Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Importance Of A Fishless Pond

My pond was a buttonbush filled intermittent puddle when I first bought Pure Florida. Even then, it wasn't exactly a natural wetspot, as the east side of it was a dam of sorts formed by the county road berm. Water draining from the slight rise that would eventually become the site of Pure Florida HQ seeped downhill until stopped by the berm.

It dried up a lot, was fishless, and was only about a foot or two in depth when it was full. Eventually, I had the backhoe guy dig it out and he created a rectangular pond with steep sides, which held water more often than not ... although at wildly different levels.

Before the dig out, the water weeds in the pond often held pretty little newts in abundance. After the dig out, and the addition of bluegills, bass, minnows, and catfish, the newts became a scarce item.

That has always bothered me. I really like amphibians and they need all the help they can get these days. Around the world, their numbers are dropping due to development and climate change.

This winter, my pond dried up completely. If you've been paying attention, you know that I did a fish rescue a while back and the bluegill refishugees are safely ensconced in my aquaculture tank out back.

Now the pond has a water level of about one foot covering almost the entire bottom. The shallow water is very clear and some aquatic vegetation is beginning to respond to the tug of spring sunshine.

When you walk up to the pond now, a horde of 3 inch tadpoles go wiggling away from the shallows where they had been basking. One night soon the toads will have their "let's just get this over with" orgy down there and the pond will then be shared by vast numbers of tiny tadpoles, no bigger than your pinky nail.

Yesterday, I took a break from my National Boards "reflective" writing and went for a walk around the place. Somehow, I found myself belly down on the dock watching the tadpolian comings and goings. The sky was perfect blue and the warm sun gently balanced the cool breeze. It was good and I stayed awhile longer than I had planned.

I'm glad I did, because a casual walk-by would probably have missed the amazing little creature you see in these last two photos. He's not a fish, and not a tadpole. For the answer to his identity, just click here.

I think, that as I lay there peering over the edge of the weathered dock boards, I also saw a newt newting along through the aquatic vegetation.
That the pond is amphibian reproduction nirvana right now is due mostly to the complete dry out resulting in fishless conditions. Amphibians just don't compete that well with their more evolved cousins. At least their eggs and young don't.
So, I'll keep my pond fishless for a while longer, even though the bream in the aquaculture tank (kind of a FEMA trailer for fish) are restless and feeling their own tug of spring and it's promise of a new generation. They will need the sandy pond bottom to scoop out bowl shaped nests for bluegill romance and spawning, it won't happen in the concrete bottomed tank they are in. I can't return them just yet ... the amphibians need a little more time.
So chill fish, the amphibians get the pond to themselves for a few more weeks. Besides, anticipation is half the fun.
Patience, pescados, patience.
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roger said...

could you use some of your blog posts for this teacher's reflection thing? seems to me they exhibit a fine sense of observation and command of the language, especially neologisms.

robin andrea said...

Maybe you could build your little amphibian friends their own little pond. Wouldn't that be nice? I'm sure they'd really appreciate it, and you'd be contributing to their survival. Our tree-frogs have been singing their little hearts out lately. We love their night-time songs: amphibian reproduction nirvana.

threecollie said...

Pollywogs in your little gold lying in the street (or at least to me they are). And to find a tiger salamander, why that is as good as rubies and pearls. Heck, better than! I have never seen one, although we have spotteds, which I believe are related.

Laura said...

Something tells me you're spending more time "reflecting" with your camera in hand than writing for the National Boards... (just kidding)

I'm actually supposed to be doing my taxes right now. fancy that!

I can't help wondering, what about creating a raised section of the pond with a very shallow end for the newts and other amphibians? Sort of a split level pond, if that makes any sense. You'd have one area for muck and one for the deep water lovin fishes.
Just a thought!

Hal at Ranch Ramblins said...

I wonder if you could effectively partition the pond using chicken wire or hardware cloth to keep the amphibians and fish away from each other?

Deb said...

It's nice when you have clear water like that so you can see all the action! My kids like collecting tadpoles in our pond in the spring, right after the ice thaws. We don't have any big fish in there, at least not yet, so amphibians are relatively safe.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

You're so kind to the tadpoles/newts. What you could do with the fish while you're waiting is to eat them. You can always get more. What you think?

vicki said...

Ignore Hoss, he lives for the moment. I know this for a fact. I love these amphibians! And I laughed at the notion of FEMA for fish-not a permanent fix for any living creature, current conditions to the contrary. Today I showed Bud some of native Florida over at Weedon Island and he loved it- so tonight, I showed him what a Florida Cracker was all about over here. He said, "how did they keep that alive in the bathroom all year???" I gave him a book about Florida and tonight he's reading himself to sleep with "Corkscrew Swamp."

I'm so proud of your blue ribbon pig, even though I'm not remotely connected- you know how I adore your pigs.

FC. you do a wonderful job of summing up why I am so happy to "live" in Florida, even if it is only for part of the year. Thank you so much

Floridacracker said...

nah, it's all in educationalgookyese and i have to match a rigid rubric in my writings. so far, about 50 pages are done, and i'm entering the edit, rewrite stage.

I actually did last year, but the water level has dropped below it. It's sansphibian for now.

The mole, tiger, and spotted are pretty similar in habits appearance.

I do take a lot of "roam the place with camera" in hand breaks :)
I've actually done some of that pondivisional mucking about, but the first flooding rain reconnects it all and the fish then have access.

Mostly, when a dry season allows it, I just give them a head start on the fish.

I need to drag a dipnet through there and get some closeups.

They're babies!

I'm so glad Bud made it down and is getting a good taste of Florida. Your coontie seeds have been traveling towards you for one day now :)

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Wow...your newts are back! That explains why I only find salamanders in the water before it reaches the pond.