Saturday, March 19, 2005

Critter Hotel

One of my minor chores in the cold months is to feed the goldfish. I bring them into the greenhouse in the winter and keep them in two large plastic stock tanks (along with the pond plants). They spend the summer in the garden in their pond. The pond was originally right by our deck at the back of the house, but about five years ago we did some extensive remodelling, and the contractor told me the original pond had to be moved. It was just getting so it looked really good, with a rock garden and dwarf evergreens around it. You know how in cartoons, when a character is told something distressing, his jaw drops clear to the ground? That's how I felt when I heard the pond had to go. The new pond is in the middle of the garden, quite a ways from the house, and while it's more natural setting and appearance are attractive to look at, they are also more attractive to the resident critters; it was like putting up a sign "Fish Buffet". That's not to say the original pond was completely safe. Once as I came into the house, I noticed a barred owl sitting in the black locust tree right by that pond, and called for Liz to come look at it. She told me she thought it was after the goldfish, which I scoffed at, never having heard of owls hunting fish. I had to admit, it was odd that the owl was sort of shuffling back and forth on the limb, and then SWOOP, he dove on the pond, and was gone with one of the fish. I got out my owl book, and found a whole chapter entitled "Owls as fishermen". Well, the new pond is even more of an attraction, a veritable critter hotel. A couple of summers ago was the worst, with the following guests: red-tailed hawk, bullfrogs, great blue heron, opossum, racoons, water snake, and maybe the final straw; coming out in the morning and finding a muskrat happily swimming around in my 10 foot by 4 foot goldfish pond. The worst of these pests though, was the water snake, which wiped out all of the smaller fish before I finally got it out of the pond. Water snakes are incredibly fast swimmers, and downright mean and nasty, and I finally had to half drain the pond to catch it. Liz volunteered to take it over to a nearby natural pond, so I put it in a styrofoam cooler for the trip, and put it in the back of her car. I had thoughts about putting an empty cooler in the back, with the lid ajar, but didn't, which is one of the reasons we're ssssstill happily married. Posted by Hello

My sister complains about the same thing with her pond. But take it as a compliment from mother nature that you have all of that diversity centered around a feature that you added.

Just one more way to provide habitat. I can understand not wanting the animals to eat your fish, though. But who could blame them for the easy pickin's?
I don't mind sharing the pond, but I draw the line at putting up a counter with toothpicks and after-dinner mints!
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