By Bruce Stambaugh
I have greatly enjoyed the little garden pond that students and staff gave me when I retired as their elementary principal 13 years ago. It was fun building the pond and the little waterfall that gurgles night and day.
The pond, visible from all rear windows and our open back porch, has multiple benefits. The mini falls’ mesmerizing tinkling of water on water lulls me to sleep on pleasant nights. An assortment of wildlife has ventured to the pond, including deer and a Great Blue Heron.
Goldfish, snails and aqua plants help keep the pond’s water in proper equilibrium. A family of green frogs just showed up on their own. They have been a welcome addition, until recently that is.
Summer, of course, is when the pond is most popular. Songbirds drink the cool water and bathe in shallow pools. The green frogs station themselves at the pond’s perimeters waiting for insects. Blooming white lily blossoms enhance their chances.
The pond also attracts the grandkids when they visit. It’s one of the first places they explore. They particularly enjoy feeding the goldfish and hunting for the frogs.
Davis, the middle grandchild, is especially inquisitive. Last time here, he wanted to know where the frog nests were. Davis bent over visually surveying the pond, intently looking for the frogs.
It was during his investigation that we discovered something very unusual. The largest of the green frogs was resting atop something dark, wet and balled up. I recognized the clump as a dead bird.
As I approached the crime scene, the murder suspect made a quick getaway with one giant plop into the water and hid under the lily pad leaves. From what I could discern, the poor bird was a female House Finch.
I could hardly believe it. I knew that bullfrogs ate birds. But green frogs? I wondered if it wasn’t just a coincidence that the frog came to rest upon the dead bird.
Still, the lifeless bird showed every indication that a frog had tried to swallow it. I distracted the grandkids by playing ball. When I went back later to retrieve the victim, it was gone.
A few days later, while cleaning the pond and feeding the fish, I discovered yet another dead bird. Curious, I contacted Julie Zickefoose, a noted author, artist, and lover of all things nature. She had never heard of a green frog snatching birds either. Julie suggested that I had a troublemaker in my peaceful pond, and that the perpetrator be removed to a farm pond if for no other reason than the safety and welfare of the birds that come to enjoy our pond’s refreshing water.
As long as those frogs had been there, I really hated to pin the fowl play on one of the green gang. I decided I needed conclusive rather than circumstantial evidence before I removed the big guy.
I decided to be vigilant, and watch and wait to see if the frog really did go after birds. On sunny days, it usually claims an easily visible grassy pad at water’s edge waiting for a free lunch.
Either the frog has had a change of heart, or perhaps diet, or I’m not a very good detective. So far, I haven’t found anymore carcasses.
I’ll keep watching, and if I catch the frog green-handed, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, let’s hope peace and tranquility reign in our little pond of paradise.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012