Category Archives: the pond

Remnants, my foot!

On Sunday August 19th, an unprecedented event occurred over Central Oklahoma. We were expecting the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin that had come ashore in Texas and meandered west then turned north and finally eastward into Oklahoma. What we got was something a bit different. Contrary to normal tropical storm progression, Erin did not not continue to weaken over land, but intensified over Oklahoma during the night on Saturday and into early Sunday until it was again tropical storm strength. Radar images early Sunday morning, as Erin approached Oklahoma City, showed a well defined eye.

When we woke on Sunday morning, we had some minor flooding in the two southside bedrooms and the rain gauge had 5.30 inches of rain. I fed and walked the dog in drizzle, and noticed the pond had filled (it was dry on Saturday), and some erosion of the driveway. But Erin wasn’t done with us yet. By 7am the next rain band was lashing us, and the soil already saturated, was not letting any more soak in. Our new drains were quickly overwhelmed (within minutes) and we doggedly attempted to divert as much water as we could from the house by deepening the previous trenches.

We were only partially successful. More water got in the house. At one point, we had water flowing two to three inches up the side of the house. Master bedroom, studio, radio room, kitchen and mudroom, all had water infiltration. I wish we could have taken photographs of the disaster as it occurred, but we were a little busy trying to limit the damage. It took three days to dry everything out, which is pretty quick thanks to our wet/dry shopvac sucking a lot of the water from the underpadding of the carpets. We had to camp in the living room for two nights, but given the amount of water that flowed by the house, we felt lucky. 8.65 inches fell from T.S. Erin as she passed by in six hours.

When the rain slackened we had a chance to snap a few shots of the Windhaven River. The water was flowing so fast and deep that I had difficulty walking up our front walkway. You can see our pond just beyond the river driveway, something we don’t usually see from the front porch.

I walked around the pond, and found the water so high that it was inches from overtopping the dam and was actually flowing around the “upstream” end of the pond, as well as gushing out he overflow pipe (below).

Erin left us with a bit of a mess to clean up and fix. The back porch needed a good cleaning, but the mud left wonderful patterns, showing where the water flowed.

The walkway will need some fill and repair. I’m not sure what happened to the rock but assume it’s buried under the mud in the hole.

The newly dug trench in the backyard for the drain pipe, was a path of least resistance for the water and completely uncovered the pipe, all the way to the exit. Most of the sand ended up in a big delta a little further downhill, so I might find enough fill to repair the yard. We’ll see.

I mentioned some erosion of the driveway. The second wave of rain finished the job. It’s hard to get an idea of perspective, so I’ll tell you that the trench is knee deep, and the delta of material at the end of the driveway spans half way across the road. Looking uphill (below), you can see the driveway is only passable by driving in the vegetation uphill. Amazingly, the UPS truck managed it.

We were expecting tornadoes when we moved to Oklahoma, but a Tropical Storm? Apparently so! In our first year at Windhaven we’ve experienced record rainfall, a blizzard, 100+ degree heat, and a tropical storm, but no tornado! Global climate change? Perhaps.

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Beautiful Bugs and Butterflies

milkweed bug
On my weekly walkabouts, I often snap a shot here and there of interesting creatures. I’ve had to buy new reference books to identify some of them, a moth book, a dragonfly book, help from the web. Some of them I don’t have a name for but they’re all cool!

I’ve noticed that milkweeds attract they’re own cadre of critters, besides the Monarch Butterfly. The bug to the right is a Milkweed Bug, identified by the “don’t eat me” orange X on it’s back.

milkweed catepillar

I came across this caterpillar, there were several, munching away on Whorled Milkweed. On one of the plants I also found this little pile of beetles covering the milkweed pod (below).
milkweed beetles

darner

Hanging around the pond also offers opportunity to photograph critters. Dragonflies are constantly patrolling the pond in search of food and protecting their little territories. The biggest and most common is the Common Green Darner (female, left). The Green Darner is a little easier than most to identify, especially when you see the little bull’s eye in front of their eyes.

widow skimmer

Another easy-to-identify dragonfly is the Widow Skimmer. He was very cooperative, returning to the same twig time and again, until I got a really good diagnostic picture. So far I’ve identified 7 species of dragonflies.

spreadwing

Not as easy to photograph and even harder to identify, are the damselflies. I think this is a Spreadwing, but I’m not positive. This little gem caught my eye because of it’s opalescent wings, which you can’t see in this picture, of course. I’ve attempted to photograph four or five species of damselflies, but they’re so tiny and skittish I just managed to capture two of them.

bluet?

The second damselfly I photographed is quite common. I suspect it’s the Familiar Bluet (the name sounds good for a common damselfly). These little gems would hold on to the top of a plant and as the breeze would blow their bodies would swing around the plant stem like a tiny wind vane. You can imagine how tough it is to snap a sharp photo of it.

moth

I haven’t managed to photograph many moths, but this little guy was very cooperative, hanging out on my glove while I went looking for my camera. It took me quite a long time to identify this one. I knew it was an Underwing (from the brightly colored hindwings), but there are so many different underwings that I had to get a moth book to pin it down. This one is the Sordid Underwing.

Gulf Fritillary top

Butterflies are so much easier. These two photos give you a topside view and an underside view of the Gulf Fritillary. This is a fairly big butterfly, 3 inches, and I think one of the most beautiful.

fritillary

buckeye

I’ve been trying for a long time to get a photo of the Common Buckeye. They’re very flighty. Wouldn’t you know that the best shot I get is a specimen that can’t fly very well because of a bite taken out of it’s left hindwing.

sulphur

This lovely yellow butterfly is an Orange Sulphur. I know you can’t see any orange, but trust me it’s there hidden by the hindwing.

sachem

I decided to buy this lantana plant on the spur of the moment. I was at a garden center to get pots and saw the lantana out front was just swarming with butterflies. Shortly after I brought it home and set it in the sun out front, this little Skipper showed up. This species is called Sachem. It didn’t take long before I had several other Skippers, Sphinx moths and Swallowtails all partaking of the nectar.

egg

Wandering around my garden, I found this tiny white egg on the tip of a fennel frond.

black swallowtail

Those tiny eggs eventually become the magnificently colored caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail, Oklahoma’s State Butterfly. I just checked my bronze fennel today and the plant is now hosting 30 small caterpillars. I’m not sure it can sustain that many, but I’d hate to remove butterfly caterpillars if I don’t have to.

If you’re squeamish about spiders, stop now. Otherwise, continue.

spider

These wolf spiders are all over the place in the grass out front. They’re BIG, two inches across.

From drought to drowning

Two weeks ago the Oklahoma Climatological Survey declared the drought to be over. This area of Oklahoma had suffered through 7 drought years. Last year 8.58″ was the average rainfall for the entire Spring season. To date this Spring we’ve recorded 13.03″ of rain here at Windhaven, 7.25″ of which has been recorded since May 1st, and as I write this, there’s more falling! So far, for the month of May, we’ve had nearly 50% more rain than normal.


As a result of this rainfall, we have an amazing amount of water on our land.

Water running through underground gopher holes,…

waterfalls exiting gopher holes,…

creeks running through the yard,…

a stream running down our driveway,…

and an incredible amount of water in our pond.

The pond level rose 24″ in 24 hours. Drowning the tall grasses along the edge and providing great perches for the calling frogs and toads.

Last night I found yet another species of toad, Great Plains Narrow-mouthed Toad, calling from the pond, bringing the total to 6 species of amphibians breeding in our pond.

From bone dry when we moved in to about hip deep in the middle and teeming with life, we truly went from drought to drowning!