Some land owners in Frederick County are fortunate enough to have a pond on their property. A pond generally doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, but some general care will yield beauty and utility to the property.
Ponds usually have a finite life, and gradually fill up with silt (soil washed in during storms). This can be slowed by plant life in runoff areas to slow the rate of influx and to filter plant matter and silt before it reaches the pond.
Ponds are valuable because they provide a ready water supply for animals. They can also provide a water source for home and garden use and as a firefighting resource. Some ponds yield recreational fishing, a beautiful venue for picnics, wildlife habitat, summer time boating as well as winter recreation such as ice skating. There is also something soothing about a walk around a beautiful pond on a quiet evening.
Many ponds have been stocked with fish such as Bluegill and Large Mouth Bass, for example. These fish feed on smaller fish, waterborne insects, worms, crawfish, and other materials. They, in turn, provide a food source for various birds and other wildlife. Great Blue Herons can be seen patiently “fishing” at ponds that are reasonably remote from human and other traffic. These birds are shy and easily disturbed, causing flight. When this occurs, though, a heron lifting off and slowly climbing away is a magnificent sight. Other birds can be seen coming and going or standing quietly on the shore to capture insects. Red-winged Blackbirds are often seen in cattails at pond side.
The edges of the pond support a microsystem of plants and animals that vary according to the seasons. Who can forget the harbinger of spring—“peepers” singing their mating song? Strings of frog eggs can often be seen, followed by “puddles” of shimmering tadpoles. Turtles, snails, and mature frogs are sometimes permanent residents. Water plants and a wide variety of insects such as water bugs and dragonflies provide an interesting world in miniature. A variety of animals including deer, turkeys, and raccoons frequent ponds to drink forage for food. Waterfowl can use a pond as a stopping over point during annual migration, or as a place to nest and raise young. Ducks, geese, and swans are frequent visitors.
Some ponds are fed by springs or runoff from the surrounding land. The pond slows runoff during periods of heavy rain and provides a filter for nutrients. A variety of plants such as cattails, sedges, rushes, and pond side grasses are natural and beneficial. Too much of a good thing can be harmful, however. Everyone has seen unsightly vegetation on ponds in the warm months. This can easily be controlled by a variety of methods like aeration, and the use of pond dye. Pond dye gives a beautiful color to the water while preventing penetration of sunlight which causes algae to bloom, leading to pond scum. Aeration keeps the water moving and increases the oxygen levels. An occasional pass with a sturdy weed “whacker” will control the pond edge vegetation. The influx of plant material like leaves in the autumn, over time, can cause a buildup of mud on the bottom. There are biological, bacteria pellets that can be added to greatly reduce this. Careful use of these agents will not harm fish or other pond life.
Clean, clear, beautiful water, thriving with life can be obtained and maintained. The mirror image of autumn colored tree leaves on a smooth, still pond surface can be a really beautiful sight.
Article by Claude Eans, FCFCDB member
Nature Note for 3/15/20