One of our ponds is surrounded by a tangle of Pacific crabapple, black hawthorn, Indian plum and Douglas fir. But the most dominant tree is a large, multi-trunked Pacific willow which has changed repeatedly in the decade we’ve been watching – its old, brittle limbs breaking off, replaced by new and vital branches.
The pond is a natural one, fed by surface runoff which fills it to the brim each winter. By July it’s dry, the flattened grass evidence of the soft summer bed it provides for the deer.
Songbirds can be heard year-round in the surrounding thickets, and on warm afternoons a red squirrel often suns itself on one of the willow’s trunks.
In the spring mallards visit and paddle about the tiny bays, feeding on the vegetation – and perhaps on the tadpoles and newts that have hatched in the shallow, warm water. The ducks seem to enjoy this private place, where they are hidden by brush from the view of hawks and other predators.
The day to day changes at the pond are subtle, and to the casual observer it may seem like nothing much ever happens here. But if you watch and listen, you realize there’s really a lot going on – much more than meets the eye.