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Do great blue herons fly south for the winter? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Got herons? We have solutions!

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: Do great blue herons fly south for the winter? – Derek in Massachusetts

A: The bane of fishpond owners, great blue herons, will make a quick meal out of pricey koi and graceful goldfish. The good news is that those in the northern swath of the United States are about to enjoy their exit – at least for the winter months.

These birds are one of the most widespread wading birds in North America. While herons’ breeding range stretches from the southern Canadian provinces to southern Mexico, their wintering and permanent range extends from southeastern Massachusetts along the coastal states and west across the southern half of the United States, and into Mexico and northern South America. So when the temperatures dip, they prefer to fly south to the warmer climates.

If you live in the northern regions of New England, the Great Lakes, the Northern Plains and regions that freeze during the winter, you will see the herons fly for warmer skies. Experts report the birds migrate south from the northern portions of their breeding range beginning in September and October, with their return in mid-March.

For those who live in great blue herons’ wintering and permanent range, you’ll unfortunately enjoy no wintertime respite from these sushi-eating birds. Here are some ways to keep your fish safe:

    Install pond netting: A near-invisible barrier, pond nets, like the Atlantic® Pond Protector Net Kit, prevent the birds from landing in your water feature and spearing your fish. They also keep fall leaves from turning your pond into an over-sized tea pot.
    Put up a decoy: Because herons are territorial, you can place a heron decoy near your pond to dissuade others from landing. Be sure to move it periodically to keep up the appearance of a live bird.
    Spray the birds away: Motion-activated scarecrow devices, which shoot a 35-foot blast of water at any animal that breaches its sensor sweep, make excellent deterrents for not only heron, but raccoon and other predators, too.

POND TALK: What do you do to deter herons from landing in your yard?

Should I leave my bubble aeration system running in my farm pond all winter long? – Pond & Lake Q & A

To aerate all winter long or not to aerate, that is the question.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: Should I leave my bubble aeration system running in my farm pond all winter long? – Steve in Minnesota

A: The short answer: Yes, you should keep your aeration system running all winter long. No matter the season, for the health of your fish, you want to breathe that life-giving oxygen into your pond or lake. A bubble aeration system, like the Airmax® Aeration System, keeps the oxygen well-dispersed throughout the water column and prevents the water from stratifying; it also keeps a hole in the ice to allow harmful gasses to escape.

Stir Up the Strata

As the summer cools to winter, a shift happens below your pond’s surface. If the water is not circulated, it naturally separates by temperature: In the summer, the warm oxygen-rich water sits on the top while the cool water, thick with toxic gasses, sits at the bottom. As winter approaches, those different pools of water will flip. The cool water – and all the gasses – rises to the top while the warm water sinks. The pools of water mix – and in extreme cases – this stratification, seasonal shift, and toxic gas distribution can cause a winter fish kill.

A bubbler aeration system prevents that. If the water is churned and moved all year long, it will not stratify. The water at the top and bottom will remain the same temperature, oxygen will be saturated throughout the entire water column, and the gasses will not build up. That makes for an ideal environment for the fish.

Keeps a Hole in the Ice

If your pond freezes over completely and there is no hole in the ice, the decaying matter in your pond (all the fish waste and detritus that naturally break down beneath the surface) releases deadly gasses that are trapped underneath the ice. Prolonged, this will cause a winter fish kill. A bubbler aeration system stops this from happening. The moving and cycling water creates a hole in the ice, allowing the harmful gasses to escape while allowing healthy oxygen in.

A word of caution: If you want to ice skate on your pond and you’re not concerned about fish throughout the winter, we recommend you turn off your aeration system completely. That way, the pond will freeze solid and you’ll be safe while you have some winter fun.

POND TALK: Do you keep your aeration system on all winter long?

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