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Robyn's Pond Blog for May 2010

Last Updated: 6/1/10

1. The first thing I saw on coming downstairs on 5/2/10 was the great blue heron standing by the pond! He saw me and flew off. The oblivious goldfish were spawning in the un-netted shallows. I don't know if the heron got any but they would have been easy pickings. I told the fish to stay in the deep end under the net but they don't listen!

I discovered we have three songbird nests that are hatching. By the pond, five baby bluebirds hatched this day. By the rabbit hutch, there were six chickadee eggs which were about to hatch. Near the pond was a nest with tufted titmice. We haven't had many successful bird fledgings in years thanks to the English sparrows. I don't know what happened to them this year but I'm not complaining. They normally take over all the nest boxes even though they only need one.

2. On the afternoon of 5/2/10, I squirted off all the flosses. The 1800 gallon was at 72 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 70 degrees F. I was reminded why I hate summer this day - 86 degrees F, 100% humidity, sweat, 20 bugs tickling my face and trying to suck on me, ate half a dozen bugs.

I squirted down the Cyprio biothings in the kiddie pool. While doing that, a tufted titmouse was screaming. I thought it was from our cat, GK but then I saw the black rat snake, a large adult. Ut oh! I touched his tail to make him move away faster but, once they find a nest, it's usually the end of those babies. I can't open that nest box to see if there are eggs or babies in there (or even if there were before). This new nest box my mother put up does not have a snake guard. The nest boxes with the bluebirds and chickadees do have snake guards.

I repotted the two pots of hardy canna. One was in a three gallon pot. It was so root bound, I didn't save any from that pot. The other was in a two gallon pot, and the tubers had split the pot all the way down the side! Pieces had climbed out. I used three chunks from that plant and repotted them in to two two gallon pots. I don't have any more three gallon pots.

3. Jenny Gitlitz sent these great photos of American toads breeding on 5/3/10. They were taken on 5/2/10 at Warren Pond in Dalton, Massachusetts. I normally resize photos but these are so good that I left them full size.
American toads swimming around.
American toads in a large gathering.
American toad male calling
American toad male calling
American toads spawning. There are multiple pairs and eggs being laid.
American toads spawning.
American toads pair laying eggs. Notice how much larger the female on the bottom is and that the eggs are laid in long strings.

4. I took my last Wednesday off on 5/5/10. I take a streak of Wednesdays off in April each spring to try to keep up with the spring chores, mostly mulching and repotting. After feeding the animals, I spent an hour pulling over 30 house plants out of the basement and putting them on the porches. Then, I spent an hour cleaning off the plant tables, giving the plants fertilizer and a topping of potting soil in the top, and setting them all in to place.

Then, it was time to tear down the 50 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank basement pond. I pulled out the bricks, hiding places, and filter and was able to net the shubunkin goldfish and three of the four bitterlings. I took their photos. One in the glass bowl was a male bitterling since he had red striping which reminded me of a red shiner. I had to pull out all the bluebells before I could get the fourth bitterling, another male so I have two males and two females I think. I put those five fish out in the 1800 gallon pond where they zoomed off at top speed. I then potted up the bluebells in to two two gallon Lerio pots. I used Microbe-Lift potting "soil" which is like cat litter so that I can bring the plants in in the fall in the same containers without worry of clay dirt getting in the indoor pond. The bluebells tend to jump the pot but maybe they won't. I also potted up the tropical waterlily (Blue Beauty that I bought last year) in to a five gallon pot. This included the growing tip which was amazingly alive and doing well growing bareroot in the basement pond as well as the two nut tubers I had stored in damp sand all winter. Both of those also had little leaves on them! So, the overwintering of that waterlily was successful and hopefully they will stay alive now that they're in the pond. I checked the water temperature, and it was 70 degrees F!

Another hour was spent bailing the basement pond, cleaning up, vacuuming, and moping the basement floor. By then, it was 2:17 pm, and I was exhausting but I needed to do mulching. After this day, it would be nearly impossible to mulch with few days off of work and the heat. It was 80 degrees F but, in the sun, it was way too hot for me so I just wanted to pass out and not work. I mulched three caged plants with a bag of mulch. After digging around in the northeast side of the big pond garden, I laid in two bags of mulch there. Then, I was back on schedule as if I had just come home from work and had to do afternoon chores.

I later saw the shubunkin following the bitterling around the pond. He/she thinks he/she is one of them. I wonder what they are all thinking!

5. On 5/7/10, I received an order from Lilyblooms. This was my first order with them. The stuff came in just a few days. On the other hand, I'm still waiting on the submerged plants from Tricker I ordered over a month ago. The tadpoles and fish could have really used the plants to eat and hide. I got a 6' x 8' 45 mil EPDM liner to replace the18 gallon liner pond way out back that has collapsed in quite a bit. I hope to have time this fall to do that. I also got five marginal plants. I ordered a bog bean, pennywort, horsetail rush, tropical pink pickerel, and a white rush. I've never had the last two. They made a mistake though. Instead of a white rush, they sent a white pickerel rush. I'm not just basing that on how it looks but the tag that was in it with photo, name, and information. I've gotten white pickerel rushes half a dozen times. Only one of those ever flowered white and a few others flowered blue. All have died, and this one will probably too. I was looking forward to the white rush. Oh well.

6. On 5/8/10, I saw a large batch of green frog eggs in the 153 gallon pond. Horrible winds blew through and dumped hundreds of green leaves and sticks in the ponds. It's going to be windy tomorrow too, and I hope I can at least get some of them out of there. The rest will have to be absorbed by the system as organic waste.

7. On 5/9/10, I squirted off the flosses. The 1800 gallon was at 60 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 61 degrees F but the air was only 50 degrees F! It was windy and felt like winter. I uprighted the arrowhead pot that had fallen off the brick it was on. I cut some dead branches out of the prickly evergreen bush that hangs over where the pond's pump is. I had to wear gloves for that. I potted up the five new plants. The horsetail rush, tropical pink pickerel rush, and hardy white pickerel rush got two gallon pots while the pennywort and bog bean got one gallon pots. Even though I've added back fewer pots than I took out, there seems to be no room in there! I certainly have no place to step while working unless I step on plants. This time of the year, the overflow is normally chocked with forget-me-nots in bloom but this year, there are just a few tiny sprigs. I assume the four feet of snow did them in. I hope they will recover. There are a few frog fruit sprigs too. I love that cute plant!

8. I put up more photos sent to me by other people. Yes, some are two years old! I told you I'm behind!

Judith sent these photos of Western toads in California on 3/9/10 and 3/13/10.
Western toad - face
Western toad
Western toad eggs
Western toad eggs
Western toad eggs
Western toad tadpoles
Western toad tadpole
Western toad tadpoles
Western toad tadpoles - newly hatched

On 6/22/08, Michelle sent these photos of a tree frog in Texas. Looking at the species of tree frogs in Texas, only a green variant of the Cope's gray tree frog seems like an option.
Gray tree frog
Gray tree frog - note the yellow under the back legs which is a trait of gray tree frogs

On 5/31/08, Molly sent these photos of a newly-morphed tree frog of unknown species.
Baby tree frog
Baby tree frog

9. Arey's been posting gorgeous, rare bird photos from New Jersey on my forum for over a year. I asked if I could put them on my web site. They include ducks, geese, swans, coots, mergansers, bitterns, herons, egrets, terns, gulls, and more. They are now up on this page.

10. I added these photos to my site that I had taken.

On 4/24/10, my father found a gray tree frog on the pool cover which he was removing. It is probably a male as they had just started calling. I put him in a plant pot and took these photos.
Gray tree frog - top view.
Gray tree frog - hopping away, note the yellow under the back legs which is indicative of gray tree frogs.
Gray tree frog - top view.
Gray tree frog - my mother trying to hold him upside down to show the yellow on the legs. It is cute how he has his little hand on her finger, trying to grasp and get away. Do not worry. We did not hurt him, and I put him up on a tree right after the photos to go on his way.

11. There's good news and bad news on 5/15/10. The good - there are a lot of baby rosy red minnows in the 153 gallon. The bad - the goldfish were spawning, and the heron showed up. The good - I think I saw one bitterling just now. The bad - I haven't seen the shubunkin since the release day.

12. On 5/16/10, I squirted off the flosses and the bioballs. I changed out another one of the bioball bags. The 1800 gallon was at 68 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 65 degrees F. I tried to fertilize the plants but mostly got the water lilies and lotus and not so many of the others. I did not have time to repot the dwarf cattails as planned as my 5-year-old niece was with me. I changed the Pondmaster filters in the 153 gallon, topped off the smaller ponds, and added the additives. I went without mulching but did do two hours of mowing.

13. I put up a few more old photos.

On 4/13/08, Angela sent these photos of a salamander egg mass.
Salamander eggs
Salamander eggs

On 6/25/08, Ray sent these photos of his pond.
Ray's pond - note the pickerel weed
Ray's pond - note the variegated sweetflag
Ray's pond
Ray's yard

14. Here are some more photos I took.

I took these photos in a small glass bowl of the one shubunkin and four bitterlings (only three in the bowl; I got the other one later) on 5/5/10 before releasing them from the 50 gallon indoor pond to the 1800 gallon outdoor pond. At least one of the bitterlings had red and was pretty colorful. Unfortunately, the photos are not in focus.
Shubunkin - right side
Shubunkin - left side
Three bitterlings - side view
Three bitterlings - side view
Three bitterlings - top view

From the same time, here is a video of those three bitterlings:
Bitterlings - 1405 KB mpg movie

Big pond on 5/10/10, shallow area, facing south. The yellow flag iris were in bloom.

15. On 5/19/10, I finally got my Tricker order. There were 24 anacharis, 12 hornwort, 12 jungle valisneria, 3 water wisteria, and 1 free red ludwigia. The anacharis don't look very healthy. The others look healthy. The hornwort are really bushy. The water wisteria had obviously been grown emergent so I'll plant them that way. The red ludwigia is really not hardy in Zone 7 so I put that in my 50 gallon aquarium. I hope to get the others planted Sunday.

16. On 5/22/10, exactly three weeks after I first saw them hatched, four bluebirds fledged from the bird house by my pond. One vanished early on. This is great news as few bluebird nests survive the combinations of English sparrows, black rat snakes, and botflies around here. This nest box had a baffle to keep snakes off but not the elevated floor that reduces botfly attacks. The babies were slathered in feces when I last saw them right before they left. I think they finally decided to leave to get away from the disgusting mess in there!

17. On 5/23/10, I squirted off the flosses. The 1800 gallon was at 68 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 67 degrees F. It was raining off and on. When I pulled up the clam basket to check on it, all the clams were closed except for one that was wide open and empty. So, at least one has died. I have yet to see any of them alive and open. I planted some impatiens in to the floating island and put the rest in the ground.

I planted the submerged plants. I put the three water wisteria in the pot that had the blue lobelia in it because I think it died. I will miss not seeing those flowers. I pulled up the three pots (two two, one one gallons; only reused the two two gallons) from the deep end of the pond and removed the worthless plant protectors which neither float (the part that is supposed to float), stay closed (the top of them), or protect. I put about four anacharis loose in the 153 gallon and planted the rest in the two gallon pot in the bottom of the 1800 gallon pond. You wouldn't think 20 anacharis could fit in a two gallon pot but they only included a couple of sprigs for each bunch. I put two hornwort loose in the 153 gallon, one loose in the 50 gallon, and nine loose in the 1800 gallon pond. Hornwort really can't be planted I've found. I planted the twelve jungle valisneria in the other two gallon pot for the bottom of the 1800 gallon pond. We will see how long the anacharis and jungle val stay planted!

18. On 5/24/10, I saw one bitterling in the morning. It is good he/she is alive but bad that he/she seemed to be alone. ;-(

19. The bluebirds were SO lucky this year but not the chickadees. I checked on them around 7 pm on 5/24/10, and there were four (perhaps five) of them ready to fledge out of the six eggs I had seen almost three weeks ago. The next morning at 7 am, the male English sparrow was on the box. I saw no sign of the parent chickadees. I was hoping that meant the chickadees had fledged. When I opened the box, I found two babies in there. One was dead (pecked to death by the sparrow) but the other was moving around. I took him to the wildlife rehabilitator half a mile away. I sure hope the other babies did fledge and weren't killed and removed by the sparrow. Baby birds have it so hard just trying to survive except for the English sparrows. I've never known a snake or botflies to take them out (and of course not the English sparrows themselves). English sparrows are to birds as humans are to mammals. Should be hate them, pity them, or stand in awe of their strength and tenacity?

20. Here are some more photos.

On 2/2/08 (yep, that old) , Ernie sent this photo of his interesting black bitumen formal pond in Cape Town, South Africa. The pond was hot, and koi were dying when he asked for advice.
Ernie's Pond

Cindy in Ohio sent these photos of "Popeye" the gray tree frog on 5/16/10. Popeye lost his right eye. The last photo is one of the gray tree frog babies from her pond.
Gray tree frog
Gray tree frog
Baby gray tree frog

Corey sent these photos of a turtle for identification in Wyoming on 5/6/10. I asked "Painteds4life" (a screen name) to identify the turtle. He says it may be a melanistic Western painted turtle. No matter the species, this turtle is gorgeous.
Melanistic Western painted turtle - plastron
Melanistic Western painted turtle - head
Melanistic Western painted turtle - right side
Melanistic Western painted turtle - carapace

Here are more photos from May 2010 from Judith, presumably Western toads.
Tadpole with four legs and a springtail
Eggs and toadlet
Tadpole with two legs

On 5/21/10, Betsy in North Carolina sent these photos of a worm for identification as well as a few others. It may be a horsehair worm.
Pond worm
Pond worm and backswimmers
Tadpole and dragonfly larvae
Fishing spider - Dolomedes triton

This is not really pond related but too neat not to share. I took this photo on 5/15/10 of a terrestrial spider that spent at least three hours trying to inject venom in to an Asian stinkbug. The stinkbug seemed unaffected. They were both about 3/4 of an inch long. It is like Clash of the Titans!
Spider trying to eat an Asian stinkbug

Great blue heron in the front yard on 5/16/10.
Great blue heron - close-up from the last photo.

Twelve-spotted skimmer - Libellula pulchella on 5/16/10, sitting on the sandstone bridge across my 153 gallon pond.

21. I hadn't anchored down the floating island of impatiens so they were in the shallows. The morning of 5/29/10, I found out the raccoon got to them. He de-potted three of the five impatiens. One was still on the island. Another I found in the marginal area. The last one I couldn't find. I tried to repot the island but it looks horrible now after all the trouble I went through. In past years, the heron would land on the island and flip the island spilling it all. I don't know why I bother. I'll try to anchor the island to something tomorrow.

22. On 5/30/10, I squirted off the flosses and the Cyprio biothings in the kiddie pool. The 1800 gallon was at 76 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 70 degrees F. I used fishing line to tie the impatiens to a clay pot on the bottom of the pond. It looks dumb that one of the planters is empty. I never found that impatien. When I pulled up the clam basket, there are now two clams that are wide open and dead. The other ones I am not sure about but I think they're probably all died. I wonder if putting them in the basket caused the problem because the water flow wasn't great enough through the basket. Without the basket though, the fish, raccoons, etc. would have eaten the clams even faster. I saw the single bitterling again. I guess the heron got the other three and my darling shubunkin. Animals best stay away from me if they want to live. Plants too for that matter. The surviving impatiens are all wilted, and the submerged plants are mostly yanked from their pots. I finally repotted the two dwarf cattails in to two two gallon pots. They should have been planted sooner as they ended up bent and damaged due to their large size and difficulty getting them out of the pots (only had to cut open one of the two pots though). I saved only about 10% of the dwarf cattails and tossed the rest. The pond really needs cleaning but I haven't the time or ability.

One good piece of interesting news: When I went to the back pond to put in Bt, a bird flew out of a chewed up nest box out there. It was a rare bird for us - a great crested flycatcher.

Continue to the June 2010 pond blog.

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