mountain lion drinking at the pond

The Things We Treasure

Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession. Three years ago I followed some prompts on topics to post. Obviously I have skipped quite a few days (years).¬† But I have just discovered this one that never was posted. It is still as valid today as it was then.

A pond? How can a pond be a prized possession? I would have asked this question too–up until when I thought about this assignment. I realized that our pond is a prize I would not want to part with.

Many years ago, probably thirty or more, we opted for a small pond as part of a patio project after we had enlarged our small house by about 400 square feet and added the patio. The original design called for a fenced garden to keep the deer from devouring everything. It included a pond. We decreased the fenced area but wanted the pond and the patio outside of the fence. What a good idea!

In the many years we have had the pond we have had many visitors. Deer, of course, and coyotes and foxes, and bobcats. Neighbors, out for a walk on the trail beyond our house, have had their dogs take a dip in the pond. Quail come down in abundance in the spring, sometimes as a group with one or two males acting as lookouts and females shepherding a brood of a dozen or two fluff balls not bigger than and egg they hatched from. Mom and the chicks take a drink and then disappear into the chaparral where they are safe. The dads then can desert their watch and run back to have a drink too.

And the other birds–large, small, and in-between. In the spring, robins. Then wrentits, towhees, flickers, jays, mourning doves. And when the elderberries ripen, the band-tailed pigeons. Occasionally at night there are the owls, usually a pair hooting at each other in different keys in the darkness. When the blueberries are ripe, the thrashers appear. We share our blueberries with them. They usually get there just before I do as the blueberries ripen.

I do not know if snakes drink water from a pond, but occasionally we have had a snake or two. They are not interested in having me around and usually disappear if we cross paths. Generally if I encounter a snake it is a harmless (and beautiful) king snake or gopher snake. A couple of times I have seen a rattler who disappears rapidly. And once one was sleeping and I was able to capture it and release it into more hospitable territory up the fire trail.

In the early spring the tree frogs get excited and fill the night with their love songs. I know soon we can expect shimmering clusters of eggs in the pond. In a week or two there are hundreds of small tadpoles swimming through the water. Eventually they start developing legs, first at the back and then at the front. And then they disappear. These are small frogs, only about an inch long. Occasionally I will see one hopping about the garden, but I know they are there when the next spring comes and their chorus starts again.

And then there are the bees. A few years ago our closest neighbor began keeping bees. She was once a chef in a fine restaurant in Saratoga, grows a wonderful garden from which we often get great produce, and now keeps bees and makes honey. We have rosemary that her bees feast on and they frequent our pond. These are native bees and are no problem. All they want from the pond is a drink. I can stand out there with hundreds of them buzzing around, and I have never been stung.

For many years I have known we had visitors at our pond. But my suspicions have been confirmed. We were given the gift of an outside motion-detecting camera.

Twice in more than forty years I have actually seen a mountain lion, although I knew they might exist in these mountains. I first saw one on a hike up the fire trail just beyond our house quite a few years ago. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon as I crested a hill. At the base of the hill was a lion sitting in the sun. I decided to let the cougar have its time on the mountain and turned around and went home. I now do my hiking between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon and leave the rest of the time to the pumas.

My other siting was late at night while driving home. A puma crossed the road in front of me just as I approached the house. I also once found one’s big track in the mud on the driveway.

So how very exciting to capture on camera a big cat from the mountain taking a drink from the pond in the middle of the night. We do not often get visits from such magnificent guests, who have a range of about 500 miles. I recently heard it estimated from the Santa Cruz Puma Project that there may be about 70 cat in the Santa Cruz Mountains from San Francisco to Gilroy, (around 2500 square miles).

Why do I value the pond? You decide.




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