectly and I’m able to have a very productive garden without excess water or erosion.

The diversion dike produced a short lived pool after each rain and the excess water flowed in this direction through a shallow channel. In preparation of one of my projects for next summer, I lowered the channel center line to eliminate the temporary pool.

The project I have planned for this site is the result of several interrelated observations. The first is the fact that encounters with American Toads, both breeding individuals in the temporary pond in front of the house and individuals found in the fields and woods, have declined dramatically during the last 20 years. The second is the reduction in encounters with the Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake, a species that prefers toads over any other prey. If a population of Hog-Nosed Snakes is to be maintained here, there must be toads. The plan is to build series of temporary pools that will (I’m not giving the toads an option) be used for toad breeding in the spring.

This site has several points in its favor for such a project. High up the slope are two wet weather springs that will act to keep the pools full for a few extra days between rains. The soils have a clay content high enough to slow seepage loss and maintain a pool during the wet time of the year. The higher moisture content of this site has helped to keep a thick sod of Fescue growing here, so I won’t be tearing up any native plants while building the pool. To maintain the temporary pool ecology, I will have to drain any water that remains into summer. This extra water can be used to irrigate the garden.

The wet weather springs sometimes keep water in this old tire track well into June. I’ll begin my pool construction here with a small pool of 15 or 20 square feet that can be kept full by the springs. The pools in series will gradually increase in size with the last having about 750 square feet of surface area. Actual earthmoving won’t begin until June or July, but there are other preliminary activities that I’ll be doing later this winter and spring.

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