Jeff Green | Apr 28, 2005
My pond - I call it my Paul Bunyan Pond - was dug at the time the house was built. It was to be the outlet for the water from the heat pump, and as a result it always has a small open area all winter because of the movement of water. It is in the shape of a large footprint about twenty feet long and up to fourteen feet wide, with the heel end shallow, and the main part about fourteen feet deep.
It was dug near a drainage ditch that goes from a marshy area to a small creek some distance away, and it did not take many days until it was filled and overflowing. At first there was no visible life, but by the end of that summer there were over two hundred frogs around the edge. As it aged it became inhabited by various water beetles, water boatmen, and other aquatic insects, though it took a number of years before the first aquatic plants tentatively emerged along the sides.
The number of frogs has fluctuated dramatically as Great Blue Herons, Mink, Raccoons and River Otters have discovered what a banquet it supplies. I have never seen the Red-spotted Newt in the pond, but have found the young efts nearby a couple of times. Northern Watersnakes have discovered it, Blandings Turtles have enjoyed it for several years, and a couple of years ago a large Snapping Turtle was present, though I did not see it last year.
In the spring it is sometimes visited by Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and always by Mallards. One year the Mallard nest containing 10 eggs was only a short distance away, and another year a mother Mallard brought four young ducklings, but did not stay because of the Snapping Turtle and Muskrats. Tracks across the ice in the winter indicate a Red Fox has visited the open area for a drink, and the Red Squirrels often leave their footprints on the ice as they make their way to the bird feeders.
Within a few years there was a surprise - a few tiny fish! Where did they come from? I guess they have managed to come from the small creek, up the ditch and into the pond. At first there were only two or three, but now there are dozens of fish, some less than an inch long, others that I call minnow-sized, and now several that are almost four inches in length. These last have me puzzled, though a friend has suggested they could be Pumpkinseed. Not being a fisherman and not knowing anything about this species, I started looking for information. The Pumpkinseed, sometimes called the Common Sunfish, is apparently quite common.
Descriptions of the Pumpkinseed indicate vertical striping, a black ear flap with a red crescent on the rear edge. It also is shown as a deep-bodied, laterally compressed fish. My little residents show some vertical striping and that red crescent at the rear edge of the black ear flap, but the shape is not deep-bodied. Is this because they are not big enough? I may have to wait another couple of years to see if they do become more the shape described, and really are Pumpkinseed. The information also indicates that Pumpkinseed are easy for young anglers to catch - maybe in a couple of years my grandsons can check out their fishing skills!
Observations: The first Dutchmans Breeches are in bloom, reported by Helm in Oconto. Marc Bouchard reports that Dandelions have been open for over a week in Kingston. Early Saxifrage is in bloom on the rock face opposite McGowan Lake.