The Fall days have been beautiful, mild (that means little Kansas wind) and cooler in the evenings. The pond is just now beginning to receive some of the migratory waterfowl and at our window we have the “longeyes” ready to determine who it might be returning or if we have a new visitor. So far visitors have been an American Coot, Shovelers and a tiny Pied Bill Grebe. The Shovelers and Grebes appear spring and fall but this is only the second time I have seen a coot here. It came up on the lawn to eat scratch along with the Mallards…it was rather comical to see this longer legged dark bird scratching around along side the squat rounded Mallards. It stayed a couple of days and headed on. I wondered why it was traveling alone, but it seemed unaffected and companionable with the ducks.
The little Grebe has been here a couple of days and may indicate that others will soon follow, as we usually have a small grouping of them. We enjoy watching the Pied Bills swimming around and then slyly sinking out of sight like submarines only to emerge in a different part of the pond. It is always fascinating to try and figure out where they will pop up next.
The Shovelers spin around in tight circles making us almost dizzy watching, stirring up the water looking for food. Their long almost comical bills and bright green and rusty orang-ish brown colors churning are quite a sight to see mid pond.
Migratory waterfowl are not our only visitors either. Dan and I sat on the dock this last week soaking up the sunshine and soft breezes when a Praying Mantis crawled up the side of Dan’s chair to say “Hello”. This little insect had been hanging around for a few days laying eggs on one of the stems of my potted plants there on the dock, as I had spied the hard mass of eggs earlier while watering. I will save that particular planting so that next season other Praying Mantis’ can greet us in the yard or on the dock and feast on any bad insects that might try to appear on the plants!
As a kid I was quite scared of Praying Mantis’ as once I went out to play with some old toys we kept at our sandbox and found a Praying Mantis trying to steer a toy truck… its front legs grasping the tiny steering wheel and those eyes looking at me as I quickly flung the truck away and screamed. My ever vigilant mother shot out of the house to see what had happened then nonchalantly informed me that this monster movie worthy insect was “a very welcome visitor” to our yard…she then turned, went back inside and I was left to figure out how to get Mr Mantis out of the truck…
Another insect visitor (of the lapidopteran type) is very elusive, usually the only evidence is after the fact. The first time I ever noticed the mystery was while watering the deck planters one midsummer day. Wrapped tightly in a reddish sweet potato vine was this large egg looking object. I took a closer view and decided it was a big cocoon and let it be- except for inspecting any progress I might see as the days passed. Then with no other sign, it was empty… I had missed the transformation and I still wasn’t sure who it might be.
I had taken pictures of the cocoon pre and post transformation and I began to look up pictures online of cocoons. I was thinking about a possible Luna Moth but one morning while out getting the mail I happened upon this guy…and by “guy” I mean guy…fuzzy antennae out- looking, actually smelling for a female friend. I snapped a photo to see if this was my deck planter mystery guest. And he was beautifully handsome- about five inches long, subtle browns with patterns and touches of deep blue and pink mixed in. Gorgeous…if I had been his female counterpart- I would have been smitten!
Just above my deck planters is a tall river birch tree, known as a host for Antheraea Polyphemus Moths. This large Polyphemus Moth, one of the giant silk moths (Saturniidae) spinning its silken cocoon as I watered and lounged on the deck…laboring its way out of the cocoon in the dark with only faint landscape lighting and moon glow, undetected by me…just leaving a hint of his presence in my world- his world…what a beautiful mystery revealed.
The waterfowl, the mantis, this exquisite moth…all very welcome visitors here at Green Heron Pond.