Is it a frog jumping board?
Could it be a salamander sunbathing pavilion?
Maybe egrets and herons can perch and poke at fish from this odd shoreline item?
Hint: It's something that will be under water once a pond is filled and it helps fish more than birds or reptiles.
Ponds. Everybody enjoys seeing them, most folks know a few things about their construction and care. Dig a hole in the ground anywhere water will gather and creatures of all kinds and sorts will find it in nearly no time. But when holes start getting dug out back, all kinds of revelations arise.
Our pond building project this year included two ponds built to attract wildlife above and below water level.
Digging the two ponds took just over a week; getting the proper permits called for four formal meetings over a period of four months.
Wayne Taylor of R.W. Taylor in Wyoming, just south of Pavilion, did the digging - a smaller pond behind the house and a bigger (about an acre) pond way out back.
The original plan was to dig two or three deep holes in the bigger pond to attain a depth of 20 feet or more for greater fish survival.
Jean and I have been seeking out pond info online, chatting with all kinds of pond experts and had a fair conception of what the ponds would be and do.
Things looked good when Genesee Soil and Water officials inspected the test holes. But when Wayne and his crew dug below 10 feet of clay they began sloshing through sand in some places, gravel in others.
The sand might make for a nice beach, the gravel could be a good spawning bed for trout, walleye and other fun fish. But neither substratum would allow for a dig depth of more than 15 feet, so neither pond will support trout or other cold-water species. No problem.
Our primary consultant, and longtime friend, Jerry Brown has been our main source for pond procedures. Brown, of Fish and Pond Consulting in Warsaw, immediately ruled out bass and panfish in the sunfish family (bluegills, sunfish, etc.). He suggested, once the pond filled, to start with a fall introduction of fathead minnows for forage followed with a spring stocking of yellow perch.
While we have studied the pond-permit procedures, we have yet to visit DEC Region 8 headquarter in Avon to obtain the proper fish-stocking permits. No rush. This August drought has left both ponds with water levels at less than half capacity.
Wayne Taylor used a transit and clearly marked the full level with distinct orange markers around both ponds. He also set entrance and exit drains with rock rubble that will avoid washouts and backwashes.
But even Tuesday's gushing rainfall did little to fill either pond. Hence, these step pads on rocks still remain above water, inviting visitors to ask "what's that?"
Well, those step pads/blocks placed along the shore edges of the ponds were a suggestion from Brown.
After a pond gets going and growing, fish (bait and game varieties) have weed growth in which to survive, thrive and forage. But baitfish and fingerlings would be easy targets in a new dig comparable to Jed Clampett's "Concrete Pond" out back in the Beverly Hillbillies.
To provide some security for baitfish and possibly spawning sites for all fishes, Brown recommended getting concrete blocks and propping them on rocks along shoreline slopes; he suggested placing them just below the water surface to depths of six or eight feet.
So far, less than half these "fish steps" have seen been submerged. But creatures of all sorts have checked out the new steps and water source. The day after Taylor dug the last sink hole, deer tracks surrounded the circle - and appeared at every other new opening in need of inspection.
Raccoons, skunks, and birds (more songbirds than waterfowl) found suitable water and sustenance immediately after water began forming.
Clearly, we have a sea of stages to learn about pond rearing and care. With several deep drop-offs we should see open waters throughout the warm weather season and some healthy fish life under the ice.
But don't bring your ice auger just yet. The perch might need a few years to grow.