Thursday, July 22, 2010

A July Pond

Some of you see a pond looking much like it did a couple of months ago and wonder why I consider it such a spectacular sight. The simple reason is, because I normally don’t have a pond in July. In a typical year the best I can manage in the third week of July is a mud flat. By August I should be able to walk across the bottom without getting mud on my shoes.

I love to dabble in water and this pond rates quite high in dabblability. I’ll spend many hours around the pond in the next few months watching various aquatic organisms colonize what now appears to be a permanent body of water. The reeds are taking advantage of the extra water to expand their colony.

The willows and dogwoods lining the bank also flourish in the wet soil. They’ll pay for their exuberance in the next dry year. Their life is one of expansion and die-back dictated by yearly fluctuations in weather patterns, but their patterns match stride for stride so neither has advantage at any time. Although there’s constant change, there’s also stability in the community as a whole.

Part of the pond bank is kept cleared. This is partly because the electric right-of way crosses the pond dam and partly because it’s really hard to dabble in the water when you have to fight the vegetation to get to it. This also gives a place for the Solitary Sandpiper to run when it visits each year.

For a pond that’s only 70 feet across at the widest point, there’s a great diversity of vegetation growing along the bank. Shrubs, grasses and forbs all have a place around the pond. There are moisture loving plants that appear here only in exceptionally wet years. This will be their year to replenish the supply of seed that tries each year to produce another generation of plants, but more often than not is doomed to die.

The crayfish love this kind of weather. There’s enough water coming in to allow a constant flow to travel through the crayfish burrow. The flow of water is not very fast, but it is constant. Around the edge of this burrow you can just see a slight downward bend to the algae and other detritus as it is gently pulled by the moving water. The scat lovers among us may notice the short segments of crayfish droppings down and left of the burrow. These were left by the owner of the burrow after a night trip around the pond bottom in search of food.

Eastern Cricket Frogs are everywhere. You can hear their clicking call day and night. This is a late breeding species that seldom has a chance to successfully breed in the pond. This may be their year.

The fun in having the pond hold water all year is the opportunity to see species like this Twelve-Spotter Skimmer, that don’t normally visit. I also enjoy seeing the speed at which organisms take advantage of what is essentially a newly developed habitat. New amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, insects and a host of other invertebrates seem to appear every day to claim a part of this virgin territory. They may remain for a year or two, or they may die without producing a new generation, but the ability to exploit this new resource is a fascinating study.

I don’t think anything as beautiful as the Common Green Darner should have “common” as part of its name. Common should be replaced with Brilliant or Spectacular. A late season pond is the only thing that gets these big dragonflies to sit still long enough for a good look. Most years I must be content with watching the Green Darner flocks looping and buzzing over the fields. If I find one at rest, it’s because it was injured. As long as the pond has water, I’ll get a lot of good views of this species. Rain on the way means pond’s gonna stay. I just made up that saying. I can hear thunder in the distance.


  1. Wonderful pond! Your property affords you such diversity! Love the cricket frog! Can't say that I've ever seen one before. Enjoy, enjoy! ~karen

  2. Aw, Steve, you've made me homesick for my old stomping grounds in upstate New York! There's a lot to love here in California but I sure do miss moisture in the summer. You've successfully taken me back (minus the mosquitoes!) for a visit!

  3. Karen - Cricket Frogs are one of my many favorites. As I walked around the pond, they leapt like small grasshoppers ahead of me.

    Debbie - I'm glad I was able to rekindle a fond memory. When I plan a trip, I always exclude the pests.