interesting experience and a mixed blessing.
We were thrilled with the bird species it attracted. Wilson's
warblers, black-headed grosbeaks, yellowthroats and black phoebes checked
things out from the safety of our Western redbud tree before taking a dip
in the waterfall. Several species of colorful dragonflies flitted over
the water all summer long. Tadpoles came in with the pond plants. They
grew legs, became identifiable as Pacific tree frogs and took up a noisy
residence in our liquid amber trees. A Cooper's hawk bathed in the pond
nearly every day last winter.
The pond also attracted a pair of mallards, but the ducks didn't stay
long enough to raise a brood of ducklings. However, they did leave us
with an unwelcome addition to the pond's wildlife palette -- microscopic
flatworms. Therein lies a tale.
One night about a year ago, raccoons woke us up with soft purring
sounds. I looked out the window and spotted two big ones waddling along
the fence. I wondered why they were making such happy, contented noises.
I should have guessed.
When we checked our pond in the morning, we discovered all the water
hyacinths were broken. Sadly, our two, 9-inch pet goldfish were missing.
Scales and fish innards littering the ground told the tale of their fate.
All the smaller goldfish were gone as well. The rocks lining the stream
bed were knocked askew and the rock grotto was dismantled.
I had worked so hard getting the pond to look just the way I wanted
it. I actually felt violated. With a great sigh, I took off my shoes and
socks and waded in up to my knees. I replaced the rocks along the side of
the stream and thought my misfortunes were over. I was wrong.
The next day I was covered from toes to knees and fingers to elbows
with itchy, red bumps. Vic, a professional zoologist, quickly diagnosed
my rash as swimmers itch and told me more than I wanted to know about a
nasty little parasite called a schistosome.
This microscopic critter uses ducks and other birds as a host. When
the ducks pooped in the pond, they dumped in a load of larval flatworms.