Pond Visitors

We only have a few ducks on the pond at this time of year. The geese have gone. It seems our geese are the kind that haven’t forgotten that they are supposed to fly south for the winter. With the extremely cold weather of these past few days, we have been keeping our fountain going continuously (usually, it’s on a timer for the daylight hours). This protects our koi by keeping the water from freezing solid across the top and diminishing their oxygen. The side-affect is that we are one of the few small bodies of water in our area that stays unfrozen on these especially cold nights. During the night, even with our precautions, the pond has a frozen edging. We go outside and see the ducks walking around on the ice in full view and plumage.

This morning, we had an added pleasure: a Eurasian widgeon and his mate were apparently traveling with a flock of the common American Widgeons. The distinctive Eurasian has a fine red head vs. our own who have green-banded eyes. Both communicate with soft whistles. They are nowhere near as noisy as the Mallards. Those guys tend to wake me up at sunrise during the spring and summer with wild bursts of quacking that sound as though they are laughing hysterically at their own jokes. The widgeons are congregating on the lawn west of the pond where the sun is melting the grass. They graze on land and dabble for pond weeds in the water.

I am still just learning about all the marvelous water fowl that come to visit. In the spring, we have seen the odd Wood Duck and its mate hanging around for a day or two as though checking out the real estate for a nesting site. We built a nest box and can only hope that they might take that into consideration some year. Other short term visitors have included American coots, Hooded Mergansers, and Horned Grebes (which always calls for a “where’s the camera???” clamour).

The big pond has brought us all sorts of delights over the seasons and years: an eagle “taking” a trout from the pond one summer afternoon, pairs of Cedar Waxwings that nest and hunt for insects around the pond, the kingfisher coming round for a look-see, or the Killdeer nesting in the labyrinth (Though the neighbor’s new cat has probably precluded THAT from happening again in the near future), or the Osprey hovering above the pond (while I cross my fingers that all the koi are down in the depths). Our previous pond was much more of a showcase for our koi, while this more unruly pond with all it’s weeds and debris is a showcase for wildlife. Here our koi disappear for weeks on end…with barely a glimpse or a spot of color on a cool day. But then a really warm day brings them out to sun themselves in the shallower water and we enjoy our “living jewels,” as they are called in Japan.

There are, of course, mammals that are attracted to the ponds as well. Raccoons footprints are evident in the mornings and bats seen in the evening sky. I imagine our little bats are hibernating somewhere warm now since the insect population is a bit sparse right now. A couple of years ago, a pair of coyotes found some dog marrow bones out on the lower lawns, We watched from our living room window, as they played “hockey” with the bones on the solidly frozen frog pond to the east of the house. There was definitely a “brave” one and a “wary” one….as they experimented with how far onto the pond they could venture.

Even though our thin coating of snow is disappearing in the drying winds, this whole week promises to be cold, so our eyes will be peeled for the occasional rare visitor. Meanwhile, it’s time to return to trimming the house with festivity.

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