Under a blanket of ice, a frozen pond teems with life.
Never, ever play on an icy pond unless an adult says it’s OK. Ice that isn’t at least 4 inches thick isn’t safe to walk on.
Missouri’s most dazzling duck, the wood duck, nests in hollow trees, abandoned woodpecker holes, and humanmade nest boxes. Winter is a great time to set up wood duck boxes near tree-lined ponds. For plans, fly over to audubon. org/news/how-buildwood- duck-nest-box.
Peer through clear ice at the edge of a pond, and you may see aquatic insects swimming around in the chilly water. Look for backswimmers, predaceous diving beetles, and whirligig beetles.
A wild picnic took place beside this pond. Raccoons, mink, or muskrats pried open mussels to munch on the meat inside. Then they tossed the empty shells up on the bank.
Watch for sparrows wandering around weedy shorelines searching for seeds to snack on. How many of these little brown birds can you find?
Painted turtles spend winter buried in mud at the bottom of ponds. They survive by absorbing oxygen through a part of their bodies scientists call the cloaca (cloe-ay-kuh). Most people have another name for this body part: rear end.
It takes 11 to 14 months for bullfrog tadpoles to turn into frogs. That means the chubby polliwogs spend winter underwater. If you’re lucky, you might spot some swimming lazily under clear ice.
Luckily for fish and other aquatic creatures, ice forms from the top down on a pond, not from the bottom up. Unless the pond freezes completely, there’s a layer of warmer water under the roof of ice.
American mink prowl pond edges looking for fish, rabbits, and rodents to eat. You probably won’t see the mink itself, but you might find its paw prints, which are about the size of quarters.
Angie Daly Morfeld