Boney critters of our garden
What with the incredible diversity of boneless lifeforms (insects, spiders,
worms, you name it), the bone-in offerings seem a bit more limited.
Birds have their own page, so this page features the swimming, slithering and
scampering denizens of our garden – that would be mammals, reptiles,
amphibians, and fish. Reptiles only in theory: much as I'd like to have a
resident snake population, my one attempt to introduce one hasn't resulted in
We hope to see frogs every year in our pond. When we first put the
pond in, six years ago, we bought a few bullfrog tadpoles and watched them
grow. I think they survived the first winter, but one of the following winters,
they all gave up. Since then, we see no amphibian life in the pond in the spring
and early summer, but usually a frog or two (or more) will show up by mid-summer
and hang around for the rest of the season. With all the goldfish running
amock in our pond, frog eggs probably wouldn't stand a chance, so I doubt they
could successfully breed.
Wow, I couldn't believe how tiny this amphibianlet was
tht Ben found hopping across our patio. It must have hatched from the
adjacent little pond, but I don't know what it is — the only frogs
we've seen in our garden are American bullfrogs, and they have huge
tadpoles. No way could something as teeny as this (that's Amy's little pinky
nail, by the way) grow out of that, right? So I'm calling it a mini-toad for
now. If you can tell me with more certainty what this is, please let me know
(see the link at the bottom of this page).
A turtle is something new to our garden and pond. While driving through our
neighborhood one day this spring, Amy noticed this fella crossing the road,
and "rescued" it to our pond. Turns out it's an Eastern painted turtle
(Chrysemys picta picta), whose species is widely distributed
throughout the US. It was probably making its way from one of the natural
ponds in our area, in search of a better place to pass time - I hope it
doesn't mind its new digs. So far, it has been perfectly content, but until today
it was very shy - we couldn't get closer than about 20 ft away before it would
unceremoniously plump back into the (murky) pond. Recently, it has relaxed a
bit, allowing me to take this photo of our Boxy sitting amidst blue flag
leaves in the pond.
When we first moved into our house, I used to see toads every now
and then. In the years that followed, the entire area around us was built up
in neighborhoods, and toads didn't come around any more - much to my dismay.
So I've been very pleased with their return in recent years, gladly putting up
with their shrill mating calls in spring. So far I haven't tried to figure out
which kind(s) they are - some certainly seem more brown, others more on the
green side. I also don't know if they reproduce in our garden - our pond's
bog filter seems like it should be a good place for toadpoles, but we have yet
to see any.
For a little guy (much smaller than those bullfrogs above),
this American tree frog (Hyla cinerea) sure makes a lot of noise! So much,
in fact, that it led to the expulsion from our garden of the first one our
family encountered, on account of it keeping half the family up for most of its
first night in attendance. But we allowed a second one, which didn't have quite
as powerful a voicebox, to stay in the garden. Its suction cup fingers are
amazing, allowing it to climb vertically up any smooth surface (and even
latching on to the fingers of those who dare catch it). The little fella
pictured here had taken refuge in a stand of horsetail rush after Ben had
located it by its night-time call.
Texas, July 2017
In time, I hope to be able to show photos of a resident snake, but no such
luck just yet. So this section is limited to a single lizard for now:
Upon arrival in Texas, we were delighted to see lizards
everywhere. One local nursery has them climbing through all of their plants.
Our garden doesn't have too much climbable vegetation just yet, but still we've
seen several of these green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) on our patio
and climbing our brick walls. We're always happy to see them.
Green anoles aren't always green. Even though there is such a
thing as a brown anole, I haven't spotted one yet – this guy here is a green
anole, perhaps a color variant or perhaps just in an early-winter brown coat. It
was content to sun itself on a freeze-damaged frond of our sago palm for
over an hour.
Mammal life is limited in our garden. We always have rabbits, and Mr.
Squirrel shows up to empty our birdfeeders in winter (but is nowhere to be
seen the rest of the year). We see our chipmonks some years, but not very
often, and groundhogs haven't made an appearance recently. Most voles we
see show up on our patio lifeless, victims of our predator kittycat. Deer,
who live on the other end of our neighborhood, have only ventured into our
garden on two occasions, and have not made it their larder thus far (knock
on wood!). On the one occasion that we sighted a fox, the camera was too far
Rabbits have discovered that our garden makes a great salad
bowl. They are quite bold! Most of the year they don't do
much damage. Our vegetable garden is enclosed – baby bunnies can get
through the wire mesh, but bigguns can't.
One year, a family of chipmunks lived near our patio pond,
scurrying across the rocks surrounding the water. I never got close enough to
take a proper picture...
One of our resident squirrels, doing what he does in wintertime:
hang out around our bird feeders and steal whatever seed he can. He does
appreciate the corn cobs we leave out for him as well.
Okay, so maybe the fish in our pond don't qualify as wildlife - we introduced
them, and perhaps that makes them "pets". But the current set is several
generations removed from the original few, and they live off what the pond
provides naturally - so I say they are mostly wild.
Visitors to this page have left the following comments
|Shankar Venkataraman||Jun 23, 2006||Your site was inspiring and informative. Awesome.
You said that you don't feed the fish. Wow! Is it a natural pond.
Can you post a bigger picture of your entire pond. Do you maintain
the pond or is it a wild pond ?|
|Hannah||Jun 30, 2007||Thats really cool! I have some goldfish too and I was wondering if you had any information on the spawning season? I have 2 fish and one of them is chasing the other aroud, but I don't know if they're male or female.|
I'm not a fish expert, but from pond observations, I'd guess the littluns appear in early summer.
|George Steele||Aug 02, 2007||If you want to keep the painted turtle or other tortoises around, plant a small packet of collard greens nearby. They and the rabbits like to eat them. |
|erica||Sep 10, 2007||I live in zone 4/5 and I had a pond for 12 years. I'd put my fish outside at the end of March and I'd have more fry than I'd want to. I even would sometimes get 2 batches a year. I do believe the water needs to be in the upper 50s for them to spawn. My fish would chase each other around all year long but I'd only notice the eggs in the early Spring. I could never tell which was male or female. |
|Deanna||Nov 15, 2007||What kind of tadpole or toads did you have?|
I really don't know - I'm not much up to speed on amphibian species...
|Jessica||Dec 14, 2007||When did the frogs lay their eggs. What month of the year?|
I've no evidence frogs ever reproduced in our pond - they seem to find their way to our pond in summer. I hope that the fishless conditions of the bog filtration zone for our new big pond will be more conducive to amphibian procreation...
|Avalon||Apr 02, 2008||You have inspired me!! I am going to make a site like this. I love my garden and every little critter in it. Thanks!|
Sounds great - drop me a line when you get your site started :-)
|Mike||Aug 17, 2008||Love it. What a great pond you have.|
|dia scholvinck||Mar 12, 2009||I am very enthusiastic and shall be visiting your site often. In the animal area, having 8 acres, including woodland, we have plenty of deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, a fox or two, guinea fowl, ground hogs, wild turkeys but unfortunately no ducks who are shunning our pond in spite of a duck house. We succeeded in getting rid of the geese. And we have turtles in our pond. Unfortunately, we think that they are snapping turtles which we would rather get rid of as we swim in our pond. And we have a lot of shade, so I am hoping to be the first to arrive for your shade plants. When we first bought the house, we planted a small vineyard ... to the delight of all our critters ... and gave up. This year we will plant four or five rows of lavender in the vine rows, having discovered that no one except us is interested in it. Do you have any lavendula angustifolia of some sort? We would buy between 50 and 100 starter plants (5"?) if you do. We have tried with Munstead and were successful (our earth is stony clay). I think I still have all sorts of pots, I shall have to look in the barn and then I might drive bye next Saturday to say hello and introduce myself. |
Looking forward to meeting you, Dia.
|Maria||May 23, 2009||I absolutely agree that the garden without wildlife is just an empty place. Like to watch animals,bees, dragonflyes etc. too. Amazing how many different spacies you will find if you look more closer.|
|Donna Pike New Westminster BC Canada||Jun 21, 2010||Wow! Nice website - and I love your swimming pond. Thanks for sharing so much great information as well as photos and comments, most enjoyable place to visit....I'm SO jealous of your garden!!!|
|Sean||Dec 10, 2010||The toad you have is called the American Toad (Bufo americanus).|
|Dave in San Juan Capistrano||Jun 24, 2011||Racoons and skunks keep eating my plums and appricots every night. Bird netting was partially effective. Putting a small watage cfl bulb in a clip on shop lamp and a timer worked. Light at the base of the tree makes the racoon feel like the coyote can see him and he stays away. Santa Rosa plum anyone?|
|Nicolas Virginia greatfalls||Jun 03, 2012||I love all your pictures and I too have lots of scurry furry little animals all over in my backyard.Sometimes I collect them in my garage and take care of them . I love your facts and lots of other things in your report.
|Neil||Jun 10, 2012||How cute. I like positions you got the Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) in! GREAT website!|
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March 04, 2018