Summer Updates at the Pond

I am always curious as to what each new season will bring to Green Heron Pond. I also  curiously await to see how one season’s events will affect the others over time. There is a sameness with each season- one summer compared to the next summer, a fall to a fall, spring to spring, winter to winter- but major changes or just a slight nuance can transform the pond season to season. Such has been this summer.

Last summer’s hot, overcast chemistry dealt a blow to the pond twice with massive fish kills. All the large grass carp, huge catfish and good sized bass have been gone a year now.  I remember the aroma of bloated “ghost ship” fish floating across the pond in the Kansas summer wind and heat; the two clean-ups that followed.  A necessary Nature cleanse that has produced a bumper crop of ducklings, goslings and superb fishing (hundreds of small bluegills- the only survivors) for the herons and Crested Kingfishers. With no large catfish and bass, the waterfowl population has been left to grow large enough to make it to adulthood this year and the shorebirds have eaten their fill.

In particular there have been two momma ducks and their broods that have called our backyard home this year.  One has been a Mallard momma with 6 ducklings and the other a domestic white breasted Black Duck with 4 babies, (2 mallard looking and that look like momma).  The Black Duck momma and her brood are nimble and industrious looking for corn, insects and feeder remnants.  They practically run through the yard darting, dodging, flapping, eating… the Mallard crew is a bit more sedate, ambling.  In fact the Black momma duck figured out (while watching a Blue Jay eat from our flat feeder) that she too could fly up to the feeder, land and shovel in loads of sunflower seeds.  The flat feeder would shudder precariously upon each landing, but very ingenious, as she could observe her ducklings and dine at the same time!

Ducklings and Adults
Ducklings and Adults…hard to tell the difference now!

We have watched the ducklings learn to fly by waddling single file down the walkway to the dock, pause at dock’s edge then jump in…over and over…each time flapping wings a bit more til at last they took flight to gently land in the water.  Flight to land was a bit harder and one injured a leg.  It was a bad injury and I felt predator worthy but over two weeks this little duck has grown stronger and the only sign of injury is a slightly stiff gait.

The goslings and their attentive parents come and go.  Though 4 were born here and then other Canadas would exercise their goslings by a walk to our pond, as the summer has grown hotter we see them rarely.  The goslings have attained their adult plumage and only their slightly smaller size identifies them from the adults.  They are wonderful close knit family units.  I only wish they would clean up after themselves…

The Great Blue, Great Egret and Black Crested Night Herons have fished off the dock and in the low hanging willows all summer.  Our eponymous Greenback Heron has only been here for a bit of fishing as the Black Crested disturbed any nesting area the Greenbacks chose.  There are several small isolated ponds nearby that the Greenbacks might prefer, though we have missed watching them build their nests and raise their young.  Maybe next year they will return.

The other fisher on the pond- the Crested Kingfisher demonstrated her diving ability for my pleasure one morning.  Plunging like a nosediving fighter jet she reappeared with a wriggling bluegill which she then proceeded to brutally beat against a limb and shred for a meal.  Fortunately for me it was well after my own breakfast hour…

Other shifts in the season have been the departure of the beloved Baltimore Orioles, though I have continued to put out grape jelly for the House Finches’ sweet tooth. Other small birds- the fledgling Cardinals, Wrens, Chickadees, Finches, Downys and Redbellies- we have watched them all learn to feed themselves with parental help at the hanging feeder… the woodpeckers demonstrating the suet feeder for their young!

It is midsummer and we already begin to feel the pull of the coming season- even in the heat as we watch these avian youngsters mature, care for themselves, preparing to be on their own.  It is a great beginning for many and such a joy to watch…Summer at Green Heron Pond.  I will keep you updated!


Flower Fireworks

I don’t need a calendar or a newspaper advertising flier announcing “Fourth of July” sales to know when the 4th arrives.  Every year since I planted them- my Stargazer lilies have heralded Independence Day promising to bloom like a brilliant fireworks display randomly throughout the garden.  The lilies spend mid spring until June’s end climbing towards their towering 4′ height, adding weight with heavy blooms tightly closed-bending, waiting to explode with color and delightful aroma.  They punctuate the garden with joy.

lilies one

Stargazers are also very hardy and withstand Kansas spring winds and early summer’s heat very well.  That is until yesterday when temps reached the high 90s and the stems began to collapse.  I dropped whatever I was doing and ran out to gather some extra bamboo stakes and ties.  All but one were rescued and steadied.  The last lily’s blooms had wilted so I decided to shred the stem and stick the remainder in a vase of water.  Today the house is filled with revived lilies, unfurling petals- redolent with Stargazer perfume.

I believe my fireworks celebration is going to last all week!  Happy Summer from Green Heron Pond!

lilies three (2)