The weather continues to be stubbornly non-summery, but there have been glimmers of hope. The fish are conspiring against me, with females refusing to be gravid when I have males with nests and vice versa. Lots of other wildlife happenings, though!
There is a kingfisher hanging around the ponds. Probably the smartest kingfisher ever. Smug little bastard. Its call, as it perches above the fish-filled ponds, sound eerily like condescending laughter. (So far, all my fish are accounted for.)
On the other hand, there are Swainson’s thrushes calling now too. (I just figured out that that’s what they are—I heard them all the time last summer and wondered what was making that sound, but the other day I finally saw one singing and made the connection.) Their call is three upward-sweeping, breathy whistles, and it just sounds so happy! Unlike my fish, which seem to frown at me all the time.
As a bit of destructive therapy, I have taken it upon myself to clear the pond facility of the invasive weed Cytisus scoparius, aka Scotch broom. This plant, a legume (i.e. related to clover, peas, and beans), is taking over the Pacific Northwest, crowding out native species. The infestation at the ponds is relatively small, though, so with a little bit of effort it can be stamped out here. I’m cutting back the plants before they can set seed and uprooting any that are small enough to do so easily. The stumps may grow back next year, and there’s likely to be a big seed bank, so someone will have to keep doing this for the next few years in order for it to work.
The plants were introduced as ornamentals, and they are indeed beautiful—shrubs about a metre and a half high with strange, broomlike (duh) branches that fill out with yellow flowers in the late spring. Like all legumes, they are nitrogen fixers: they, or rather their symbiotic root bacteria, can convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into a usable form. This makes them good colonizers of poor soils.
I’m spending about an hour a day removing stands of broom. No doubt there are other nonnative plants around that I could also be removing, but this is among the most noxious and the easiest to control. (For example, there’s Himalayan blackberry everywhere, but it’s a pain to deal with. Also, blackberries.)
I’ve noticed that a few individuals, maybe 1-2% of the population, have red-and-yellow instead of solid yellow flowers.
Also blooming is the Potamogeton in my enclosures, with inflorescences studded with four-petalled pink flowers peeking out of the water.
And I keep meaning to talk about caddisfly larvae. Some adult caddisflies—small, dark grey, fluttering, mothlike, with thin antennae longer than their bodies—have been flying in small swarms just over the pond surface, perhaps preparing to mate and lay eggs. Their larvae crawl along the pond bottom building tiny, cylindrical shelters for themselves, expanding them as they grow larger. Their house may be of sand, pebbles, plants, or small shells, but the material is always held together with silk. By building using whatever they find around them, they are automatically camouflaged. Here are two views of a sand-and-twig case, the twig held parallel to the case proper.
Finally, I might as well link to one of the coolest combinations of art and biology I’ve ever heard of: someone decided to put caddisfly larvae in a tank with bits of gems and gold dust to make jewelry!