Our Sebastopol, California Pond's 20th year - 2015
Kathy's Bigsnest Pond Blog/Diary

Winter 2015

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It's been an unusually warm winter - a winter without rain though, as California enters its 4th year of drought. Luckily, a wildlife pond uses less water than a lawn, and at the same time it provides much needed water for our wildlife. The animals that live near our home in Sebastopol do have the year-round creek behind our yard (Azalea Creek- our publishing company is named after it!), but not all animals are so lucky! The first thumbnail image links to a full view of the dormant pond in January. The 2nd photo though is of one lucky kitty. And as you can see, even Callie the kitty has gotten into "selfies" this year! The image of Callie was taken by our trailcam, but not that of the next cat! We call him "Lover Boy" - but Callie is afraid of him! Tomcats aren't known to be tender lovers. He does love the pond water even if Callie ignors him!

In fact, it was quite the month for "selfies" as we left the trail camera set up, facing the pond all month. Hope you enjoy our "spying"!!
First, the trailcam caught a "mob" of Scrub Jays as they took a communal bath (it even caught one leaving). Next, during the night the cam spied on a raccoon doing his pitter-patter around the pond, but that's not all.... late at night while we were sleeping this skunk was a creeping nightly visitor. Unfortunately, the neighbor's dog(s) couldn't resist chasing it. We had several sleepless nights...(due to the odor).

And then, even Lover Boy got into the act!! And, tee hee, the cam even caught some of our visitors and me in my gardening shoes!! Not to be outdone, we had a Robin with a hole in his chest - well, at least in his chest feathers! Last but not least, the poor Robin's cousin, the Varied Thrush made appearances as did another member of the Thrush family: the Hermit Thrush.

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For only the 2nd time ever, an Acorn Woodpecker came in to the pond, this time to the waterfall where he bathed and drank. In the image where he is drinking, we think he has his nictating membrane closed (his 2nd eyelid); this would make sense as woodpeckers must need to protect their eyes when they are chipping away at wood. A nictating membrane is semi transparent, so the bird could still see enuf to know if a predator was approaching.

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A bird that we often see at our McCloud pond, but had never seen here before visited: A Nashville Warbler. We weren't able to get a good photo, but good enuf for an ID.
We'd never had so many polliwogs in the pond before, EVER! It was exciting, but it made it difficult to clean the pond as tiny polywogs were everywhere!!

Very sadly, we went away for a week. When we returned, the thousands of small polliwogs were gone, only ONE remained. This has been quite a mystery to us and we don't know what to make of it. They were too young to have finished their maturation in just a week. It was quite a blow and we hope it never happens again!

Spring 2015

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When Spring sprang, the pond was just gorgeous! We don't think it's ever looked more vibrant. An early visitor was an Eight-spotted Skimmer. They are an infrequent visitor to the pond, named for the 2 dark spots on each of their 4 wings (2X4=8). Even the algae was lush, as you can see. But soon the plant growth was abundant enuf to starve it out. It wasn't long before our 'regular' appeared: The Cardinal Meadowhawk (Sympetrum illotum). Year after year his ancestors have ruled our pond.

Later in the month, I was astounded to find a Blue Dasher male emerging from next to the small pondlet we keep in the patio area. It's only 4" deep and sometimes dries out to just a muddy pool....the male wasn't noticed until AFTER I accidentally touched it and whether that was the cause, or he was already doomed, I don't know. But he died before his first flight. When male dragonflies emerge, they are colored as a female. Had he lived, he would have become blue. I decided to add his body to my Ode collection which is willed to the Bohart Insect Museum at UCDavis. The scan of the specimen shows how to correctly label an insect for a museum. Dragonflies aren't pinned as their bodies are too fragile.

As the month advanced, the pond never ceased to amaze us, as California Darners began to emerge. We were lucky one day to watch almost the whole sequence. You can click on the set of images to the lower left to see the sequence of photos of the transformation that we took.

April was turning out to be a wonderful month, and I so enjoyed sitting out by the pond, putting on some of the final touches for the new 'Eleanor of Aquitaine' quilt I was creating for my new granddaughter!
On the 26th an American Lady butterfly began spending time by the pond. In the pictures below she is nectaring on wild onions that grow immediately adjacent to the pond. But one of their host plants is Cudweed, which I also have growing near the pond, and later in the year (fall actually) I found a caterpillar and then later a chrysalis on the cudweed. We weren't home when it emerged, but maybe it was her offspring!
Our Pacific Chorus/Tree frogs had been chorusing for quite a while now, and the eggs were developing nicely. In fact, there were so many eggs that it was difficult to clean the pond without disturbing them.
The warmth and heat led to some strange looking fungus growth on the oak stump from the tree that fell into the pond back in 2013. I think they look like Cauliflowers!!

As the month ended, we prepared to take off for a week or two at our summer home in McCloud, but not before we snapped a few more photos to remind us of this gorgeous month....if we've got to be in drought, you might as well enjoy any 'silver linings' you get!! The first image below is a darner nymph, this one still a month or two from its final molt and emergence. And then 2 views of the pond. Enjoy!!

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Honestly, May 1st started out as if it we April 1st, April Fools Day. We looked out the windows and discovered 2 deer trying to help us out in the pruning of our Cecil Brunner rose!! It needs all the pruning it can get, so we weren't dismayed at all!
Our next 'visitors' were even more welcome! We had a 'rash' of Green Darners emerging! They are the largest dragonfly we have at the pond, so this was quite thrilling. And, since none of them stayed around, we wonder if they were the migratory branch of this genus - so much we don't know about Odes, and that's one of the reasons I'm so 'obsessed' with them. The image to the most right below goes to a page of photos of them....the newly emerged 'greenie' has a chartreuse face and 'bullseye'!!

On the 16th, our first Flame Skimmer male showed up to make his claim on the pond. Of course, this led to many skirmishes with the resident Cardinal Meadowhawks! They are always the true rulers of the pond, even though they are smaller than Flame Skimmers.

But, my oh my, sometimes I just can't believe how pretty it is to look out the window or go sit beside the pond. Click on this image for some other May views!

Summer 2015

June & July:
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These last 3 images are all that were taken in June and July due do some health issues, but after that we were well, but up at our McCloud home.

Although it is difficult to leave such beauty behind, our McCloud home also has a pond. It is more stark in nature, but the wildlife that visits it is INCREDIBLE! Click here to follow our adventures there


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After an extended summer at our McCloud home, we came home to our lush Bigsnest pond...and were greeted by a brand new butterfly species! A Gulf Fritillary! This species, we've learned, has been expanding its range - its host plant is the Passion Vine and we must have some growing nearby, as here it was! It's such a gorgeous species: we're quite jazzed about it!...butterfly species #28 for the pond.
And yet, something felt quite 'familiar' - it seems as if the Hermit Thrush who sang so sweetly for us all summer at our Dragonfly Roost pond in McCloud, had flown down to keep us company here....or, in reality, one of its species had!! It loved bathing in the bowl of our waterfall. You can see the Indian Rhubarb is turning colors already.

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Sharp cold nights led to some of the most gorgeous Fall colors we've ever had. And we'd just bought a brand new camera to record it all! Our old camera had started darkening every image we took, no matter how we repaired the camera. It was 14 yrs old, now-a-days that's ancient!!

We're loving how the pond has naturalized. Moss has not only grown ON the rocks but it has actually cemented the rocks together. We even have roots dangling over the waterfall, as you often see in nature - but then, the waterfall part of the pond is 19 yrs. old now.

Two other species of birds migrated south with us too: The Am. Robin and the Pine Siskin. I guess that we too have truly become migrants!!

One of the thrills of having a wildlife pond is that, when you look out at it, often you're surprised to see who is visiting. This seems to be way more true of the pond than of our dry landscape, it is just such an attractant, especially in this 4-year drought! So, only 30 mins. went by between the first photo below, and the other 4. This was the first time when we've SEEN the deer come in this close. Maybe they migrated south with us too!?? Not really, but it's interesting how many of the same species as we see at our McCloud pond show up at our Bigsnest Pond when we too return to it! This even includes our Anna's Hummingbirds.


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What a difference a month makes! When we left for an extended Thanksgiving 2 wks in Oregon an Washington visiting family, the fall colors were at their peak.
But when we returned in mid-December, there had been wind....and the trees were bare. Now the pond is in its 'deep sleep' phase.
It will awaken soon though, when the frogs start calling!

Please visit us again in 2016!!