If you read my posting “from wallow to pond” before today, check it out again. I’ve added pictures, so you can see what the critters look like.
Yesterday, while poking around the pond edges, I saw what appeared to be tiny fish. Up close I could see pulsing ripples on their backs. It took a moment to realize I was looking at Fairy Shrimp. These are tiny (less than an inch) freshwater shrimp, related to Brine Shrimp (Sea Monkeys). Fairy Shrimp swim upside down and the rippling effect is from the continuous movement of their feet to keep them in one position. The shrimp eggs have likely been dormant for quite some time in the sand waiting for the waters to return. Very cool!
(image from vernalpool.org website)
One such ephemeral flower is the Prairie Anemone. Each delicate, beautiful flower is only open for a few days, and quickly disappears leaving a very small plant behind. I was lucky to get this photo on a reasonably nice day during our week of rainy weather. The flowers don’t open when it’s cloudy.
Another ephemeral creature because of its speed and shyness, is the Northern Fence Lizard. This one has crammed himself (it is a male) between two railroad ties, behind a spider web. Look carefully (maybe enlarge the picture by clicking on it) and you’ll see the tail running diagonally from lower right to upper left between the ties. The body of the lizard is the arching curve below the tail. Not easy, I know, which just makes my point. These creatures are not easy to see! Now you know why I study birds!!
Our “pond” here at Windhaven has been more of a sand wallow because of the extended drought. A week of rainy days changed that. The pond is about half full now and has become a refuge for many creatures. The first to arrive were the chorus frogs and dwarf toads.
(Strecker’s Chorus Frog, right; image from Kansas Deparment of Wildlife and Parks)
It’s not easy to take a picture of at night, but the critter in the center of the photo is a dwarf toad.
When the rains came in earnest a new sound emerged from the pond. The best way to describe it is the sound of bleating sheep. Our pond was filled with Hurter’s Spadefoots. Spadefoots are a funny kind of toad that spend most of their time buried deep in sand. On warm rainy nights they emerge to breed in temporary ponds. They showed up by the dozen.
Gray treefrogs also made forays to the pond’s edge to attract a mate. The noise was deafening at close range, but luckily didn’t penetrate our walls or our sleep.
(image from Department of Environmental Protection for Montgomery Co., MD)
About a week after the storms had passed and the silt from the runoff had settled, I could see hundreds of tadpoles swimming near the pond’s edge. A red-eared slider appeared in the pond, presumably to feast on some of the tadpole bounty (where it came from, I have no idea). Older sliders like the one on the right, and the one in our pond, lose their red ear. (image from saltgrassflats.com)
Dragon flies appeared to control the mosquitoes. Our Red-shouldered hawk hunts frequently along the pond edge to control the frogs, and yesterday a Belted Kingfisher arrived to check things out.
What was once a sandy depression is now a thriving aquatic community. Ain’t nature amazin’?!