The Blues at Green Heron Pond

April is Jazz Appreciation Month and the Blues are an integral part of this wonderful American art form.  Dan is a big jazz fan and has very eclectic taste in his listening… my  parameters are a bit narrower, I love some of the newer jazz and the Blues.  Seems some of our avian friends this April are celebrating big time here at the pond too…. many hues of blues in fact.

With all the cold wintry-like weather (fortunate not to reside in Minnesota this Spring) we have had, we are encountering some different migrants and returning avian friends this month- most of them blue. It started at April’s beginning days when snow flurry- icy weather hit and we began to notice several pairs of Eastern Blue Birds visiting and feasting on our Euonymus Tree berries.  It was so entertaining to watch them flutter upside down on the thin bare branches grasping the precious fruit clusters in their bills.  Acrobats performing for their meal in the cold.

Mr Eastern Blue Bird/Photo Dan McPartland

Soon after the berries on the Euonymus were depleted we turned our attention to new waterfowl at the pond’s edge.  Three or four Blue Winged Teal stopped by for some respite and dabbling for vegetation or maybe small crustaceans. The Blue Winged fellas are particularly intriguing with their dark blue gray heads sporting the distinctive white crescent in front of their eyes, but both the hens and drakes have the pale blue patches on the fore wing.  I watched their smaller silhouettes floating, bobbing close by the resident Mallards at dawn the day they left on their trek further North.   I hope to see them again when seasons change!

The other three blue visitors are big fish eaters.  After the fish kills on the pond two summers ago, we have a fabulous crop of tiny sunfish, small bass and a few little catfish.  Minnows have been shimmering in the cool sunlight and these fisher birds have been taking advantage of it.  The Great Blue Herons are here year round but during nesting season (we have a rookery- heronry close by) they come in pairs or 3 at a time.  It seems it is the one time of year they allow each other to stake out a territory to fish undisturbed.  They are one of my favorite all time birds as their grace, patience and plumage are fabulous!

Our other two blue visitors have been the Belted Kingfisher who shows up Spring through Fall rattling around the pond and announcing to all that it has arrived.  A more infrequent traveler here has been a Little Blue Heron.  Its overall gray blue color changes from a paler gray with almost reddish tints to navy blue depending on sunlight and shade.  This smaller heron has spent hours on the pond this week fast walking, circling the pond several times and peering– turning its head sideways almost to the water at times to check for prey.  I watched this almost comical angler one morning to see it catch 4 wriggling fish in just a few minutes.  It disappeared soon after that and I was thinking a nap and digestion were probably the cause.

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron/Photo Dan McPartland

Today the Little Blue returned with two friends and they sat hunched like great vultures in a willow tree as the sun came over to warm them up.  Sharing the pond, they have fished (along with one Great Blue and a Great Egret) most of the morning.  And I have not gotten alot done at times mesmerized by their presence.  So, to celebrate Jazz this month do a little listening and stop by to see the Blues if you are in the area.  Life on Green (Blue) Heron Pond!


Muskrat Moves

Last Week Dan and I noticed an increased amount of travel across the pond by a Muskrat.  Over the last couple of summers this small amphibious rodent has done some real estate shopping on our pond but apparently the last month it had decided to move onto Green Heron Pond.  At first there were just the random swims from one culvert to the next, expanding to Euonymus leaf gathering and finally timed runs across the water for food and foliage for a nesting area.

Neither Dan or I are big on the idea of rodents…we already have plenty of squirrels and bunnies- but this little guy or gal became pretty aggressive towards the duck population on the pond and territorial about anything it considered a food source. It began chasing any duck that came near the tossed corn chops or Euonymus shrubs. The ducks started forming  distant semicircles around the area watching this little tyrant take over the shore and feeding area.  That was enough for me.

We have friends in the neighborhood who have had to deal with multiple Muskrat populations before at a different pond,  They generously supplied us with a humane trap for the self proclaimed “Ruler of the Pond”.  We armed the humane trap with a bit of corn chops and trapped a very frightened squirrel- whom Dan immediately freed- much to the squirrel’s relief.  Dan then tried a bit of apple, which the small tyrant seized greedily and backed out of the trap successfully.  We watched it do it.  Carefully creeping forward, grabbing the fruit and backing out with great speed and accuracy…swimming away with the prized red apple in its mouth…

the lil Tyrant!!
Dan and our little Tyrant Friend at Green Heron Pond!

I told Dan we might want to try this again with the apple placed farther back in the trap.  Figuring it would be awhile before the Muskrat would feel safe to enter the shoreline area with the alluring bait, I just happened to look out to see the ducks curiously watching some development on the shore.  Yes, the Muskrat had been enticed once more by the red apple- much like Eve and was caught this time.

Dan quickly headed to the shore to retrieve the trap and its contents for a move to a new home.  The Muskrat seemed to know who had baited the trap and wanted badly to get Dan.  The little Muskrat lunged at Dan a couple of times and then settled down for the few mile drive to a new home on a big pond area.

Dan opened the humane trap at waters edge and waited for this small round- long taloned and big toothed rodent to make its way out of the trap.  We watched it move to the water, swim, dive- swim, dive and then keep heading West.  It is our hope little Mr or Mrs Muskrat will thrive in the big waters way East of us.  The ducks are relieved and feasting and fussing among themselves again this week… life on Green Heron Pond.