Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day Gift

Ralph, From A Christmas Story
Hopping Fences to Graze, Even in Snow
The Goose Couple
Resting in Green Pastures
Flying Over the Pond
Geese in Blue Skies
Goose Island
Mini Goose Island
Paddling Among Ducks
A Popular Place
Nest Building
Remember that scene from A Christmas Story when Ralph steps on his glasses? One lens is cracked like thin ice and the frames no longer square to his face. He thinks, they'll never notice. Then groans at the impossibility.

That has been me with my birding binoculars. They are actually the Hub's hunting binos, but given that we no longer hunt they are now part of my daily scoping of the pond. Except they no longer square to my face and the pin that once allowed adjustment has worn out.

I feel like Ralph every time I try to use them.

Then, my dog in a fit of how-dare-you-leave-me-home-alone, got down my birding bag from atop my desk, pulled out the binoculars and chewed off the right lens cap. She left it in the middle of my office floor as if I'd not notice.

I noticed.

So the Hub gifted me with another hand-me-down pair of binos and they are spectacular! I can adjust the distance and fine-tune the clarity with one finger, and they are half the weight of the other pair. I never could figure out the distance on the old pair so now I can see Elmira Pond up close from my viewing station under the apple tree.

The gift of sight!

I've been tracking the activities of the Canada goose pair. Rain, snow or shine they reside here daily. Somewhere they nest. Each year they show up with goslings. As if Elmira Pond uncorked the Proseco for Earth Day, I found the goose nest  and bubbled with excitement.

Every evening I sit beneath the apple tree while cooking dinner on the BBQ. Bootsy the barn cat sits on my lap and we watch the pond. With these new-to-me binos I can see more than I ever have. That's when I spotted the nesting goose on Goose Island.

Elmira Pond is an inland wetland; a peat bog. It may look unimportant, a watering hole in a wet meadow, but inland wetlands have a vital role. They act as water repositories, catching rain, snow-melt and fog to recharge the great unconsolidated aquifer beneath our peat, clay and igneous gravel.

My chair, BBQ and house sit on a gigantic lake 50 to 200 feet below that far exceeds the size of Lake Pend Oreille.

The pond with all its natural grass and aquatic plants acts as a filtration system. I observed this phenomenon in Minnesota when I wrote about a multi-generational dairy farm. They practiced organic standards, yet the farm was surrounded by conventional farms. Pollutants flowed through the wetland system but the organic wetlands cleaned the water and left no impurities. Test after test stunned scientist. The ecosystem in its most natural state could clean itself.

Without a doubt I know Elmira Pond is clean and healthy. Frogs and insects are big indicators of health, and this I learned when I reported a story about an organic cranberry grower in northern Wisconsin. The cranberry farmer told me how silent the bogs are. When he transitioned to organic, he began to notice the buzzing of insects, and then the return of frogs. He now has a thriving ecosystem of cranberries and natural life.

The geese nest here because the leopard frogs are prolific. Catis flies hatch and frogs and trout feed, rising from aquatic plants that form floating and anchored islands in Elmira Pond. The geese graze the wet meadows and they nest on an island. This dull pond that locals call the "bog" is vibrant and bursting with life.

Occasionally Blue Heron flaps over from his hidden nest to gobble a frog or two, as if Elmira Pond was his evening pub. The three ringed-neck couples dive and feed on aquatic plants. A newly identified resident -- a yodeling pie-billed grebe -- feeds on aquatic insects and crustaceans. The merganser couple feast on frogs and fish. Soon, the osprey and kingfishers will return to hunt fish, too.

And the ever-present danger -- the resident bald eagles -- can drop from the sky and feed on the residents of Elmira Pond.

A disconcerting thought, but part of the balance that begins with gathering moisture off the Pacific Ocean.

For now, I enjoy my gift of sight this Earth Day and ask that you pay attention to your own backyards. Care and cultivation of a healthy planet begins at home.

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills with the exception of the Ralph photo (follow link).


  1. Happy Earth Day to you and the residents of Elmira Pond. Glad you are enjoying your new binocs and your backyard wetland wildlife.

    1. Thank you! Hope the day was wild floor thou, too!

  2. wow!
    What can i say, Charli after such an indepth information of Elmira pond are your not only eat organic, but also breathe and sustain in an organic way, which is the number one reason of having a healthy inside and outside!

    Always a pleasure to have you onboard as you continue to give us an insight into your beautiful lifestyle :)

    1. A healthy inside and out is important! Our drinking water is pumped from that underground lake and it is such good water. But then I go and add coffee to it. 😉

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  3. Our pond has already acquired tadpoles and snails and water boatmen - the lawyer proclaims himself a proud father! Lovely to see yours buzzing; nothing like the background hum of nature to induced a blissful drowsiness

    1. Water boatman! That's a great name -- we call them water skippers! You are a grandpa! It feels so cozy this time of year with the buzz.

  4. How deep is Elmira Pond? Glad to see the Canadian Geese have stopped by for a visit! Happy belated Earth Day.

    1. We suspect that the pond is deep because it attracts all the diving ducks and few dabblers. I can't wait for puffy Canada geese babies! :-)

  5. Isn't it so wonderful to be surrounded by clear water and air and wildlife? We inherited some tadpoles from my mum's small garden pond and it reminds me of those days when the kids used to love finding frog spawn to bring back to our pond and then when all those sweet froggies hopped out! Happy belated Earth Day to you Charli...may every day be such :-)

    1. There must be so many tadpoles on Elmira Pond! It is an indicator of good health and a reminder of childhood wonder. May we always have that surrounded by clear air, water and wildlife! Thanks Sherri!