Pond and wetland life
Pond lilies provide “cover” for fish and frogs, while providing oxygen and shade. Don’t forget the aesthetic value as well. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
This wood turtle probably hibernated in this pond’s muddy bottom, emphasizing the importance of both permanent and vernal ponds for amphibians’ and reptiles’ successes.
Painted turtles make ponds their permanent homes, venturing to “sunning locations” on cooler days.
Sitting close to the water’s edge, bullfrogs snatch up flying insects, meanwhile providing food for prowling raccoons or herons.
Blue-winged teal rely on ponds to provide them with a “drop-off” spot to briefly feed while on their migration in spring and fall.
Green herons stalk the pond edges and cattails, seeking out frogs, minnow, tadpoles or small panfish.
Belted kingfishers, either from a perch or hovering above the water, find the abundant small fish in a pond to their liking.
Cattails, usually surrounding a pond, provide valuable “cover” for red-winged blackbirds, common yellowthroats, and frogs.
My camera captured this stink pot turtle on the rare occasion that it leaves the safety of the ponds bottom to lay its eggs on land.
Not always seen together, this solitary sandpiper, left, and spotted sandpiper rely on ponds to offer critical feeding spots for them on their migrations.
Our ever-expanding human population keeps shrinking our natural surroundings. Today native field and pasture areas are declining, forest blocks keep getting fragmented by pipelines or power lines, and our wetlands are becoming threatened as well.
Environmental agencies have been doing a yeoman’s job of trying to protect these dwindling natural areas, and maybe with more information, we can all help with that cause. Wetlands seem to take the “brunt” of the pressure and might be because some folks associate a swamp, marsh or pond with mosquito and insect problems. Thus they don’t get the respect they deserve. A pond is a tremendous habitat, providing the basis for so many food chains. I thought that this week’s column would be used to remind you of some of the animals and plants that need these areas and the aesthetic value alone that they provide.
Ponds provide breeding areas for many insects, which in turn feed minnows, dragonflies, crayfish and frogs, just to mention a few. These animals are then eaten by predators, many of which we enjoy seeing just for our pleasure. Ospreys, raccoons, kingfishers, a variety of ducks, mink, river otters and even bald eagles prey on these aquatic animals.
What many don’t realize is that these ponds help to slow the return of water to the ocean by allowing water to seep into our aquifers and help to purify it in the process. The water itself draws the larger mammals there to drink and, of course, almost all amphibians need ponds or wetlands to breed.
Many amphibians and turtles return to these ponds in the fall to hibernate. Pond edges often provide dense, brushy vegetation where many bird species feed and nest. Pond plants like cattails and lilies simply make a pond “just pretty to look at” and add oxygen and nutrients to the water as well.
In spring, my favored areas to “bird” usually include ponds or wetlands where a great variety of birds can be seen in comparison to a similar sized wooded habitat. Do your best to support conservation efforts to save wetlands.
When you have the opportunity, put on a pair of boots or waterproof shoes to “traipse” around a pond edge to appreciate and enjoy the variety of animals and plants found and nourished there.
Test your outdoor knowledge: True or False: Mourning doves and pigeons feed their young “milk” for the chick’s first five or six days of life.
Last week’s trivia answer: If you walked around a mountain ledge and discovered a nesting turkey vulture, give it some space. When they feel threatened they will vomit some of their foul-smelling stomach content. Remember, this is not an animal that feeds on grains, but on already dead and decomposing animals.
Contact Barry Reed at email@example.com.