It’s that hopeful time of year when Vancouver goes several days in a row without a downpour and people suddenly start remembering why they love this city. The crocuses and daffodils have been in bloom for a while and the first rhododendrons and cherries are starting. The ponds, however, are still cold and apparently barren. I’ve been dredging up what vegetation I can find in them and transplanting it for my experiment. Although I see fish in the shallows, it’s only when I start to look through the mud I’ve pulled up with the algae that most of the pond life becomes apparent. It’s full of snails and tiny little freshwater clams; the occasional backswimmer and dragonfly nymph (the thing that looks like a dirty spider minus two legs in the picture) shows its face. In a few weeks, the ponds will be full of them.
The vegetation I’m dredging up is mostly an alga in the genus Chara, also called stonewort for the calcium deposits that make its stems rough to the touch. It’s not a true plant, though it looks much like one, growing in a rosette of bottle-brush like stems from the pond bottom, where it anchors itself to rocks (quite tenaciously, I’ve discovered). Each rosette consists of dead, slightly blanched stems from last year and some bright green new growth—so presumably part of the plant survives the winter. Given time, the rosettes will spread and merge to from dense mats through which insects and small fish tunnel.
The birds seem to be noticing that spring is here, too. Robins are beginning to replace varied thrushes; chickadees are going crazy with what looks like joie de vivre but is actually a mixture of bloodlust and just plain lust; two flickers were lounging around the ponds this morning. The flickers always catch my eye, partly because they’re such large birds, partly because the flash of red under their wings is so unexpected: the species in eastern North America has yellow underwings.
A flock of Canada geese flew over today. There were mallards too, but I suspect they’ve been here all winter. One exciting though familiar sighting is a killdeer, a plover with a distinctive, plaintive call that favours gravelly areas for its nest. The ponds are surrounded by gravel (though the weeds will probably have taken over by the end of the summer), so the killdeer is probably pleased. However, the coyote droppings I found today might give it pause.