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It’s in your nature: Around the pond

The “Dog Days of August” are upon us. July 2020 will be recorded as one of the warmest months ever. We can see a light at the end of the tunnel now as August begins, and maybe we can get more birding and/or longer nature walks under our belts.

I use the hottest months to always check out a few ponds and the Lehigh Canal for the variety of life that is available there. It comes as no surprise that aquatic habitats offer great feeding and breeding areas. I’ll try to provide some insight to what these areas in the Times News region have to offer.

The ponds I visited in April and May look starkly different now. A few months ago the water was clear and I could watch panfish and tadpoles. Now, the ponds’ surfaces are solidly covered with a limelike film. When the feeder streams slow to a trickle and little water replenishes the ponds, the world’s smallest seed plant, duckweed flourishes.

What many think is pond scum or algae is probably duckweed. It reproduces rapidly in the warm, sluggish water and usually is not a problem unless the pond doesn’t get its supply of water back quickly.

Duckweed plants are only about a ¼ inch in size and they essentially float on the water’s surface. Too much duckweed can result in pond fish kills. Fortunately, that seldom occurs.

Some ponds get covered with pond lilies. They are rooted to the pond bottom (in shallow waters) and the primarily floating leaves do offer protection for small fish and places for bullfrogs and green frogs to await the pond’s numerous insects.

Eventually autumn’s colder weather and then freezing temperatures cause the duckweed to disappear and the lilies to lose their grip on the surface.

The cycle of life can almost always be seen best around these aquatic gems. The algae and duckweed feed microscopic organisms which in turn feed many aquatic insects.

These insects in the water feed the fish or crustaceans, and those that reach maturity rise to the surface and now feed green darners and other dragonflies. Stand next to a pond or the canal for 10 or 15 minutes and you’ll be amazed by all the insect activity.

Of course, swallows, kingbirds and flycatchers dash around snagging insects, too. Painted turtles and snapping turtles lurk under the plants feeding on fish or crustaceans.

Every now and then a sinister looking head parts the duckweed covering as a northern water snake looks to cash in on all the food the ponds offer to them.

Early in the morning, look for great blue herons and green herons patrolling the pond shore to gobble up frogs or one of the water snakes.

So if you’ve seen most the birds in your neighborhood and just wanted to observe a different variety of animals, head to one of our farm or community ponds to watch, and ENJOY.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: The local pigeons living under our bridges, overpasses, and some barns are correctly identified as: A. fog horn, leghorn, B. white-crowned pigeons, C. rock doves, D. passenger pigeons

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: Robins, after nesting and feeding in your neat lawns, usually head to the “deeper” woods to continue feeding, and then as daylight shortens in October, they migrate south through our region.

Contact Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com.

Often overlooked in a pond's shallow water is broadleaf arrowhead. This plant produces tubers which were once very important to Native Americans. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Hot, dry summers much like this year result in many ponds covered with duckweed. A quick glance and algae appears to be the culprit, but this tiny seed plant can quickly cover a warming pond.
Walk close to the lime-colored water and you will see the 1/4-inch duckweed plants.
On the pond's clear surface look for water striders (an insect, not a spider) using their long feet to support them on the water surface tension. They glide slickly to catch and eat small insects.
Patrolling around the pond, green darners (type of dragonfly) snatch some of the emerging insects and mosquitoes.
Pond lilies sometimes nearly cover a pond's surface offering some “cover” for minnows, tadpoles or crustaceans.
Green frogs, like this one, join bullfrogs gobbling up insects and even green darners.
Great blue herons feed in the ponds looking for frogs, fish and even northern water snakes.