Starting from scratch
The pond was created in 1991 by building a small dam near the top of the ravine. The area receives runoff from the Experimental Farm through a system of weeping tiles and conduits as well as directly from the surrounding slopes. Cattails grow thickly along the edge and Elodea oxygenates the water.
The habitat has attracted American Toads, Wood Frogs, Green Frogs, Grey Treefrogs, Blandings, Painted, and Snapping Turtles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Mallards and Black Ducks, Green and Great Blue Herons, and Spotted Sandpipers. A plentiful supply of flying insects feeds the Tree Swallows that nest in bird boxes nearby, and the variety of water-based insects is rapidly increasing. In 1996, the pond was deepened at one end to allow Snapping Turtles to overwinter in its depths.
As the pond matured, we made a special effort to identify the frogs using it. Wood Frogs appeared first in early April, calling for about a week. By the third week of April, American Toads were mating, and Green Frogs put in an appearance soon afterward. In mid-May we could see large tadpoles, which had overwintered at that stage, along with tiny American Toad tadpoles and this year’s Green Frog tadpoles.
In 1999, the water level remained relatively high all summer and well into the fall. Cattail growth seemed less robust than in previous years, but the number of Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus) plants increased significantly. We’re planning to cull this non-native, invasive species in the spring. A Blandings Turtle was sighted again this year as were at least 4 small Painted Turtles. A good variety of damsel and dragonflies can be seen over and around the pond all season.
Invasive species arrived in our pond as well as elsewhere in the garden. Flowering Rush grew exponentially until it covered all open water. Frog-bit also became a problem. It and Duckweed covered the surface by July 2006, preventing sunlight from getting to the underwater plants that keep the water oxygenated.
Since 2001, we’ve been removing these species from the pond. Work does not start until mid- to late July, when the many Red-winged Blackbirds have finished nesting. This year, Green Herons used the pond heavily; we saw up to 5 birds at once during early June.
In 2006, the number of dragonflies, backswimmers, water striders, etc., had decreased from 5 years earlier. However, residents of the pond included a large Blandings Turtle, at least one Painted Turtle, a muskrat, Wood Frogs, Green Frogs, American Toads, Grey Treefrogs, backswimmers, spiders, a giant waterbug, lots of aphids followed by lots of ladybeetles, especially Coleomagilla maculata, a native species.
Green Frogs are the most common in the pond
There were fewer Red-winged Blackbird nests as we disturbed their nesting sites in efforts to control invasive plants. However, there were at least 7 nests. Goldfinches could be seen in August fetching cattail fluff for their nests. The Green Herons were regular visitors. In September, a few pairs of Mallards and Black Ducks spent some time in the pond. Below the dam in the ravine, hummingbirds were a big attraction as they zoomed from one Jewelweed flower to another, perching only briefly on a raspberry cane every now and then.
Over the years, dead plant material accumulated in the pond, and invasive plants continued to be a problem. Every summer volunteers have dawned hip waders and attempted to clean out as much dead and unwanted vegetation as possible. But during summers when rainfall is sporadic, water flow into the pond goes down, and the pond water depth is reduced. This greatly affects the number and type of birds and insects and other wildlife using the pond.
Diane Lepage undertook the job of planning a project to clean up and rejuvenate the amphibian pond. In 2016, large equipment was used to dig out the decaying vegetation and silt. Dredged material was spread on the nearby banks (covering areas of Dog-strangling Vine). At the same time, the trail around the pond was leveled and widened to make it safer for visitors.
In spring 2017, 20 volunteers led by Diane Lepage planted over 2000 seedlings on the south slope of the pond. A chain-link fence was added to keep the area free of traffic. Thanks to a relatively wet spring and summer, most of the new plants thrived, in addition to some unexpected additions such as sunflowers.
Two storyboards were added to highlight some of the creatures that visit the pond (see photo). Unexpectedly, a Blanding’s Turtle was sighted and a Snapping Turtle made its way to the Butterfly Meadow to lay a nest of eggs.
With the surface of the pond opened up, this fall over 100 Mallards as well as Wood Ducks, Black Ducks, and even a Canada Goose visited the pond. Grey Treefrogs, Green Frogs, and American Toads have been seen in and around the pond and, on the whole, the pond renovation was judged a success. Our benefactor, the late Violetta Czasak, would be proud.
The downside: although we hoped that removing so much silt from the bottom of the pond would also remove most Flowering Rush, this did not happen. By mid-summer this invasive species had almost filled the pond and, again, had to be removed manually, thanks largely to Ted Farnworth. Research continues on the best way to control this plant.
Pond storyboard; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson
Flock of Mallards, Black Ducks, and Wood Ducks resting in the pond; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson