A hot August afternoon, when even the birds are silent. The wind is still; the leaves hang limply from the trees. Every living thing is seeking shelter from the midday sun, save these…
The Amphibious Assault Division of our Bug Brigade is hard at work!
A few words about our pond, first. It’s not a natural, spring-fed forest pool, but rather a dug-out catch basin to gather run-off from the area. It predates the house (we think), and most likely began life as a stock pond. In the wet times of the spring and fall, it is fed by a small stream, and has a tiny spillway to allow some water to escape, where it empties into the bay about a half-mile from here.
In the dry heat of August, it looks like a giant mudhole.The stream has long-since dried up, and you can walk across the dam without getting your feet wet. It’s still about 6 feet deep in the middle, which is ample depth for our troops to do their work.
Can you see them, just beneath the surface? Click to enlarge the photo if you can’t. Those little stick-looking things? Those are my fish. John had a load of carp brought in about 5 years ago, purchased from our local feed store. Before they managed to establish a stable population, the yard was a miserable place on summer evenings. Just getting from the house to the car could result in multiple mosquito bites. These days, bites are few and far between, without the use of commercial ‘dunks’ – cookie-like things that you throw in the water to kill mosquito larvae.
I know the choice of a non-native fish is controversial, but our proximity to salt water makes it almost impossible for these fish to escape and cause problems. Any flood stong enough to sweep them over the dam will take them all the way to the bay, where they wouldn’t survive. Carp can tolerate the poor water conditions in the pond in summer – unlike trout and other natives, which require running water all year. They’re the best choice for us.
As good as the fish are at eating the baby mosquitos, they can’t get them all. Enter the frogs, who work to clean up the leftovers and devour larger flying pests as well – like deerflies and horseflies. Frogs never have to be purchased from a store. Like they said in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come…” They will come and bring their friends and relatives! They’ll sing you to sleep on a cool spring night, and entertain you with their epic leaps on a walk by the water. Best of all, they’ll lay their eggs in your pond, ensuring a steady supply of recruits for your bug-eating troops!
The Third Battalion of our Amphibious Assault crew is the turtles, who not only eat bugs, but help keep the vegetation in the pond under control. They’re often the first signs of life in the spring, emerging when the days begin to warm, but the nights are still cool. In May or June, they leave the pond and wander the yard, looking for a place to bury their eggs. I have stumbled upon them in the flower beds, digging out their shallow nests, and even found baby turtles the size of a fifty-cent piece making their way back to the water. We have so many that James once said the pond should be given the name Turtle Pond.
Our lively pond is a thriving ecosystem, currently in good balance. But aquatic systems can be fragile, especially one like mine, that is essentially man-made. Overuse of chemical fertilizer in a neighbor’s yard can run into my pond and cause an algae bloom that smothers everything inside. Weedkillers like Roundup are extremely toxic to aquatic life, and must be used cautiously, if at all, to prevent damage. Things to think about before you grab a bottle or bag – where will this end up in a heavy rainstorm?
Next Week – The Ground Crew