Nature: Pond Life

Our Pond

Here’s the small artificial pond we had put in at the edge of our yard about seven years ago. This is actually the third version. Each has had a flexible rubber liner to hold in the water in our normally quite dry terrain. The first liner sprang a leak about two years in. This was in the fall, during warm weather, and it was a slow leak, so I had time to order a new liner online, meanwhile keeping the pond filled with a hose. Then, on a weekend, Ellen and I undertook the task of taking everything out of the pond to insert the new liner.

This was a monumental, backbreaking task that I would never attempt again. My back took several weeks to recover, in fact. But we saved about two dozen goldfish, who swam in our bathtub for the duration, and about eight large frogs, who got by in a large styrofoam cooler. Everything went back in, and things went on as before.

The new liner lasted about another two years, and then IT sprang a leak as well. How this could possibly happen is beyond me, the liners are about three-quarters of an inch thick and very strong, but there it is. This time it happened in December, and I thought I would have to just let everything die, and deal with it in the spring. But, to counter the bad luck of the leak, we had an unexpectedly warm week in December, and I was able to find a landscaper/pond designer who came and redid the whole thing for us. We again saved the fish in our bathtub. The frogs were not so lucky, as they were in hibernation, and the workers threw them in the woods before I could do anything about it. One or two made it back to the pond. Many of the pond plants were lost, but I managed to save and replant some.

This third version of the pond, seen above, has been fine since, as far as the liner goes. The other day, down in Cape May, someone was talking about pond life. “We have plenty of that,” I said. “Unfortunately, 95 percent of it is algae.” The algae growth this year has been spectacular. If only we could eat it, we’d be in fine shape.

Pond with algae

Here’s some filling one edge of the pond, where you would normally be able to see the pebbles on the bottom. Periodically, every few weeks, I go to work with my pool scoop and take as much out as I can:

Algae in scoop

Here’s a scoopful. I scoop for about 20 minutes, taking at least 10 pounds or more out, all that I can get. Much of the algae is attached to things. In a week or so, it’s grown back. I could live with that, except that it clogs the recirculating water pump that creates the little faux waterfall, and helps keep the water aerated for the fish and other creatures. I have to clean the filter one or more times a day to keep it going.

Sadly, we’re down to one or two fish at this point. Not because of the algae. Last fall I walked out onto the back porch with my lunch in hand and surprised a Great Blue Heron, who had been standing in the pond having his own lunch. Most of the goldfish went that way. A few more perished over this past winter for reasons unknown.

Yellow-crowned night-heron

This spring we had another large avian visitor, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron seen above. This is a rare and endangered species, though there are some colonies of them along the coast nearby, but it’s about the last bird I would expect to see in our yard, barring a Bald Eagle. Night Herons, as their name implies, usually are active at night, but this one, probably a young bird, showed up at our pond in the middle of the day, looking to have lunch himself on our frogs. And that’s no doubt why the frog population took a sudden dive, though I didn’t actually see him catch any. For a while we were down to Fred the Frog, one large Green Frog who often croaks mournfully. Lately there’ve been a couple new very small frogs, either recently hatched here, or ones that came in during a rainstorm, as they sometimes do.

Water striders

So what sort of pond life is left, other than too much algae? Well, there are quite a few of these Water Strider insects, that use the surface tension of the water to walk on, an amazing talent. There are some snails, and other insects.

Cardinal Flower

The flowers are doing fine, with these Cardinal Flowers currently the star of the pond edge, and very popular with the hummingbirds. Occasionally a box turtle comes in for a swim. Larger birds will bathe in the pond, but most prefer the algae-free birdbath.

We’ve had algae blooms in past years, and what usually happens is, at some point, the growth crashes, and most of the algae dies. I’m hoping that will happen again soon. Meanwhile, I’ll keep scooping, cleaning the pump filter once or twice a day, and in between, enjoying the other pond life.

One thought on “Nature: Pond Life

  1. Pingback: Todd’s Blog » Blog Archive » Northern Waterthrush in the yard!

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