Winter, nature’s quiet season, has begun. The farm pond is now frozen crystal. Its denizens of fish, frogs and turtles will burrow into its muddy depths to sleep and prepare for their spring multiplying that provides food for its special seasonal visitors like Henry, the Great Blue Heron.
In spring and summer, Henry stalks the spruce shadowed shores with slow dignity. He tolerates no other herons, except an occasional small night heron. Henry can do nothing about the dapper little kingfisher who dives like a feathered bullet from an overhanging pine branch to catch a small fish.
A cormorant flies in from the sea to spend an afternoon diving for fish and floating in his half-submerged fashion. He is able to dive deeply because he has little or no oil in his feathers unlike other water birds. So he becomes water-logged, and he must light in a tall spruce to spread his wings to dry in the sun, looking like the symbol of phoenix.
The pond’s citizens are prolific. The hunting forays of big birds don’t appear to upset the balance of supply. After the cormorant’s long raids we expect there to be no more signs of fish. But as the westering sun turns the pond to melting gold, and water flies and insects hover over it, trout leap in silvery flashes making interlacing water rings as they reach toward the enticing flying food.
Henry Heron does not deplete the frog colony in spite of his long seasonal stay. When walking the pond’s grassy banks, clipped velvet-close by sheep, the bronze-green frogs spread their long toes and shoot into the water’s safety. The fragrance of summer darkness also carries sounds of the deep and comical, almost vulgar, bellow of the giant bullfrogs, each proclaiming his ownership of the water property.
Barn and mud swallows, acrobats of the air, swoop and wheel in the pond area for mosquitoes. They also land on the shores for a supply of clay to use in nest building. Painted turtles relax on a large boulder at the pond’s edge blissfully absorbing sunlight.
Dainty little killdeer delight us with their sweet calling of their own name, along with the beauty of their intricate patterns of bars and stripes. The soft apricot of their underwings when spread in flight is always a surprise after thinking of them in terms of black and white. When their young emerge from the cattails beyond the pond’s banks, they are not baby-like, but miniature adults in form and action. They poke about in the barnyard corral for special treats.
The farm pond provides food, water and homes for animal life, swimming and skating for people, moon, sun and stars are reflected in the mirrors of its surface. It is the epitome of a small eco-system, a four-season source of natural beauty and inspiration. Another gift from this beautiful country of the north, Maine.
(May B. Davidson lives in Round Pond. She is a longtime columnist for The Lincoln County News and the author of “Whatever It Takes: Seven Decades of True Love, Hard Work, and No Regrets.”)