Years ago, they made a movie called “Field of Dreams.” This mythic fantasy starring Kevin Costner was a movie that we enjoyed a lot when we saw it. There was a line in it that stuck with me: “If you build it, he will come.”
I find myself saying a modified version of that line a lot here at The Havens. When I first built the pond, I did it for the wildlife. I really did not have a clue as to just exactly how true the whole concept of “If you build it” actually is when I created the pond. (For a good retrospective of how the area has developed over the years, check out this post.)
We have a few leopard frogs that have moved in because of the presence of the pond. We find them out and about hunting on a regular basis. They visit the vegetable garden and hunt in the cucumber vines, sometimes they are over by the sauna, and I often run into them in the day lily bed. They are making a good living on the bugs here, and it is easy to forget that sometimes the predator can become the prey.
We had a reminder of that a couple of days ago. Jim was out removing the section of fence that fell down behind the day lilies last spring, and I was turning the compost pile. Suddenly, Jim said, “Ellie, come here!” in a quiet yet urgent voice.
I have learned that he never issues that order without some good cause, so I put my pitchfork down immediately, and hustled over to where he was standing on alert by the pond.
“Shh,” he said. We stood together for a minute or so. “Do you hear that?” he said suddenly, as a rather odd sort of “erking” noise issued from the pond verge.
“Yes,” I replied. “I wonder what it is?” It happened again. “Sounds sort of froggy to me,” I added.
“I think it’s a frog too, wonder what kind it is?” The noise happened again, several times, at about 10 to 15 second intervals. Suddenly, there was some commotion in the vegetation and the vocalization happened again. Only this time, it was not just one “erk,” it was longer, more urgent, and quite a lot louder.
We decided to get nosy, and started searching for the source. Down in the midst of the wild iris and jerusalem artichokes, we came across a desperate scene. One of the garter snakes that lives on the place had caught the smaller of our local leopard frogs. It had not done a very good job of catching it, but despite that it was attempting to swallow the frog, hind leg first.
It had about two thirds of that leg swallowed and was not about to let go of its prey, even though it was pretty obvious that the frog was a tad bit too large for the snake, which was a rather small snake, to actually swallow. Even so, the frog was not having much luck extracting the partially swallowed appendage from the snake’s mouth, and its predicament was what had been making it vocalize.
(At this point I should have run into the house to get the camera, as neither animal was going anywhere, but no one thought of that until it was too late.)
“The question is,” said Jim, “Are we rooting for the snake or the frog?”
It didn’t take me a second to make the decision in favor of the frog. As far as I know, we only have two leopard frogs living here, and there are at least six snakes because we saw them emerging from their hole on the first really warm spring day. Additionally, the garter snakes have plenty of beetles, crickets, and small rodents to eat, they don’t need to eat the frogs.
And so, the snake was grabbed, much to its dismay and great astonishment. The shock caused it to open its mouth and the frog took that opportunity to escape. The frog leaped off towards the pond, apparently none the worse for wear, and in a great high dudgeon the snake whipped off into the jerusalem artichoke patch.
We agreed that that snake was in no danger of starving because we had deprived it of its chosen lunch. Especially since said lunch was probably not small enough for the reptile to actually swallow. We went back to our jobs, having been suitably entertained.
That is not the only exciting thing that we have seen this week. While we were burning our small brush pile on Sunday, the red tail hawks passed over on their way to the field behind the house and returned about five minutes later with their immature hawklet in tow. We sat quietly as they delivered a lesson on flying rising thermals, utilizing the small artificial thermal our little bonfire had created. We watched enchanted, as the young hawk circled round and round on the pillar of air rising off the fire, slowly rising up to a great height, where we could just barely see one of its parents waiting for it. The other parent was hanging about close to the ground, slowly circling our yard as the youngster practiced.
It was way better than TV.
Other raptors come and go. Sometimes we see them, sometimes we just see evidence of their passing, like this breast feather from a great horned owl, caught in my aesclepius the other morning.
Hope the owl caught one of the numerous rabbits that have infiltrated The Havens this year. There is a family of meadow voles in residence as well; there is plenty for a hawk or owl to eat around here.
If you build it, they will come.