Saturday, May 31, 2008

About 'Greatest Hits' Category

All bloggers have a few specifics posts that they consider their best posts. Sometimes those posts elicit a lot of comments. Sometimes they pass into oblivion with barely a murmur.

I know that blogging is normally about the 'here and now', the latest post. New visitors, however, may want to check out some of the older posts. But who has time to wander through dozens or hundreds of older posts? Wouldn't it be better to highlight some of the most entertaining and worthwhile older posts to save them time?

I decided I would classify some of the best posts into a 'Greatest Hits' category based primarily on the comments they received. This is not based on the total number of comments the post garnered, but rather the nature of the comments. Basically I selected those with a significant level of comments that indicated the visitors found the post particularly interesting or entertaining.

You will find that many of these are PhotoHunt weekly theme posts as they generally result in high visitor counts and a corresponding high number of comments. I have included some others that did not receive as many comments, but where the comments indicated the visitors truly liked the post or perhaps the photo's included. Plus, I included one or two of which I personally liked.

If you are new to the blog we hope you enjoy some of the 'Greatest Hits'. Of course we invite you visit even more posts perhaps through using the category lists for specific topics that might interest you.

Thanks for visiting our blog and please come again soon. We would love to see you.


31 Names Ain't So Easy

Several weeks ago, before this blog was born, one of the youngsters in the neighborhood who visits the pond regularly had a birthday. She is a special young girl and I see her often at the pond. I was invited to the small party for the event, but was admonished not to feel required to bring a gift. Well of course I was going to get her something, but I didn't want to just go buy some toy or such which she may or may not like and which would likely just be 'lost' among the other presents and soon be forgotten as she grew older. I thought about it a bit and came up with what I thought would be a great gift.

The party was one Saturday afternoon. After she had finished opening her other gifts I told her mine couldn't be wrapped and she had to help me get it for her. So off we went to the pond. I produced a heavy glass bowl (the 'bowl' from an earlier post). As soon as she saw the bowl she guessed what the gift was. "We are going to catch tadpoles!!" Together we prepared the bowl with some dirt, mud, and grass from the edge of the pond and added pond water to recreate the environment the tadpoles lived in. Then we collected the tadpoles, all 31 of them. The water in the bowl was literally alive with tadpoles. Then it was back home to install the tadpoles in a place of honor where they could be observed daily by all the family. The tadpoles not only survived but flourished. In just a matter of days she was on the phone letting me know that her tadpoles were growing legs. As the tadpoles grew and became more frog-like she began putting them back into the pond to let them live out their lives as nature planned until eventually all the tadpoles were returned to the pond.

Perhaps it wasn't the perfect gift, but I'm pretty sure of one thing. Over time she will likely forget most of the other gifts she unwrapped that day. But, just perhaps, for the rest of her life she may remember that bowl and going down to the pond that day to collect 31 tadpoles with her friend.

By the way, I forgot to ask her if she ever came up with 31 names for all those temporary tadpole pets.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day

We didn't have any specific festivities planned for Memorial Day at the pond. Many relatives and friends had other plans or were out of town. Some friends decided to bring the family over for a bit of fishing later in the day, however. Altogether the pond had about 15 visitors.

The fishing was pretty good, but came in spurts. The fishing success was spread around among the kids and adults with some nice size bass and bream being caught. (I even caught one. It's the big bream at the top in the picture.)

We also had an unusual situation. Within the space of an hour or so we hooked 4 turtles. Two got loose before they were reeled all the way in, but two were hooked so well we had to pull them in to remove the hooks. One was a slider about 4"-6" long and we are not yet sure what type the other one is. It is a good bit larger, maybe 6"-8" long. (The two turtles are temporarily residing in a wire cage which is partially submerged on the edge of the pond until we get a chance to positively identify them.)


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Good Time Was Had By All

Some friends and relatives visited the blog and forwarded a few pics from a couple of times when they stopped by to visit last year and did a little fishing. The first pics are from an unusually warm day in March of last year.

Looks like the fishing was pretty good for March. And looks like she was holding her own.

These pictures were evidently from a week later. Catching that 'first' fish is always exciting for the kids.

But even cooler is when you catch one that is bigger than Daddy's!!

And then from Memorial Day weekend last year, a little relaxation in the hammock chair when not fishing.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Visitors Galore

The past few days have been very busy around the pond. During the Memorial Day weekend the pond had at least 55 different visitors (excluding multiple visits from some of the near-by residents.)

Saturday was the big day when the pond played host to a Cub Scout group along with their parents and siblings. The group chose the pond for their annual year-end ceremony where the scouts are awarded many of their achievement badges and are promoted to the next level of scouting. They gathered around 10:00 in the morning and some stayed as late as 5:00 in the afternoon. The day was filled with a lot of activity and I'll guarantee none of the kids were bored.

The day had 2 main highlights. The awards ceremony was definitely a high point for many of the scouts as stood along with a parent to receive their awards and promotions.

In addition to the ceremony , the scouts (and the fathers of course) had a great time creating an aerial display using model rockets built by the scouts. They launched probably 25-30 rockets during the day. The multiple launches were really interesting when they fired-off 4-5 rockets at one time. (And let's be honest. The fathers had as much fun as the kids with this one.)

Lunch was the typical cookout fare with hotdogs, chips, beans, and drinks. Plus, one of the parents supplied some really excellent brisket. And the lunch was topped off by the obligatory watermelon cutting.

Of course the scouts and their siblings spent a lot of time around the pond. It seemed everyone was interested in the tadpoles, frogs, fish, and turtles we had available for them to see and learn about. One scout surprisingly even caught a small red-ear slider in a net. Some of the visitors tried their luck at the fishing. Only a few did any 'serious' fishing and they didn't fish very long due to all the other activities. It was a rather warm day and not too many fish were caught, but I don't think anyone was really disappointed.

In total we counted at least 43 visitors to the pond on Saturday alone. And was it a success? Without a doubt. Three of the scouts came to me personally and asked if they could come back next year for their awards ceremony. And one asked if they could come back next week and do it all over again.


More Details On The Pond and Water Quality

Every pond has its own unique set of parameters which impact the quality of the habitat. As I have said before the pond is fed primarily from rainfall and from what was 4 springs near the head of the pond. Due to the topography the pond gets very little run-off water when it rains even in a downpour. Essentially it just gets what is within the immediate slope of the banks. Consequently it does not get a material influx or dirty or contaminated water. That's generally good.

On the downside, however, when we experience drier than normal years the inflow of water is restricted. When it is extremely dry (such as last year) apparently the ground water level drops and the inflow from the springs is diminished or ceases entirely as far as we know. Normally the water level in the pond goes up during the winter and begins dropping in the late spring and through the summer as evaporation starts taking its toll. At one time the pond would rise enough each year to top the overflow pipe periodically. I haven't seen it that high in several years. Currently the pond is about 15-18 inches below the full level, already down 2-4 inches from its high point 3-4 weeks ago.

Since the pond has little in the way of dirty water flowing in, the water can often be relatively clear. In some years it is very clear, almost to the extent that it is like a big aquarium. In other years it is more cloudy (such as this year) depending on the algae blooms, etc. And, being a rather small pond and not excessively deep it is subject to larger swings in temperature than a larger body of water, particularly in a hot, dry summer.

The bottom drops off rather rapidly as you leave the banks around the deeper end of the ponds. Currently one can see the bottom fairly well out about 6-8 feet from the edge where the water is 3-5 feet deep at the deep end of the pond. I'm not sure how deep the pond is throughout, but its deepest point is likely 8-10 feet deep if the pond is at a full level.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

"And stay away!!"

Many birds are very territorial and vigorously defend their nesting sites from other birds. A couple of weeks ago I saw a perfect example of this. Evidently a rather large crow had ventured a little too close to a mockingbird nest which is probably in the thicket at the shallow end of the pond. Crows are known nest predators of smaller songbirds. The mockingbirds (well-known for actively defending their nests against potential predators) were on guard, however. Pure pandemonium broke loose.

Three mockingbirds immediately attacked the crow relentlessly from all directions and drove it from the area. The crow was having a difficult time in gaining altitude due to the repeated attacks from the mockingbirds and decided to land in the pasture about 75 yards away. The three mockingbirds landed in a circle around the crow and walked along with it keeping it under constant watch. Soon the crow took flight again and the mockingbirds took off after it resuming their attacks. The crow headed for the pine thicket about 125 yards away and was evidently able to shake off his pursuers as they soon returned to the pond area singing a wide variety of songs, obviously proud of their successful defense of the nest and daring any other birds to come near.


Friday, May 23, 2008

The First One of the Season

Last night I saw a sure sign that summer is just around the corner. I spotted my first lightning bug (or firefly as they are also known) of the season down near the pond. Technically they are neither a 'true' bug nor a fly but a beetle. In colloquial terms a beetle is considered a 'bug' so I guess that is close enough. I think lightning bug is more of a Southern term while elsewhere they are called a fireflies.

Regardless of the name they are always a special treat when they emerge during the late spring. Even though I have never kept a record of when the lightning bugs appear each year it seems that they appeared a little bit later this year than they normally do. Most years I am surprised when they show up, but this year I have been watching for them for a week or two already.

I've always thought that lightning bugs bring a sense of magic to late spring and early summer evenings.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two's Company, Three's a Crowd

For years red-tail hawks have been regular visitors in the area surrounding the pond. The frequency of sightings seems to go in cycles. For 2-3 years they will be very prevalent and then for 2-3 years there will be only occasional sightings. These cycles are probably related to the availability of prey which consists primarily of small mammals such as field mice. We presume their hunting reduces the prey population and the hawks shift to other areas until the local prey population rebounds and the area becomes productive again. Some red-tail hawks evidently maintain two nests that they rotate between depending on the hunting.

This year the red-tail hawks have been very active. In fact, back in March we had 3 hawks and they really put on a show. Evidently we were witnessing either some male competition for a female or fighting over a nesting/hunting site. Red-tail hawks are very territorial and will vigorously defend their hunting grounds. We did not actually witness any courtship rituals which I understand are very impressive, but for days we could hear the screeching calls and see three of them flying and soaring. They were even very visible flying low through the trees frequently. Most of the activity was centered around a big hawk nest in a large pine tree which borders on a fairly large open space. The nest has been there for several years. It's about 150 yards from the pond, but it is on the other side of a stream and up a hill so it is an area we don't often visit.

Eventually the daily 'battles' became quieter and now we just see two hawks so we figure the third one finally gave up and went elsewhere to find a mate or nesting/hunting site. We still are treated to the sight of these beautiful fliers periodically during the day and of course we can hear the trademark screech throughout the day. Those red-tail hawks that survive past the first 1-2 years of life can live for up to 20 years and they are typically monogamous so it is possible our pair has been around here for years. We plan to keep a closer eye on the nesting site and see if we can get some good pictures.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Blogspot gets some friends

We thought catching Blogspot the red ear slider turtle was most unusual, but even more surprises were to come. On the day after we acquired Blogspot I was walking across the nearby pasture in a slight drizzle of rain on my way to check out the pond. I just happened to look down and spotted another hatchling in the grass. This was an entirely different kind of turtle, possibly a box turtle, but it was almost exactly the same size as Blogspot. Three baby turtles
The very next day we captured another baby red ear slider (RES) in the pond not far from where we found Blogspot.

This RES was noticeably larger than Larger-Baby-Turtle Blogspot causing us to believe that maybe it came from a different hatching and was perhaps just a bit older. Also, the red ear marking is much more prominent than Blogspot's.

All-three-baby-turtlesIn this photo you can see the relative sizes of all three turtles. (Those are 1" squares by the way. Each square is about the size of a quarter coin.) Left-to-right that is Blogspot, the larger red ear slider, and the turtle found on land. When taking this picture we noticed an unusual phenomenon. It seemed every time we placed the turtles on the paper the two sliders would start to move forward, but the land turtle would immediately start to back up.

Two days later we caught yet another RES and it is almost exactly the same size as Blogspot leading us to believe that perhaps the 2 are siblings. We haven't actively looked for any more but, I'm sure there must be a few in the pond.

Obviously, the hatchlings have been a big hit with everyone who has seen them.


Monday, May 19, 2008

We all need structure in our lives - So do ponds

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had added some wooden pallets (built into an A-Frame configuration) to provide a bit of extra structure in the pond. One thing about man-made ponds is they usually lack sufficient structure unless it is introduced artificially. Natural ponds and lakes generally have natural structure in the form of fallen trees, natural plant growth, and uneven bottoms with rocks, ledges, and holes which evolved naturally. A smaller man-made pond frequently has a relatively smooth bottom, especially near the dam area where the earth was moved and shaped to form the pond. Most trees are normally removed except perhaps in the upper or shallow end of the pond. This pond has a relatively smooth bottom throughout except for a few rocks, some of which were pushed into piles.

Structure is important to fish in many ways. It provides safety, shade, cover for predators, etc. Animal and plant life tend to congregate around structure in the water. Perhaps more importantly some fish require particular structure to successfully reproduce. The introduction of artificial structure is common, especially in marine environments. In 2006 a decommisioned aircraft carrier was intentionally sunk in the Gulf of Mexico to provide an artificial reef where both plants and animals could flourish. I understand Florida has over 2,000 artificial reefs with 450+ being old ships.

We plan to introduce additional structure to the pond in a variety of forms. Since we don't have our own aircraft carrier we have to improvise. We built these structure forms from some old plastic pipe which was free. The only cost was the nuts and bolts which hold them together and the time it took to build them plus a little concrete to weigh down the bottom pipes to keep them in place. We plan to introduce some additional similar but smaller structures primarily for catfish habitat.


Sunday, May 18, 2008


Over the past few years we have noticed that there seemed to be an increased number of turtles in the pond and we've been wondering how many and what kind we might have. We decided to capture some of the turtles to try to identify them. We use turtles traps (benign in nature of course) and we also catch some individually in hand-held nets on poles. Well, this week we captured our first real prize, a hatchling red ear slider.

Red ear sliders are not uncommon. They are among the most loved turtles of those who keep turtles as pets. Millions have been sold around the world. I think perhaps it is the markings on the turtle that makes them so special. They generally have a profusion of stripes and spots that make each turtle unique. The markings on the head and front legs are especially prominent. They give each turtle its own personality it seems.

In the wild the turtles can be hard to observe up close. As with most turtles they quickly dive or head for cover at the first sign of potential danger. And the hatchlings can easily hide in the profusion of grass in the edge of the water around the pond. A few days ago I noticed a small movement in some of the grass and thought it did not look like a fish. I thought perhaps it was a frog. I fetched a net and on the first try I came up with what turned out to be a baby red ear slider.

Almost immediately we knew this one would probably be a keeper, at least for the short term. We retrieved an unused aquarium I had and set up a new home for our turtle. And, of course he(she) needed a name. We came up with 'Blog' as it seemed he(she) might become sort of a mascot for the blog. Then later when ER saw the turtle he suggested 'Spot' due to the obvious pattern of spots on the bottom. Aha! Blogspot! Of course!


The 'bowl'

Quite often when we catch smaller animals such as small fish, tadpoles, frogs, and the like we want to keep them for a short while so others can see them or until we have a chance to take pictures. After a few trips back to the house for containers we decided we needed a more permanent solution for temporary housing at the pond. We decided to use the 'bowl'. Now the 'bowl' has it's own little history involving the pond which I'll tell you about later. As you can tell it is similar to a fish bowl, but the glass is much heavier. It is placed near the bank in a convenient spot which is shaded throughout the day.

The 'bowl' has housed many specimens on a short term basis including bass which were only a matter of hours old (often called 'fry'), other small fish, a wide variety of tadpoles in different stages of development, baby frogs, and even turtles. The 'bowl' has rapidly become one of the first stopping points for some of the regular visitors when they drop by to check out what is happening at the pond.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Beautiful and busy day

So much has been happening at the pond the past few days that it is hard to keep up. Just today the pond had 13 human visitors throughout the day with 2 of them being first time visitors. A couple of the visitors that were fishing caught enough for dinner, but I have to admit there was a some question as to who would have the honor of cleaning the fish once they got home. I'm not too sure how that was going to turn out. Most of the visitors were just enjoying the beautiful day and the fish, frogs, and turtles. At one time today there were 10 visitors coming from 5 different places who happened to congregate at the pond.

The green herons returned today. They had been absent for 3-4 days or at least they hadn't been observed. They are pretty shy birds and tend to stay on the far side of the pond away from the human visitors so it is a bit hard to get a good picture of the them, but we will keep trying. The great blue heron also dropped by, but there was probably a bit too much activity at the time for his liking. He is an occasional visitor and usually comes early in the morning.

Also, we've had some 'special' catches in the past few days (including one today). I will have to tell you about that in a later post once I get the pictures. This brings up a point I've been meaning to mention. Although I have been making all the posts on the blog to this point, the blog is really a team effort. Most of the pictures have been taken by others (GG and AR primarily) and soon you will likely be seeing posts from others involved with the blog and the pond.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Having any luck?"

Every fisherman/woman has heard this question when someone joins them at a pond, lake, or river. Fishing is at times based on a bit of luck, but there is one major requirement that can't be overlooked. The water you are fishing in has to have fish. So what kind of fish does this pond have?

When the pond was originally built (over 20 years ago) is was stocked. I'm not certain of the exact extent of the stocking, but I'm sure it included largemouth bass, channel catfish, and some type(s) of bream. (For the sake of brevity in this blog 'bream' is used more or less as a generic term to refer to several types of freshwater game fish that are not necessarily specifically related but are similar in general terms and size. Sometimes they are called pan fish as they seldom outgrow the size of a frying pan with fish weighing over a pound not common in smaller ponds unless they are fed on a regular basis. They may include several varieties such as bluegill, perch, or other sunfish. I also include crappie. If I am referring to a specific variety I will try to use the specific name.)

And, oh yeah, a few sterile grass carp were added to keep the growth of aquatic grass at some reasonable level. More on them later.

I'm not aware of any additional game fish stockings over the past few years until this spring.

Over the years the quality of the fishing experience seems to have gone through cycles. It could be that the mix of fish populations had gone out of balance at times. Or perhaps the water quality had cycled from good to bad and back again.

Over the past 2-3 years it seemed as though the fishing was off a bit. There appeared to be an abundance of smaller bass (3/4 to 1 pound) but fewer bream of different varieties. And, very few catfish were taken.

Also, it seemed that the under-water grass was more extensive. For some time the pond had two rather larger grass carp from the original stocking, but suddenly we would only see one. Last year 3 young grass carp were added to help control the grass.

Since the fishing was a bit below par last year GG decided to try to boost the fish populations a bit and this spring we added a few bream and catfish. These were added around the end of March. Of course it will be some time before we may see the results of the stocking but, hopefully, it will improve the fishing within the next year or two. I'm really looking forward to catching a few more catfish.

Already this year we are seeing an improvement in the amount and size of bream caught. This isn't a result of the stocking, of course, as those fish that survived have not had time to grow significantly. We can also see what appears to be more active bream and we have been feeding them daily so we have hopes that the fishing will be good this year.

As for the bass, there are plenty of them as always. You can normally see some of the smaller ones (3/4 to 1 pound) at various points around the lake. One day a few weeks ago I counted 25 bass from standing in one place. The were all hovering around the sides waiting for a quick meal.

A lot of the bass fishing in the pond is by different individuals who come over for a few minutes of relaxation or fun in the late afternoon and early evening. Since they are only going to catch 2-3 at the most they seldom keep the fish and will return them to the pond. This is just a guess, but I think perhaps the pond has an overabundance of these smaller predators and they consume an undue amount of the smaller feeder fish. This competition for food probably keeps many of the mature bass from growing significantly. We would probably benefit from a concerted effort to remove some of these smaller bass from the food chain and will likely do something about that in the near future. There are some larger bass in the pond, but we seldom see any caught which are over 2 1/2 - 3 pounds. Still, that's a nice size for such a small pond. And of course we all expect to be the one who catches that 'big one' which has been hiding out in the deeper water for years.

I'll try to round up some older pics of fish caught in the pond and include them in future posts.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Diversions (1)

Let's face it, not everyone has the same affinity for nature and the environment. And not everyone loves to fish for hours. This is particularly true with kids. Most kids can have a short attention span and may need a bit more variety or different forms of entertainment and activity. The 'patience' gene is often weakest among the youngest. Realizing kids and adults alike appreciate a bit of variety we have added a few simple 'diversions' for fun around the pond.
One of the first things we added was horseshoes. We decided we would place the horseshoe pits away from the pond and down near the edge of the woods. This would keep it out of the traffic flow and also provide adequate shade through-out the day making for a nice comfortable game or two. This is no regulation horseshoe pitching lane. The ground is sloped just a bit and pits are often covered in pine straw. But, after all, this is just for fun and laughs.

We went a step further and provide not only regulation size horseshoes but also real horseshoes (right off the horse's hoof). Although they are harder to toss accurately, they are much easier for the kids to handle as they are much lighter. We also have some of the hard rubber shoes for the much younger children so they can get in on the fun, too. Also, we shorten the distance required for the toss depending on the age and abilities of the players so that everyone can join in. One good thing is we can just leave the horseshoes out year around so if you want to play a quick game you don't have to go retrieve the equipment. A quick paint job periodically is all that is required to keep them presentable. (Oops, looks like it is time for that paint job on the post.)

And one other thing. Notice the white cap on the post? That is a common leg protector used on chair legs to keep them from scratching floors. We put them on to provide a little protection from the hard metal of the post tops should someone accidentally fall on or against a post. They rarely impact the play of the game and we felt they were prudent, especially considering the number of younger children who come over to play.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

There are tadpoles and then there are !!!TADPOLES!!!

I've written about the mass arrival of the tadpoles back in late March, but most of those tadpoles have either grown and perhaps transformed into frogs or fallen victim to predators or natural conditions as nature would have it. We continue to see tadpoles but in smaller numbers. They are obviously of different species as some very small and some are, shall we say, BIG. We were able to catch a few of the smallest and largest to give you a comparison.
The smaller tadpoles are among the smallest we have seen. The large one is not the biggest but close to it. If you look closely at the the back of the body you will be able to see the hind legs beginning to emerge on the larger tadpole.

another view where perhaps you
can see the new legs
more clearly.

These tadpoles (especially the larger ones) are unbelievably fast in darting to new cover or burrowing themselves into the mud bottom when disturbed. They virtually disappear before your eyes. We were lucky we found some in the 'fish pen' we constructed for smaller fish. We hope to monitor their transformation into frogs and will update with pictures if we are lucky enough to get some.

By the way, we aren't sure what frogs all these tadpoles will become. We feel that some may be spring peepers and that perhaps others are various woodland frogs that come down to the pond to mate and lay their eggs. Of course, due to their size, we presume those larger tadpoles will become bullfrogs as we have many in and around the pond.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Creature Comforts (Human Creatures)

The pond was built over 20 years ago and has been used primarily for recreational fishing by family, neighbors, and friends and as a place to go just to enjoy nature and a bit of relaxation. For years there was little in the way of creature comforts such as seating arrangements, etc. for the human visitors. Over the past few years we have added a few benches and swings around the pond making it a bit more user friendly. Most of the benches (and one of the swings) are portable so they can be easily moved to accommodate visitors depending on the sun/shade factor or the number of visitors.

One of the favorites of most everyone is the hammock chair swing. This rope swing is so comfortable that if you get situated just right you can take a quick nap. Kids love it, too. It is hung from a large pine tree that has spreading limbs. (This is a bit unusual here in this part of the country where most of the pines are tall growing pines with few limbs suitable for swings and such.) We usually keep it hung fairly low and close to the ground to accommodate the younger visitors and help protect them from mishaps.

Recently we began adding some more permanent seating arrangements at certain points around the pond. These are nothing elaborate. In fact we elected to go with something simple and functional. It seemed more in line with the small, friendly nature of the pond. As a bonus they are really inexpensive. As a matter of fact we just used materials we had on hand. We still have a few more to build and install, but this will give you an idea of what we are doing.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Just Catchin' Some Rays"

Blithely ignorant of the potential of developing shell cancer from extended time exposed to those harsh UV rays most turtles love to bask in the warmth of the sun. A few years ago we realized that the pond was lacking in available 'structure' for the fish. Smaller fish use structure such as dead trees and rocks in the water to help avoid their predators. And the predators? Well they use such structure to hide near so they can ambush unsuspecting prey.

A friend who frequently fished in the pond had some old pallets lying around and made a couple of A-frame type shelters to provide a bit of structure. The wood of the pallets was very dry when we put them in the pond so we left one sitting in relatively shallow water near the bank. We were concerned that it might actually float away if we just put it in the deeper water. Well, we never got around to moving it into deeper water as the bottom wood became heavier with the absorbed water. As a result a portion of the structure is out of the water and due to the slope of the bottom the wood slopes into the water.

Well, it turned out that turtles just love it. Since the pond is not so old there were no natural places for them to bask such old logs or fallen tree trunks in the water. Obviously the basking turtles prefer a surface above the water level but with water all around so they can easily slide back into the safe refuge. (Turtles are evidently very shy about basking in the nude with other species too nearby so one has to sneak up on them to get a good look.) The structure is on the north side of the pond and just happens to be sloped just right for them to catch the best of the morning and afternoon sun at the best angles for a quick warming in the early spring. We have noticed some turtles actually basking on the edge of the banks to catch the morning sun when the pallet structure is full.

We are thinking of possibly making a couple of more natural basking structures using some tree trunks or perhaps some scrap rough cut boards we have around. We will keep you posted on that one.


Friday, May 9, 2008

"OMG! There are thousands of them!!"

During the latter part of winter we decided we needed to schedule a 'pond clean up day', sort of a spring cleaning for the area around the pond. Basically it was needed to cut down and clean up some of the brush that had grown up around certain areas of the pond and prune or cut down a few trees on or around the banks and haul them off. As the pond has always been kept relatively clean it was not a real big job, but more hands made the work go faster and easier. We ended up scheduling the day for the last weekend in March. The weather forecast called for possible rain starting in the afternoon but luckily it was a bit late coming and we had a beautiful, warm day to work. Actually it became unseasonably warm, especially with all the cutting and hauling work.

In the early afternoon as we were finishing up ER was walking along the side of the pond and noticed some activity in the grass in the very edge of the water. There was continuous movement in the water rippling the top. It was almost as though the water was about to come to a boil. It took only a few minutes to realize we were watching the first spring crop of tadpoles beginning to emerge. As we walked along the edge of water we could see additional spots with activity. It was really amazing. Each spot had what seemed to be dozens or hundreds of tiny tadpoles wiggling and squirming in a small mass. And there were dozens of such spots. A quick calculation indicated there must be thousands of these tiny little funny creatures being born as we watched.

Now none of us are biologists so some of this is just a guess, but we surmised that the emergence at that time was likely triggered by the unusually warm and sunny day. It seemed that the area was concentrated along the western bank of the pond that runs north and south. This means it is the area that gets the direct morning and afternoon sun and is not shaded until late in the afternoon. We were just lucky enough to be there when the right combination time and temperature brought them out. (By the way, we were not sure about what type of frog these tadpoles would become. The were relatively small and started to show their developed legs within about 4-5 weeks. More on this later.)

Unfortunately we did not think to take pictures at the time of the mass arrival of those tadpoles. We took some pictures later of some new arrivals but they come no where near what we saw on that one amazing day. The tadpoles in this picture are about the same size. Just imagine that area being covered by so many squirming little tadpoles that you could only see about 50% of the sandy bottom. And then multiply that by perhaps dozens of similar spots along the shoreline and you will get an idea just how many there were on that first day.

When researching a bit on tadpoles I came across this great site with fantastic pictures of a frog spawn development from the morning they were laid through the tadpoles emergence to swimming. Check it out. Thanks to Nature Mama at Nature Notes From Above for that link.


"Look, Daddy!"

We live in a generally rural area, but it has really grown in the past 15-20 years. Fortunately we live on a short road that is not heavily traveled. It a pretty little rolling road with several houses but most are set back into the woods (mostly hardwood trees) and most lots have an ample amount of open land or pasture out front. Several residents have fenced pastures and horses. There are 2 prominent ponds along the road. In the early evening and on weekends it is not uncommon to see people who live nearby use our road for their daily walks or bike riding because it is fairly quiet with limited traffic. Plus, many will bring their children (or grand children) down the road for some quality time or maybe to feed the horses some sugar or carrots.

The pond is situated near the road with the shallow-end being very close to the road but almost hidden by the thicket of brush and vines which we let grow wild. This sort of separates the pond from the road. If we happen to be out near the pond we will often invite these passing neighbors (or the occasional non-resident passing by) over to the pond, especially if they have young children with them. During the spring and into the summer it seems there is always something to see at the pond and for many of the kids it is a new experience, perhaps their first exposure to a real natural setting, the first time they every touched a tadpole or held a fish or frog in their hands.


'Did You Know' Archives

One of the benefits of creating this blog was that it prompted us to do a bit of further research on some of the animals and plants in and around the pond. I repeatedly run across some interesting facts and figures or comments that explain some behavior we have witnessed. We decided to add a 'Did You Know?' item to the sidebar to pass along some of the interesting tib-bits of information we run across. You never know when you might be able to drop one of them into a conversation and instantly appear to be an expert on the subject.

We plan to change the 'Did You Know?' periodically, but wanted to keep the old ones in case future visitors might enjoy reading them. We decided to create this more-or-less permanent post where we could place the old entry when it is retired.

Female bass can lay up to 100,000 eggs at a time and then the male bass generally takes over and guards the eggs and young fish immediately after they are hatched.
(If you had just laid 100,000 eggs you would probably want Mr. Mom to take over for a while, too.)



The green heron is one of the few birds to use tools in their search for food. They will sometimes drop a bit of food (or something that looks like potential food) into the water and stand patiently waiting for their prey to come to them to check it out.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Pond

First, a brief description may be in order. To give you an idea of the general climate and such the pond is located in a basically rural area not too far from Atlanta, GA in the USA. It is a rather small pond being just over an acre in size. (Approximately 45,000 square feet or 4,100 square meters. ) It's not a large pond but does support an abundant array of wildlife. In fact, the relatively small size lends a certain air of intimacy to the setting. The banks of the pond are kept clear for about 75%-80% of the pond with the remaining portion (primarily the shallow end) being allowed to grow free.
The pond is spring fed but also relies heavily on the annual rainfall which averages around 50 inches per year. The last 12-18 months have been unusually dry and we are still suffering from the effects of that drought which brought only about 40%-50% of the normal rainfall in 2007. The lack of rainfall evidently impacted the flow of the springs also as the ground water levels fell. The recent winter rains have brought up the level of the pond but it is still about 12-14 inches below full currently.


Work In Progress

With the coming of spring our little pond really came to life. We were discussing all the interesting things going on in and around the pond and decided to keep a record of the happenings and share them with our friends.

Obviously this is a new blog and it will take a bit of time to set it up, find some good pictures, etc. Unfortunately some of the posts about the prior happenings will not have associated pictures as we generally did not have a camera available at the time. We plan to remedy that in the on-going posts when possible.

We invite you to come back and visit to share our little pond with us.