I love my little fish pond out back with its waterfall and reeds and lily pads. Frogs hang out on the rocks ringing the water. I can hear their banjo-twanging calls at night in the spring, in particular, just beyond my bedroom window. The pond is one of the reasons why I fell in love with this little house.
I’ve lived here for two winters and three summers now. In the winter the fish hibernate in the cold water. I run the waterfall all year to avoid the pond icing over, which would kill the fish by depriving them of oxygen. In the spring it’s like magic, seeing them awaken and start swimming around again! I believe the frogs hibernate, too. Pretty soon there’s a little family of them, as well.
The fish had become accustomed to me coming out around noon every day to sprinkle a little fish food on the water for them. It was their afternoon snack and my chance to interact with them a bit – as much as a person can actually exchange greetings with a fish, I suppose.
We were just getting into our summer routine and I noticed one day that two of the fish were chasing around a third, spotted fish I’d named Miss Kitty (calico cat, but a fish, right?). I was beginning to wonder if I’d guessed Miss Kitty’s gender correctly because it appeared that the two fish taking turns swimming right up in her business might have had love on their minds.
A day or two later, I wandered out with the dogs to deliver the afternoon snack and – the pond was empty. No fish, no frogs. Deserted. I was surprised, but thought they might have been spooked by a heron or other critter and were hiding in their fish caves (the people who put in the pond built in caves for exactly that purpose). At that time there were seven fish, but not one in sight.
When I hadn’t seen any fish in more than a week, I became worried. I had heard that a heron or raccoon or even a snake could wipe out a pond in no time at all. Had all my fish become some animal’s dinner? A couple of frogs were back, but after nearly four weeks – no fish. I felt terrible about it. Poor things.
I didn’t want to purchase new fish just to feed a predator, but after about six weeks, I decided to buy three new fish to see if they’d be safe after all that time. I tentatively released them into the pond and hoped for the best.
By this time, I had also begun bugging my son Chris, asking him if he’d please get into the pond and weed out some of the lily pads and reeds. There was so much greenery, it was hard to catch sight of the new kids, let alone try to entice them with fish snacks. It was a busy summer, and finally on Thursday, Chris got into the pond and got to work. We filled a yard waste trash can and a trash bag full of greenery.
Now, full disclosure, I had noticed after introducing the new fish to the pond that there seemed to be more than three in the mix. I realized that for whatever reason, some of the original fish had been hiding out for weeks!
And by the time Chris finished cleaning the pond and the silt settled back to the bottom on the rocks, the clear water revealed not only five or six adult fish – but also THREE BABIES! It was like CHRISTMAS!
Since there are fewer adults than before, there’s no question that some varmint got some of my original fish family. But – they did not get Miss Kitty, and I think she is the Mama Fish of those three little ones. Is it possible that the fish that survived the incident early this summer stayed in the caves with Miss Kitty during her lying in period, or something? A combination of solidarity with the pregnant mama and fear of their attacker?
We’ll never know. But I am delighted that I am now a Fish Nonna and that the happy little family is now swimming up to say hi and get a snack when they see me coming.
Oh, and the frogs seem content, as well.