When we moved into our home 12 years ago, there was a little “man-made” pond or water garden in our backyard. It is about 4 feet wide, 6 feet long and 3 feet deep. Someone dug a hole in the ground, lined it with vinyl, and put a few bricks and plants in it. Then they added some fish and frogs. It is right outside our living room window.
When we moved into the house, we added two water pumps to the pond to keep the water aerated and to discourage mosquitos from breeding in our backyard. From that point on, the pond came the focal point of our yard. While the yard is full of trees, bushes and perennial flowers, we always congregate around the little pond to watch for goldfish and frogs.
The home-owners before us left us fish food and pond chemicals. When that batch were done, we stopped adding anything to the pond, so little by little, it has become a self-sustaining little ecosystem. Each year, plants sprout up out of the submerged plant pots and fill the pond with leaves and flowers. Early in the Spring, there will be purple Irises, yellow Lilies, and blue-green lily pads. Later in the summer, there will be showy Water Lilies and arrowheads. In Spring and early summer, before the vegetation covers the surface of the water, we will see the Goldfish every day with their red-orange bodies dashing through the brown water.
As the season develops, and the pond is covered in lily pads and other leaves, the most visible creatures in the pond are the frogs. On hot summer days, they bask in the sun on rocks and lily pads, then leap across the pond when we step into the yard. When we moved into the house, there were three big Green Frogs living in the pond. They died off after three years, so we re-populated the pond with some tadpoles that we rescued from drought-stricken pond the fall before last. Last summer, we had the treat of watching the tadpoles grow legs and transform into frogs.
In the fall of 2011, we added two small Painted Turtles to the pond. We found them on a trail beside a dried up marsh late in the summer of 2011. They wintered in the pond and stayed for most of last summer. We would see them bathing in the sun on rocks and Lily pads beside the frogs. One disappeared early last fall. We don’t know if it wandered off in search of a new home or became a meal for the local Raccoons.
During the winters, we leave all of the plants and animals in the pond, and leave one pump running to keep the water aerated and to reduce the chances of the pond water freezing down to the ground. So far, this has worked. But each year, we wait with some anxiety to see which members of our pond community have made it through the winter.
Last week, we saw several orange bodies moving under the pond’s ice so we know that several of the Goldfish have survived. Four days ago, after a very long and cold winter, the ice on the pond melted. Right now, the water is green-brown and bare. There has been no sign of the fish since the ice melted but we have learned that the fish stay deep in the dark water to avoid predators when there is no vegetation. So, now the fun begins as we watch the pond come back life and wait for sitings of the animals that call it home.