each season has its own unique charm
No shortage of rocks or water - good description of where we live. Wrights Branch runs right down the middle of our land on its way to the Bluestone River. In addition to that little stream, an artesian spring feeds into Wrights Branch and provide drinking water for the farm. Multiple smaller springs, some seasonal, pop up all over the farm. At one time, the public service district wanted to purchase this property just for the water supply.
If you have ever lived near or frequently visited a pond, you probably already know most of what I have to say here. Doubt youve ever seen a catfish attack though.
When we moved here there was no pond. Where we decided to built the new house required an access road. Decided to put in a dam, run the road across it, and dig out a pond all just above the wetland in the path of Wrights branch.
The little stream usually dries up in late summer. Water from the artesian spring runs year round and can easily sustain a pond.
When the heavy equipment began digging out the pond, I ask the guys to do as much digging as possible in one day. We were having a drought that summer, they decided would be safe to finish up digging on second day. Knew better. Next day they did too. Their equipment was in standing water making completion a bit more difficult. In less then a week we had a full pond - no shortage of water.
Some time later we added drainage culverts to the dam and raised the height a bit. Had flooding over the dam during heavy rains. Still do during prolonged rainy spells but culverts work most of the time.
Stocked the pond with several species of fish. Eight years later we still have bass and catfish.
Enjoyed watching local fire department try out our ponds newly installed dry hydrant. Only second one in our county. They had to get properly gauged connectors and test the pressure before it could be approved for use. Read up on dry hydrants online. Big selling point was a drastic reduction in house insurance. We did not hesitate to take advantage of that perk.
Our dog, Nesslee loved the pond. She was a Chocolate Lab and took full advantage of her webbed paws. Never tired of fetching a ball or stick thrown in the pond. Swam with her humans or just swam out for a cooling dip. Did nearly lose her one time. She had seizures that were never fully controlled with medication. Generally, she had some warning of an impending attack. This day she unexpectedly went into a full blown seizure in the middle of the pond. From the edge I called her name repeatedly. She managed to keep her head above water and slowly move in my direction. Was ready to jump in to assist her but she made it close enough to the edge for me to reach her. Think we were both surprised she made it on her own. Surprised and so happy to have her safe and sound.
Ponds recreation value has been fully explored. Swimming, boating, fishing and ice hockey to mention a few activities have all been enjoyed by young, old and canine. Friends, family, Scout Troops, and avid fishermen have all been pond side. Wildlife and our domestic critters drink and bathe in it. Horses are especially fond of a dip in midsummer when temperatures are high.
We came up with a different way to walk on the ponds soft bottom. After sinking up to our knees while weeding an idea occurred - snowshoes! Laugh, but they worked. No more sinking. Our daughter also used them in the boggy part of the wetland. Right after her Dad sank up to his knees, had to walk home barefoot and return with a shovel to dig out his barn boots. Another use for snowshoes. Its called "bogging".
If you pay real close attention, you soon learn the ponds resident flora and fauna are amazing. A half acre of wonders, ever changing, guaranteed to surprise and astonish you.
Where do I start? ..
Spring peepers are as good a starting place as any. They herald in spring every year. At their peak, the sound can be deafening after dark. Then as if on cue, sometime after midnight the sound abruptly stops.
Frogs of every variety love the pond and the plants around it. One big bull frog lives under a forsythia bush at ponds edge. He enjoys the shade and protection the bush provides. Entertains his lady friends on occasion too.
Dragonflies hatch in the plants right on schedule every year. They cruise the pond surface - even stop at times to check out the human critters.
Insects are a big part of the ecosystem of a pond. We have our share. Barn swallows and bats do their part to take care of any over abundance. Natures bug control.
Another species we have plenty of are water snakes. More than once have dissected one when mowing or trimming the pond edge. They are not poisonous. Do have an attitude if cornered. If the opportunity presents itself they will flee as soon as possible.
Have a water snake story was sitting on edge of pond taking macros of aquatic flora. Deep in concentration I hear a splashing sound on far edge of pond. Not loud, but repeating. Because of a prior experience, knew exactly what it was. Got up, made my way toward the sound very slowly - camera at the ready. Sure enough, there it was, a water snake arched at waters edge with only half a fish visible in its mouth. The fish was struggling which caused the splashing. Even with its mouth wide open, wrestling with a fish the snake was vigilant. Ejected the fish and dove into the pond as soon as I got too close and made a wrong move. Darn! No picture - oh, well a tale to remember. Happy ending for the fish, swam away, safe for today.
On to our feathered friends. Mallards and of late black ducks have resided on the pond. At one time we fed them cracked corn. Their networking system cannot be topped. Soon all their friends from down on the river wanted rations too. Got to be too expensive. They were eating us out of house and home. Still have a few pair return every year. Have had young on pond twice that grew to adulthood. Most times, predators destroy or eat duck eggs. Moms still nest every year, ever optimistic for success.
Occasionally, Canada geese stop by. One year a pair decided to nest. Mom built her nest. Survived the spring high waters. Laid her eggs. The pair were excellent parents to be. Sadly though, the eggs started disappearing one by one until none were left. They have never returned to nest again. Disappointed but understand their concerns.
In the summer, a Great Blue Heron comes up from the river to fish. A skilled fisherman who has had many fish dinners from our pond. His stealth and grace are a sight to behold. Moving very slowly he will circle the pond in search of food. Never tire of watching him.
On one or two occasions have spotted a Green Heron down by the pond. Visits are rare, he seems very shy.
Kingfisher favor the power line as their spotting position. Are here quite often, must be successful fishermen too. Their characteristic call and dive are easy to identify.
Snapping turtles, now there is a tale and a half. Some say they are good to eat. Havent tried any here. Have tried unsuccessfully to lower their numbers in our pond. If ever we are in need of turtle meat, no worries. Their little heads sticking up in the pond can be seen all summer long. Are a nuisance to say the least. Destructive to the dam structure. Eat or maim ducks on the surface. Multiply quickly. Have baited and killed many - numbers replenish quickly. Not a fan of snapping turtles.
Did on one occasion happen on a snapping turtle laying eggs. The females travel away from the pond to dig a hole and lay their eggs. Have seen them in yard or elsewhere in transit, but never actually laying the eggs. Was exciting to see. The female was totally oblivious to my presence. Was able to shoot all the pictures and video I wanted. So I did.
One last pond tale. We stocked catfish and they flourished - too much so. Their number and size have outgrown our pond. While trimming around the pond, we noticed a "boiling" effect in the water. On closer examination, saw a dead adult duck amongst the "boiling" water. Thought a snapping turtle had killed it, at first. Then we saw the fins. A swarm of large catfish were literally pulling dead duck apart and eating it. Eight or nine catfish took part in the slaughter. It went on all afternoon until the duck was totally devoured. Have never witnessed anything so frightening and disgusting. Open invitation extended to all who want to fish for catfish. We badly need to lower their number.
Well, pond flora will just have to be explored some other time. Enough words in this story.
If youre ever up this way, stop by our pond. Each season has its own unique charm. Bring your camera, always a photo op. Maybe Ill show you the killer catfish video.