Goldfish, that is. The warmer weather we have been enjoying in the past week invites you outdoors to wander about the property, soaking up the sun, the joy, the very newness of all that is spring. I was standing by the pond recently, doing just that, when I noticed a flash of gold. Goldfish!
In the year that I have been visiting the pond, I have only spotted goldfish a couple of times. The first time was last spring, when I found a dead fish on the shore. The second sighting took place in the fall, when I spotted a couple of goldfish hovering just at the point where the shallow water gives way to the murky deep. I was therefore quite surprised to see a whole school, a fleet of several dozen bright orange fishes. They were lazing about in the pond weed, just below the surface of the water, charmed from the depths, perhaps by the first warmth of spring.
It was quite exciting to see them, even though they are a common enough pet-store fish, presumably introduced to the pond by former residents. The pond has a good native population, including little fishes and bullfrogs, dragonflies and insects. I’m not sure what role these outsiders will play in the ecology of the pond.
Apart from when the icy grip of winter prevails, there is always something to see down by the pond. On recent visits, I have spotted the poor, dead carcasses of bullfrogs that didn’t make it through the winter along the shore. However, there are also plenty of big, fat bullfrog tadpoles who will continue to represent the species into the future.
Assorted insects and other little creatures are getting their new season underway as well. I saw what I thought was a water strider scooting across the surface, but on closer examination it turned out to be a spider, probably a Fishing Spider (Dolomedes sp). Dolomedes spiders are covered all over in short, water-proof hairs (hydrophobic). This allows them to use surface tension to stand or run on the water. They typically hunt by waiting at the edge of the water until they detect the ripples caused by the movement of prey. Then they run across the surface to capture it. They use their foremost legs, which are tipped with small claws, to subdue their prey. Like other spiders, they then inject venom with their hollow jaws to kill and digest the prey.
There are plenty of Red-winged Blackbirds singing their oak-a-leeee song. The red-wings are always early spring arrivals, but they are being joined by many other birds now. Here is a Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) that was singing at the edge of the pond, adding his voice to the celebration of the season.