Over the nine years that I’ve lived here, I’ve been gradually creating habitat and homes for native wildlife. It’s a slow, but rewarding, process. We’ve left the lawn immediately adjacent to the pond unmowed since we arrived. I’ve been planting native species and pulling weeds in that swath. The last few springs we’ve burned it to encourage the natives to out-compete the weeds. Native plants support wildlife in so many ways that non-native plants can’t. They are the backbone of the restoration.
Our pond is one and a half acres, stretching from its edge on our property down past three other homes. There are snags that we’ve anchored in place to provide sunning spots for turtles and preening spots for waterfowl.
I planted blue flag iris where damselflies now rest and marsh marigolds in the water’s edge. We sank a couple of Christmas trees (carting them down the street from neighbor’s curbsides like the Grinch!) under the dock to give young fish a safe place to grow.
The local osprey pair, that fish here regularly the last 2-3 years, indicate an attractive, healthy fish population.
It’s rewarding to watch the wildlife taking advantage of the little refuges that I make. House wrens feed their chicks every summer on insects from the tall grasses and forbs that now edge the water. Damselflies of every color perch on the sedges. A pair of Canada geese raises their goslings here every June and mallard ducks are beginning to nest here, too.
But today, I saw something exciting and new. Wood ducks! Eight, yes, EIGHT wood ducks! I first saw them on the wooded far shore where we’ve cleared some buckthorn and honeysuckle to expose the forest floor. At first, I only noticed a few, colorful males. The females camouflage so effectively that I didn’t notice them right away. I thought I saw a girl there, too! I grabbed the binoculars.
One by one, they waddled down the treed slope into the water. After they’d all left the cover of the woods, there were clearly six males and two females casually swimming about, carefree on my pond.
The boys circled in great arcs, sometimes rearing up and flapping their wings to impress the girls. Each boy seemed to take a turn escorting a girl – swimming gently, slowly, aimlessly, side by side. The others respectfully kept their distance until it was their time to escort a hen. It looked like a graceful courting ritual, in stark contrast to the dogged assault I’ve seen with mallards. The wood ducks continued their wooing as they gradually moved down the pond and out of sight.
I was glad for this morning’s distraction and so lucky to have been home to have seen it. It’s so fulfilling to see wildlife continue to enjoy this space that I curate.