A statewide wildlife network

We have a pond about 30 yards from our back deck; it has been there since the 1930s. Our house, which replaced an old farmhouse, was sited so that it overlooked the pond, which was a few acres in size.

Over the years we have seen it visited by almost every bird and water animal native to the state. The pond is about as natural as it gets, with mature trees lining the banks and native aquatic plants in the shallow end. Occasionally a flock of ducks stop en route south and last year I spotted a river otter swimming in the shallow end.

Judging by the turtle shells on the shore, the river otters have turned the turtle population out of control. Any decent sized Arkansas pond will contain a few water snakes and probably a few water moccasins.

We recently welcomed semi-permanent visitors. Two Canada geese stopped earlier in the year; in late spring, they decided they liked the place. They loved the new green grass along the edge of the pond where our yard ends and the pond begins. They were always together.

After checking the habits of Canada geese, I understood why: they mate for life. They would always be within a few feet of each other until about a month last spring when I only noticed a single goose.

I told Vertis that I suspected the other was nesting. Then, a few days after that, I went down to the shallow end of the pond, and just beside a tall hickory tree in a grassy area on the bank of the pond sat the other goose, which s slowly moved away and into the pond as I approached.

I left after spotting a nest full of eggs. It seems the geese had decided to call the pond home and were going to raise a family.

The next morning, I looked out our kitchen window and a lone goose was swimming in the pond. It was like that for most of the next week. I don’t know if the geese took turns on the nest, but it seems they did. Then, after another week, I spotted the two geese together, and there was a gosling waddling behind them. It was like having a new baby in the family, but I wondered about the rest of the eggs.

A few days later, the number of goslings had increased to four. We watched the family of six come into our yard to munch on some new grass, and the next week the brood was the same. I passed by the nest and it was empty, so I thought it was going to be the whole family of geese.

A week later, just as I was leaving for work one morning, I noticed the two adult geese followed by the four goslings swimming towards the end of the pond where a low weir lets excess water drain into the large five-acre pond. one hundred meters south of our backyard.

I didn’t see any of the geese for several days, then one afternoon I spotted the two adults, followed by a gosling on the dyke of our upper pond. I wondered what happened to the other three goslings, but even after circling the entire lower pond, I didn’t see anything related to the goose.

The next morning I looked outside and the two adult geese were still sitting on the dike, but the gosling was gone. The two geese spent the whole day sitting on the dike. The next morning they left and I haven’t seen any geese since.

Considering the heavily treed area of ​​the lower pond where I saw foxes, coyotes, feral hogs, and hawks, it’s likely the goslings were victims. As for how the two mature geese sat on the dike for an entire day, I can’t say for sure why, but it may have been to see if the goslings would reappear. However, since the geese had never sat all day on the shore of the pond, I believe they were in mourning.

It bothered us that the goose family tragically lost all four goslings, but that’s part of the web of life.

This left a few blue herons in the upper pond, and they’re on my bad bird list, as they managed to knock down two large koi from my backyard pool. I bought a treble sound box, which solves the problem. I can’t hear it due to my hearing loss after shooting a shotgun thousands of times when I was a teenager and young man, but Vertis and the birds can hear it, and it stops the birds from enter the courtyard pool.

Raccoons and possums frequent our yard, and a tiny raccoon and skinny opossum have made their home under our deck.

I had another little wildlife experience last week when I checked on the condition of our pool. The pool has only been circulating water since early spring, but leaves and trash still need to be cleaned from the skimmers. I noticed that one of the skimmers seemed to be clogged. It’s usual.

I removed the skimmer cover, and sure enough, it was full of leaves and sticks. I reached into the skimmer and grabbed a big handful of leaves and a big enough stick to unplug it, but when I started to put the handful of trash down the stick moved. It was a big snake about three feet long, and before I could drop it, its head popped out of the leaves with its mouth wide open, and jerked its head back to hit my hand. It failed, but if those leaves had been on fire, I couldn’t have knocked them down any faster.

I looked closely at the snake and heaved a sigh of relief. It was a water snake. He went back to the pool, and while he was swimming, I came into the house to change my pants.

Email Richard Mason at [email protected]

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