Don Relyea 
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Blog 2005-2010

Don Relyea's Blog

I like to write about interesting art projects, so give me a heads up if you have new project and I'll write about it.

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Don Relyea

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Sat, 31 Jul 2010

Baby Racoon in backyard - captured in HD

Baby Racoon in tree hollow hd video
Baby racoon in HD on Vimeo

Baby Racoon hanging out in a tree in our backyard. This is the second litter of racoons we have seen since we have lived here 6 years. We filmed him only a few days after the visit from the Barred Owl.

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Sat, 24 Jul 2010

Big Barred Owl visits koi pond - captured in HD

Barred Owl in the Backyard hunting for stuff in koi pond
Click to see Barred Owl Video on Vimeo in HD

Building the koi pond was one of the better decisions I have made for the kids and the family in general.We have seen so many creatures as a result of putting a small body of water right under our dining room window.

Baby turtles show up in early summer late spring, baby water snakes in late spring. Big dragon flies hover right outside the window. Anoles and skinks regularly come to the pond to drink water. Frogs come in the spring. If you got to the window and look outside there is no telling what you might see.

Last night was no exception. We heard a rustling by the koi pond and everyone went over to investigate. Sitting on the rail of our deck was a large Barred Owl who was hunting for something in the pond. Barred Owls have been known to fish and there are definitely snakes in the pond he would probably like to eat. We managed to get about a minute of good footage of the owl and it is on vimeo if you want to see it.

I have documented some of the other koi pond visitors in the past few months as well. Below we have a baby Red Eared Slider.

baby red eared slider
Baby Red Eared Slider

I have seen broad banded and diamond back water snakes this year, both non poisonous. We have never seen a poisonous snake in the pond. Below is one of the babies that showed up this spring..

baby water snake
Baby Water Snake

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Thu, 07 Jun 2007

Fat snake exiting koi pond

fat snake exiting koi pond

Well.... I guess this means that the koi pond is now short one more fish.

I snapped this picture of a mid sized blotched water snake exiting our Koi pond around 7pm this evening. I have seen at least 3 snakes lurking in the pond at a given time. There is a big mama snake, this one which is about medium sized compared to the big one and a very small one about 5 - 6 inches in legnth. Clearly there are probably more little ones.

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Thu, 03 May 2007

Baby Turtle better picture

baby slider turtle

Ok, so I had to get a better picture of the turtle since the previous one was very grainy. So here it is for all the people who tried to convince me there was some sort of loch ness creature in my pond.

Today I rounded up the kids and went to white rock lake to get some washed up driftwood for a turtle log. The kids are thrilled with this new turtle visitor to the pond and they have named it Aiden.

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Wed, 02 May 2007

Baby Turtle

turtle and snake

turtle and snake
Baby slider turtle (left) and young water snake (right).

This morning while sipping my first cup of coffee, I squinted into the barely lit morning around 6:45am and noticed what appeared to be a small turtle shape on a rock in the pond I built for my kids. The turtle is a small slider turtle only about the size of a half dollar.

I got the camera, went outside and reached around the corner with the camera to take a shot of the pond without scaring the turtle away. I got the turtle although it was so small it appears a little blurry. I also inadvertently captured a juvenile water snake hiding in the fountain.

I am really excited to see this kind of wild life making our pond home. I have no idea how the baby turtle managed to get in this pond, it had to have scaled some steep rocks to get in there. There is a drainage creek that runs through the back yard but it is down about 30 feet in an eroded canyon. If the turtle decides to stay it will be a source of great entertainment for my kids. I may have to make a trip to white rock lake tomorrow to get piece of driftwood for the turtle to perch on.

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Wed, 04 Apr 2007

Aspiring Frog

big tadpole

It is springtime again and time to attempt to teach the kids lessons about life and wildlife. So several weeks ago I put some tadpoles into the kids pond hoping to establish some frogs this year.

Frogs, according to the experts I have consulted, typically try to return where they spawned to procreate. This is why no frogs got busy in the pond last year even though the pond is less than 100 feet from a creek that has wild frogs in it.

Many American toads are also in the vicinity and I am hoping one will hop in and discover this pond as well. Unfortunately most of the small toads I see have developed minor deformities, like a small extra limbs sticking out of their heads. I have read that this is a result of pesticides in the water runnoff. I guess its a good thing we only drink bottled water.

So far it looks like only one of those tadpoles has survived, but it appears to be thriving. It has sprouted its back legs and is starting to sprout its front legs. I am really hoping the water snake does not return to the pond before this one completes its transformation.

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Sun, 08 Oct 2006

Snake is back!
Well earlier this year I caught the culprit responsible for eating the fish and tadpoles in my koi pond on film and posted about it here.

In the post last June I mentioned the foolish idea of creating a habitat where the fish and the snake could co-exist. I was thinking incorrectly that I could add porous rocks and the fish would have places to hide. All the fish were gone shortly thereafter and an any efforts to stock the pond with new fish or tadpoles only made the snake bigger. So I eventually gave up and left the pond empty for a month and the snake went away. I went ahead and built a small waterfall added some more rocks and I am continuing to add plants as my limited time permits.

Then my kids started asking about why there are no fish in the pond so we went and got some. Just four ten cent goldfish. The goldfish have done well and grown big enough not to be eaten by the snake at least not yet.

But the snake is back! It showed up a day after I introduced a new bullfrog tadpole to the pond. It ate the tadpole and a couple of smaller fish but the larger goldfish appear to be too big to eat now. When the snake arrived the first time it was after I put tadpoles in, hmmm.

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Sat, 10 Jun 2006

Killer of small aquatic creatures captured on film
Last year I started building a Koi pond for my daughter since she likes fish. I like fish too and the idea of a pond in the back yard is appealing. While the notion of a pond is nice, it requires digging a hole and moving lots of rocks. These things take time. Subsequently, the pond is not complete yet. But I have had water cycling in it now since this spring. I placed some small goldfish, minnows, tadpoles and other aquatic creatures in the pond to start it off. All the creatures were doing fine until one day some them began to disappear.

I had one fish die early on and he became a floater, which I scooped out and tossed into the creek below. This was strange though since most of the tadpoles vanished one at time, without a trace, first. Then I noticed the minnow count was down, and finally some goldfish went missing. I determined that something had to be eating them but how? I had made my pond nearly four feet deep in the deepest part. Most land based predators do not go diving for minnows and tadpoles.

Then a week ago I came home early from work and saw a water snake about 13 inches in length dash off to hide. I have since identified it as most likely a Nerodia erythrogaster transversa or plain belly water snake. This afternoon I captured the killer on film. Later today I may go to the pet store and pick some more feeder fish.

At least the good news is that once the pond is finished I can put several larger Koi in there and they should be too big for the snake to eat. Hopefully I can get some American toad tadpoles in there too, they should be a bit too small for the snake.

I plan to get the rest of the rocks to complete the waterfall and some more rocks with holes and hiding places for small fish and amphibians. Ideally I can make a habitat suitable for the snake and the other aquatic creatures as well. Also I'll have to dust off my 35mm with the telephoto lens next time I see the snake, sorry for the low quality digital images.

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Sun, 19 Jun 2005

Koi pond construction 1

My Daughter likes fish a lot. So I decided to embark on a journey of manual labor and build her a fish pond. After about 5 total hours of labor the hole is about 2.5 ft deep in the deep part and a little less than a foot in the shallow part. The slow progress is due to lots of roots and big rocks and bricks buried in the location of the pond hole. When we are done digging, the hole should be at least 4ft in the deep end and 2ft in the shallow end. We plan for a small flagstone rock waterfall in the corner and live plants around the perimeter shelf.

This morning, on Father's day, we spent the morning digging together. I can't think of a better way to spend Father's day. It was great to see her trying to help me dig the hole. At 22 months old I am not sure she grasps the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish but she does a good job of looking like she knows what she is doing=)

Father and daughter work together to dig the hole for the pond.

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