Tag Archives: Santoli Pond


_DSC5062I was surprised and somewhat concerned to see a pair of Cormorants on the pond.

The majority of the waterfowl on the pond are dabblers, meaning that they feed on the surface by dipping their heads into the water.

Cormorants are divers that feed by diving under the water and are much less vocal than are dabblers.  Their legs are set far back on their bodies to facilitate their diving.

I was concerned about the Cormorants because of their legs.  Though an asset for diving, the placement of the legs makes it necessary for a long runway for them to gain sufficient momentum to lift off–the pond covers only 5 acres.  They’re very awkward on land, some divers to the extent that they’re nearly helpless.

The visitors were gone the next day, so evidently they’d negotiated a safe take off.

Cormorants’ feathers lack the protective oils other birds’ feathers have, so they often sit in the sun with their wings spread to dry them out.

The bird in the photo is neither landing nor taking off; he’s spreading and flapping his wings to shake off water from his recent dive.

The only other divers I’ve seen on Santoli Pond in the last 17 years were Scaups and Ring-necked Ducks

Like Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks, Cormorants nest in trees.

Photo © Carole Clement



_DSC5039I’m not sure if the beaver lodge at the southeast end of Santoli Pond is merely flooded over or washed out; at any rate, I can’t see it from my lower deck.

In the 17 years I’ve lived here, this is the first time the pond has overflowed its east and west banks.  North and south banks have been and still are fair game for flooding.

DSC_0167Santoli Pond at 8AM.  The kit in the top photo is crouched just to the left of the River Iris leaves to the left of the left-hand tree in this photo.

I watched the little critter above make a b-line (for beaver line) from the southeast corner to the west bank below my condo where he found a toothsome stick to gnaw on. 

He’s one of the two first-year kits I’ve been enjoying.  Kits stay in the lodge with their beaver parents for 2 years.  Last year’s kits are the size of their parents, and I can no longer distinguish kit from adult.

Pudgy and clumsy as beavers are on land, they’re marvelous swimmers.  Sleek and fast, they leave a V-wake streaming behind them, similar to speedy little Wood Ducks.

Photos © Carole Clement 


DSC_0007American Toad on 5.5-inch-wide board

As I worked at my computer yesterday evening, I saw something tiny hopping across my lower deck, a something tiny I’d never seen before.  I was astonished to find that it was a miniature toad, approximately .5-inch long.

With the help of google, I studied the life cycle of the toad and charted its brief life backward.

On or near April 1, the toad was one of a string of thousands of eggs that had been laid and fertilized in Santoli Pond.

On April 13, it was one of the fortunate few that emerged as a tadpole, not having become a caviar appetizer for some other animal.

Between June 5-10, it left the pond as a toad to explore its food sources in the area.

And on June 13, it became the newest visitor to my deck.

Last week there was the egg-laden Snapping Turtle, and more recently it was a dozen or so tiny slugs that had left a slimy, glittering map of their explorations on the deck floor and on my newly washed patio door windows.

I couldn’t help but wish that some gourmet critter with a taste for escargot had intercepted the rush of slugs.

Photo © Carole Clement


DSC_0016For scale, the plants you see are Myrtle, and the board is 5.5” wide.

From 6-6:45 AM yesterday, I watched as this Snapping Turtle, about the same size as the one that commandeered my lower deck a couple weeks ago, slowly examined the area adjacent to the deck.

She repeatedly crawled a foot or so and then lowered her chin to the ground, hindquarters in the air.

As this was the area I was digging up when I’d accidentally hatched a Snapping Turtle last fall, I was convinced she was looking for a place to drop her eggs.  I was also convinced that now that my previous deck no longer protected the hard clay, she wouldn’t lay them here.

Reluctantly, I had to quit observing and leave the house at 6:45.

When I got home in the late afternoon, I was delighted to find a 10:30 AM email from my neighbor, Sarah, with a photo (below) of what she called “your turtle friend” enjoying the flowers in my front garden.  Note that the tail is helping support the turtle’s body.

IMG_20130606_100529_525-1I went out to check the spot my new friend had occupied, and I found long gashes (below) cut in the sandy loam and was convinced the turtle had laid eggs.  The gashes were about 5-6” deep.

DSC_0046And then I remembered another spot in the garden where, about a week ago, I was puzzled to find a large depression, about 18″ in diameter and about 5” deep, which I couldn’t blame on deer.  I believe now that it was another nest of Snapping Turtle eggs, made by another or by the same female turtle that was fertilizing a second clutch of eggs.

Female Snapping Turtles can hold sperm from the male for several years, dispensing it as she chooses, a choice generally guided by the degree of favorability for the viability of the hatchlings.

Other critters in the natural world also have unique ways to ensure the survival of species.  Male bears (boars) impregnate female bears (sows) in the fall.  If the sow is not in good enough health to survive cub birth in January or February, or if she is not strong enough to provide adequate lactation for the cubs, she reabsorbs her fetuses.

Whatever the reasons, it looks like a bumper year for Snapping Turtle hatchlings.

Females lay 25-80 eggs in a clutch, and they’ll hatch in 9-18 weeks, depending on temperatures.

Temperature determines not only the length of incubation; it also determines the gender of the turtles.  Females hatch in warmest area of the clutch, and males hatch in the coolest area.  Depending on the ambient temperatures, warmest and coolest could be at the top or at the bottom of the stack.

Because of climate change, some species of turtles are experiencing a shortage of males.

I’ll need to be careful not to change the depth the turtle or turtles selected for their eggs because I trust turtles’ maternal instincts.  They predate dinosaurs by a bunch, having existed for the last 300,000,000 years and probably know exactly how deep their eggs need to be buried.

Photos © Carole Clement and Sarah


DSC_0468Santoli’s Great Blue Heron opens his heart for you

DSC_00611Two hearts beat as one at Veterans Park

Photos © Carole Clement


DSC_1119I first noticed this cold, tired and hungry heron about 8:30 AM Friday.  I checked on him periodically as his hunting vigil stretched on and on, wishing all the while I could offer him a pair of warm boots.

DSC_1135Around 10:30 AM, he perked up and made his move.

DSC_1136And was rewarded with something wiggly.  If you click on the photo to enlarge it,

you’ll see the toothsome brunch he glommed onto.

Buon appetito, big guy.  You’ve earned it.

Footnote–He was back this afternoon at 4:00 and was still there at 6:30, which is the last time there was sufficient light for me to distinguish his silhouette.

Photos © Carole Clement


DSC_1110Male Northern Shoveler   Friday, January 4, 2012

The Northern Shoveler is a dabbler that feeds on the surface, as does the Mallard, as opposed to divers, such as the Mergansers, that dive under the water for food.

The Shoveler rides low in the water and uses its spatula-like bill (aka Durante-like schnoz) dipped in shallow ponds to strain out its food.


I’d wondered why I’d never seen one out back before and then read that it breeds in the northwestern states up to Alaska in the summer and winters over in the southwest, south and southeast borders of our country down through Mexico.

It’s rarely seen in our area in summers unless it happens to be migrating through, and none of my sources list it at all in our area in the winter.

Well, take that, ornithologists!

Photos © Carole Clement