Barely large enough for Canada geese to escape over the lush green canopy which engulfs our suburban backyard pond, this elderly ecosystem provides year round entertainment and natural beauty for those tuned into its humble qualities. At first glance one might think otherwise, as the thick mat of duckweed, powered by years of runoff from not so “green” residential lawn treatments, masks its beauty for several months of the year. But pay close attention and we can observe life’s dance from our perch above the pond.
Each year as the ice passes, our permanent biological residents awake to the excitement of the migratory fowl’s return, many of which use this short landing strip as a safe place to rest on their long flights to more northern puddles. For others; like the wood duck and mallard, this destination ushers in annual breeding and nesting rituals. Meanwhile shy painted turtles awake to bask in the sun on remnants of fallen guardians which sink deeper into the muck with each passing year, and a chorus of leopard frogs escalates into a sleep depriving din. Spring rains fill this pothole to overflowing as muskrats, raccoons, woodchucks, coyotes and deer leave their quiet tracks in the surrounding dampness.
As the warmth and dryness of summer ensues, reptilian elders begin egg laying, on land laid claim to long before our self proclaimed ownership. The snapper, blandings and painted turtles are but a few that leave the protective confines of the pond in this reproductive crusade. Feathery fishermen and long legged predators; the king fisher, snowy egret, blue, green and night herons stalk tadpoles and unwary amphibians hiding within the emerging vegetation. The carnival like atmosphere continues into late summer nights as owls on hoot patrol scan the pond’s protective borders in hopes of stirring a careless rabbit, vole, or frog.
As autumn arrives the pond becomes a gathering place of honkers and quackers who devour the flight powering vegetation in anticipation of their upcoming journey. Yet again the landing strip is tested and retested before great northern flocks gracefully drop in to refuel on their way south.
Those unable to leave for the winter return to the muddy realms as the days shorten, as the mercury falls life within the pond slows. Yet we continue to enjoy our pond as we play on the crystal blanket which covers our sleeping friends.