Marked transformations of the landscape and its inhabitants occur daily now in the upper Midwestern U.S., as the weather is warming up.  I took an early morning walk around the settlement ponds beyond the backyard and found quite a few changes since the week before.

backyard pond

early morning reflection in one of the ponds

The trees have leafed out, the grass is greening up nicely, and wildlife has again taken up residence there.

canada geese-

A pair of geese claimed one end of the pond as theirs — encouraging another pair to move away.

great egret-

A Great Egret fished along the shore…this is the first one I’ve seen so far this year.

great egret-

They seem to love dining on miniscule fish fry they find on the edges of the pond. The bird caught three in quick succession.

male wood duck-

Only male Wood Ducks patrolled the pond’s edges; perhaps the females are all sitting on eggs somewhere.

And of course, a symphony of Chorus Frogs added their music to the landscape.

western chorus-frog-calling

Indvidual tiny Boreal Chorus Frogs emit incredibly loud calls, and together with the other 100s in the pond, their “symphony” is deafening.

Each day brings new surprises — stay tuned for next week’s report on the pond.

The pond(s)

Out in the way backyard, there are three ponds — sort of large, medium, and small sized.   The small and medium ponds were created to filter the street run-off before it entered Lake Owasso across the road from us, and are less than 10 years old.  The large pond predates our 26 year residence here.

Middle pond on March 14 (still frozen)

Middle pond on April 14 (spring has sprung)

The smallest pond tends to dry up in mid summer, but is the favored spot of a number of highly vocal Cricket frogs right now.  The medium sized pond doesn’t have much cover along its edge, just a smattering of cattails and reedy grass, with one large willow at one end, but the wood ducks seem to like it until someone comes walking by and scares them off.  The large pond is deeper, has forest along one edge, grass along another, and a lot of downed trees at one end that the turtles love.  All in all, this provides a lot of habitat variety for wildlife.

Here’s a glimpse of what I found at the ponds this afternoon.

Some Painted Turtles basking on a mostly submerged stick in the middle of the pond.  The ones near the pond edge all jumped in the water almost immediately after seeing me.

A romantic dragonfly couple, he in front deciding where they would go next, she a little larger than him tailing behind.  But both individuals flap to stay airborne.  I think they are either Shadow Darners or Lance-tipped Darners, but I couldn’t get a close enough look before they took off.

That’s not dirt on my lens.  It’s cottonwood fuzz.

This Song Sparrow was singing almost continuously to his female friend, who was down in the weeds right below him.

And a Yellow-rumped Warbler (the first warbler I’ve seen so far this spring) was catching insects from its perch in the same tree.  They are easily recognizable with their yellow shoulder patches and rump patch and the black mask.

Two American Egrets were hunting on opposite sides of the large pond, and seemed to be quite successful, judging from the number of times they tipped their heads back to swallow whatever they had caught.

He caught something really wiggly and had a hard time downing it.  Kind of looks like a crayfish.