Building a wildlife pond, part 3

Following the construction of the pond plants were added around the outer edge. Some were seeded (such as anise hyssop, Canada wild rye), some were transplanted (such as daisies) from elsewhere in the garden and plants were purchased (such as marsh marigold and blue columbine). Planting was done sparsely to see how things filled in.

In the following series of photographs you can see how the pond and its surroundings changed over the months. May is really the first full month without snow here (although I have encountered snow in that month). After construction seeds were sown and few plants were transplanted.

The pond with rocks and bare soil.
The pond in May a week after construction.

By June some of the plants are growing, more have been planted and the ‘local’ plants that were there before the pond construction are surfacing. The purchased blue or Colorado columbine can be seen in flower in the lower left of the photograph.

The pond in June
The pond in June

July is a good month for the plants. The transplanted daisies are doing well. The ever invasive sumac is popping up and the milkweed is doing well too.

The pond in July
The pond in July

Skipping August and now onto September the plants have mostly lost their flowers and are looking green. The aster (on the left of the photograph) are now flowering to the delight of bees and other insects. Grass has started to grow in the pond gravel and sand. You can see the pond level has dropped a little. Towards the centre of the pond, by the large rock at the curve in the pond you can see a northern leopard frog swimming too.

Pond in September. Plants are mostly flowerless now except for asters. A northern leopard frog can be seen swimming in the pond
Pond in September

By October Fall is underway and the pond is filling with leaves. Still many plants are green and holding on until the end. A few flowers remain on an aster at the far end of the pond.

Pond in October
The pond now in October

In early November snow comes and the now frozen pond defines itself well against the snow covered ground. As the time heads deeper into Winter the frozen pond becomes covered with snow and cannot be seen at all. A uniform blanket of snow covers it.

The pond is now frozen, but clearly discernible with snow around it
The pond in early November

We have looked at the transition in the pond over the first few months since the pond was built, but what about the creatures that occupied the pond.

One of the primary intentions to create the pond was to encourage amphibians and this we did do. By mid Summer a few green frogs (Lithobates clamitans) had been seen. These are relatively common frogs in this part of Ontario by August we had seen up to three green frogs at one time.

Green frog sitting on a rock
When approaching the pond it was best to pause and survey the rocks and pond edges for the green frogs
Often the green frogs would be basking in the shallows and if disturbed would dart down into the deeper part of the pond to hide.
Often the green frogs would be basking in the shallows and if disturbed would dart down into the deeper part of the pond to hide.

Another frog visitor to the pond was one that I had seen in previous years in the lawn in late Summer was the northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens). This is one of my favourite frogs in the area because of its colour and markings. In the September pond picture above you can just see one swimming in the pond. The one below was found hiding in the lawn grass and clover. The lawn was mowed only a couple of times this year to let the vetch, grass, clover and asters grow. The only regular mowing was a path through the lawn to the woodland trails.

A leopard frog hiding amongst grass and clover
A norther leopard frog hiding in the Strawacres lawn.

The markings are quite exotic on these frogs as can be seen in this next picture.

Close up of the back of the norther leopard frog showing the range of markings, including spots of colour that move over the ridges in the skin
The back and parts of the legs of a northern leopard frog.

I have seen wood frogs in the area, but not in the pond. As well, I have heard spring peepers but as yet not seen them. Over the second year of the pond I will keep an eye out for them around the pond as well as looking for any tadpoles in the Spring.

Besides the frogs there were various small insects seen on or in the pond. Yellow jackets seemed to like the sandy edge and often flew down to the water’s edge to collect moisture. Probably for the many nests that pop up around the outside of the house.

One big surprise came mid Summer when I noticed unusual movement in the pond shallows and what seemed to be leeches. These had tapering bodies and with the narrow part seeming to break the water’s surface. The picture below shows a few.

Small invertebrates in the pond that are raising their taped ends towards the surface
What I believe to be leeches in the pond.

As can be seen they are a drab brown in colour, about 2cm or so in length. Certainly not the classic black blood sucking leech but I understand there are 50 or so varieties of leech in Ontario. I can only presume these came in on a frog or another such visitor to the pond. If anyone knows what the creature is please do add a comment.

One bird that regularly visited the pond was a blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata). This bird would be seen drinking from the water’s edge and it would often be hanging around in nearby trees. From its perch it would scold me as I wandered around the pond to see how plants and pond life were doing.

So now in March as I write this the pond is still not one year old and is covered in snow (it has been a long Winter). In another few weeks the snow will melt and the frozen pond will be revealed again. In the coming months the plants around the pond will grow and life will return to the pond. It has been a very rewarding project building the pond and I know one that will keep bringing interest to the land surrounding the house. I’ll bring updates and photographs on the pond, as I encounter notable activity.

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