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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?

Why do people put dye in their decorative ponds? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Pond Dye

Water Garden & Features Q & A

A: If you’re new to the hobby, the thought of adding dye to your pond may seem like a foreign concept! Why would you want to add color to the water that you’re working so hard to keep clear? Well, there are aesthetic reasons – and some practical reasons, too.

Understanding Dye

First, let’s discuss the dyes themselves. Pond dye typically comes in two colors: black and blue. Black pond dye, like Pond Logic Black Pearl Pond Dye, gives shaded ponds a rich look and turns a brown or gray water feature into a stunning pool that reflects the trees and landscape. Blue pond dye, like Pond Logic Blue Sapphire Pond Dye, gives ponds a natural-looking blue color and looks best in features surrounded by manicured or open landscapes. You’ll find these pond dyes in concentrated form. When you add the recommended amount, the coloring will diffuse throughout the pond within several hours. They’re safe for people, pets, fish and water fowl.

Why Dye?

Adding dye to your decorative pond does more than give your water feature a unique and appealing look. The dye actually serves several purposes, from controlling algae and simulating depth to protecting fish and masking a murky pond.

Simulate depth: Some people use dye in their ponds to make a shallow pond seem deeper. If you have a 14-inch-deep pond, adding black dye can make it seem 5 feet deep. The optical illusion creates a mirroring effect that appeals to many pond owners.

Fish safety: When predators fly overhead or lurk alongside the pond, a little pond dye – along with some predator control – will go a long way in protecting your fish. Koi and goldfish will dart to your pond’s dark depths when a heron or raccoon threatens them. The pond dye serves a similar purpose.

Aesthetics: Of course, aesthetics remain an important reason why folks use dye in their ponds. A crystal blue pond or a rich reflective pond mimics what you’d find in nature. Couple that with a tranquil landscape, and you have an attractive water feature that draws oohs and ahhs!

Algae control: The top reason why people add dye to their ponds is that it is widely known throughout the industry that it may inhibit algae growth. Algae thrives in sunlight and pond dyes filter those rays, preventing them from reaching below the surface, thereby preventing algae from growing.

POND TALK: Why do you use pond dye in your decorative pond or water garden? If you don’t use pond dye, why not?

How Do I Deter Herons From My Water Feature? – Water Feature Q & A

Picture of a heron catching a koi

Water Feature Q & A

Q: I have a hungry heron visiting my pond. What can I do besides a net? P.S. Is it legal to shoot a heron in the state of Virginia? – Earl of Virginia

A: A fish lovers nightmare…the heron! Ever wake up in the morning, walk out to your water feature with a cup of coffee (or orange juice for you non-coffee drinkers) and discover a heron eating one of your precious koi (see left)? Your heart begins to race and your not sure what to do, you grab the nearest broom and charge out to the heron like there’s no tomorrow! Are you tired of this? Well here are a couple of options for deterring and protecting your fish.

The Motion Activated Scarecrow:
This motion-sensored sprinkler is a great way to deter not only herons but other predators as well. The sprinkler simply hooks up to a garden hose and is triggered by motion. There is a dial on the sprinkler that adjusts the sensitivity. When a heron/predator approaches sensor, it shoots a 3-second burst of water up to 180 degrees.

Pros: Extremely effective throughout the season. Can be easy blended into your water feature.

Cons: The Scarecrow doesn’t know the difference between a heron and a person so be prepared to dodge the spray!

Great Blue Heron Decoy:
Herons are very territory birds. When flying over head, if a heron sees another heron they will deter and go elsewhere. This life-like decoy, when placed next to your water feature, will do just that. We highly recommend to move them every couple of days. This will help prevent the heron from figuring out the decoy.

Pros: Effective when moved around. Adds a nice touch of nature to any water feature.

Cons: Cannot be placed outside during mating season (March-May) for obvious reasons. Once a heron has already established your water feature as its territory it becomes harder for the decoy to be effective.

Can you shoot a heron?:
Although they can be a pest, Great Blue Herons are protected under federal law. It is illegal to shoot them in the US.

Protecting Your Fish From Predators – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of Great Blue Heron

Q: Last year something caused over 20 of my fish to disappear overnight. How can I protect my fish?
-Katherine of Nanty Glo, PA

A: More often than not, what took your fish was a blue heron. We hear this quite a bit throughout the year. Here are a couple suggestions:

Blue Heron Decoy: These decoys, when used correctly, will deter blue herons away from your water garden. Here’s why: Blue herons are very territorial birds. If a heron sees another heron by a prospecting water garden, it will rather fly to another destination than challenge the heron thats there. By using a Blue Heron Decoy, you can accomplish just that. It is recommended to move the heron decoy every other day. Caution: DO NOT use heron decoys during mating season as they will become a heron magnet instead.

Motion Activated Scarecrow Sprinkler: This motion activated sprinkler works extremely well to deter any predator (including kids =) ). Simply hook to your garden hose, set the sensitivity level and any predator that comes within a 20 foot range will get hit with a 3 second burst of water. It works great and it is guaranteed effective.

Aquatic Plants: Having a 50-60% coverage in plants will help create a hiding spot for fish when predators are around.

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