A hooded warbler, a pond, gone

Out the window, I look over the blue scarf, and see a hooded warbler, male, in full mating plumage, black against yellow, improbable brilliance.

But, like us all, he needs water, drinks from the pebbled shore of our tiny pond. He sips, tilts his head up, like my mother taking her daily pills.

He drinks again, and I tiptoe downstairs for a closer look, through the gate at the stair top, through the kitchen, hovering back from the window.

This male hooded warbler is still there, and I wonder if he is the same as the one I saw last year. I wonder why I seem to see just one a year, in full migration, at our pond.

More often I see the red dragonflies, perching on the pickerel weed, chasing the others away, courting the females as they dip their delicate egg-laden abdomens into the pond.

In the water are mosquito fish, Gambusia affinis, beetles, dragonfly larvae, and no doubt, hundreds of other life forms, plant, animal, microbe.

I look out the window again, looking for the hooded warbler, knowing he will not be there, not so late in May. He is far north of here, setting up his territory, mating, rearing migratory young.

Instead I see a robin, and her fledged baby, begging for worms. She scratches in the dirt, pulls something up, and stuffs it in the begging beak.

Was it a mosquitofish? It could have been, for yesterday we ended the pond. We filled it with soil from the garden, ending also the arugula, lettuce, basil, peppers, epazote, lamb’s quarters, and mint.

The unspoken hurt for us was killing those fish and all the others. Some we saved, buckets went with Rick and Therese. Buckets went to a pond in the nature center, in two pails balanced from Philip’s hands as he skated them to safety.

A massive selection experiment. Unspoken that we got all of them. The moist leaves Rick took sheltered hundreds of small toads. But there were thousands more, now robin food.


The yellow-crowned night herons loved our pond.


Looking down on the garden, overtaken by a pumpkin vine.


Life needs water, and found it in our pond.


June 2009 we planted this front garden, not knowing we would only get 2 good years out of it. I forgot I also had all those pots out there.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Birds, Environment, Natural areas and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A hooded warbler, a pond, gone

  1. Nancy says:

    Maybe a stupid question, but why?

  2. Why? Because sold the home, making it plain for the new owners who would most likely have small children. No one wants other people’s eccentricities when they buy a home. And, in fact, we sold it to a family with small children for whom the pond would have been a hazard. We plan soon to put in a pond and expand the vegetable garden here in rainy, chilly St. Louis. But back in Houston (Bellaire, actually) we left the woods in back, an untamed tangle that is a hazard to no one.

  3. Nancy says:

    Oh, I see. I didn’t realize it was your home in Houston. I thought you were in Missouri. Sorry. Makes perfect sense, but still sad.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.