Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pond Gone

It doesn’t take more than a few weeks without summer rains to reduce the pond to a dry hole. This is quite a change from the mid July pool. The abundant rains we were having earlier in the year ended abruptly and the pond was quickly consumed by evaporation and leakage. This photo was taken just hours before the last of the visible water disappeared. The thick mat of reeds would normally have remained standing, but a storm last week produced some exciting downdrafts and flattened the reed colony. Unfortunately, the storm produced little in the way of rain.

A board allowed me to get across the mud to see what was happening to the last of the pond dwellers. I learned the effectiveness of boards in crossing muddy areas when I was six. I found a large puddle full of tadpoles in the center of a vacant lot. My mother gave me permission to collect tadpoles as long as I didn’t get muddy. She consented to my plan of using boards to form a bridge across the mud, but cautioned me to stay on the boards. One board got me to the puddle’s edge, so I carried out a second to extend my reach. Now I had a boardwalk that took me to the center of the puddle. Carefully staying on the boards, I happily collected a jar full of tadpoles. Unfortunately, my mother had not clearly stated all the rules. I had breeched our agreement by crouching on the end of a board that was nine inches below the surface of the water. I guess I was to magically understand that instructions to stay on the board and not get muddy automatically included a clause prohibiting me from getting wet.

When dealing with any ephemeral body of water, it’s inevitable that some creatures will die. Certain organisms survive in temporary pools for the simple reason that the pools do not persist long enough to build up a population of predators. A dry pond now produces the conditions necessary for there to be an abundance of life next year.

None of the aquatic life will be going to waste. Skunks, birds, Opossums and Raccoons will thoroughly search the pond bottom and consume every edible scrap they can find.

Some species, like the Giant Water Bug, have wings and will seek out new water bodies. The immature nymphs will not survive.

I scooped out some of the survivors, just to see what we had. The tadpoles all seemed to be Gray Treefrogs. These frogs will lay eggs all summer and take a chance on any pool of water they can find.

Water Boatmen are strong fliers, but they are often the last insects to leave a drying pool. I think their problem may in part be an inability to launch themselves from a muddy substrate. I watched many Water Boatmen flip and flop their way across the mud until they reached firmer ground and then launched into the air.

The masses of breeding dragonflies that visited the pond last month were all just wasting their time. The nymphs will not survive the loss of water. This small nymph is wearing an effective camouflage cloak.

I gave sanctuary in one of my tubs of water to the rescued few. From here they should be able to complete their transformation to terrestrial creatures.


  1. Great images once again. And, this post sure brought back memories of my time as a kid exploring the woods with my friends.

  2. Oh, there is nothing like exploring in a pond. I can smell the rich odor of mud right now.

  3. Gee Steve..thats a shame your pond went dry....sorry to hear that !! :{
    I see you saved a few but I can't imagine how much life that was in that water!!
    I do love seeing the little footprints in the mud though!!

  4. Thanks, Lois. Every kid should have the opportunity to do that kind of exploration.

    Hi, Roberta. It took me quite a while to get the smell of that mud off of my hands.

    grammie g – I’m always sad when the pond goes, but I know it’ll be back this winter and the cycle of salamanders and frogs will continue.