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How can I tell if the duck that visits our pond is a wood duck? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How can I tell if the duck that visits our pond is a wood duck?

Q: How can I tell if the duck that visits our pond is a wood duck?

Robert – Galesville, WI

A: As some of the most stunningly colorful visitors to pond, wood ducks – scientific name Aix sponsa – are easy to spot as long as you know what to look for. Get out your binoculars, because here’s a quick primer on wood duck field markings and behavior.

Unmistakable Appearance
Both male and female adult wood ducks measure about 19 inches high and have a wingspan of 26 to 29 inches. Unique among the duck species, wood ducks have a boxy, crested head, a thin neck and a long, broad tail. When airborne, their silhouette shows a skinny neck, long body, thick tail and short wings.

During mating season, which runs from autumn to early summer, male wood ducks sport colorful, ornate plumage. Some of their telltale markings – which are designed to attract females – include:

  • Red eyes and bill.
  • Metallic purplish-green plumage on his head and crest.
  • Black cheeks with a white stripe along his neck that extends up each cheek.
  • A yellow patch at the base of his bill.
  • Dark red chest and rump.
  • Drab yellow side with black and white stripes at the edges.
  • White belly.
  • Blackish tail and back.
  • Black and blue wings.

After mating season, male wood ducks lose their bold colors, but they retain their bright red eyes and bill.

Females lack the showy plumage of male wood ducks. Rather than colorful feathers, they don subtle yet intricate grayish-brown feathers on their bodies, with their sides a lighter shade than their backs, and a white ring around each eye. Their heads have a crest of feathers at the back and white feathers on their throat and chin.

Water-Centered Behavior
Wood ducks pair up in the late winter and breed in the spring. If you listen carefully, you can hear their calls: Males attract females with a squeaky whistle of “jweep,” and the females answer with a different, louder “oo-eek” whistle.

After they breed, wood ducks build a home – preferably in a tree that’s near a wooded swamp, pond, lake or marsh with cattails stands, or along a river or stream. They fashion their nests in cavities in nearby trees that are either natural or abandoned by a woodpecker. If they’re unable to find suitable trees, wood ducks will readily use nest boxes built by people. (Check out how to build one here.)

Lined with feathers from the female, a wood duck’s nest can house anywhere from six eggs to more than 40 eggs. Why the wide range? If a female cannot find a nest of her own, then she will lay her eggs inside another wood duck’s nest.

After a few weeks, the ducklings – which are already covered in a full down coat – hatch from their shells and venture into the world. Rather than being raised in the nest, however, the tiny ducks get their feet wet by literally jumping out of the nest cavity and waddling their way to the water. Talk about sink or swim!

Grubs and Greens
As ducklings and juveniles, wood ducks eat a lot of protein, preferring bugs, worms and, occasionally, a small fish. As they get older, their diet grows to include more plant-based grub. They’ll seek out wild fruit, seeds, nuts and aquatic plants, along with flies, beetles, caterpillars, isopods and snails.

Wood ducks are particularly drawn to open-water areas with dense, vegetative cover for hiding and foraging. They also prefer clean, clear water when diving for fish, aquatic bugs and greens. You can optimize their food sources by using muck-busting and water-clarifying solutions like Pond Logic® MuckAway™ and EcoBoost™.

The bacteria and enzymes in MuckAway™ eat through the accumulated muck and debris at the bottom of your pond, and EcoBoost™ is a natural bacteria enhancer that will bind organics suspended in the water. When used together, you’ll see a cleaner, clearer water column – perfect for any wood duck!

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The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out?

Q: The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out?

Dave – Gary, IN

A: What an eyesore. As the snow and ice melt, those brown, dried-up cattails and phragmites do little to enhance a landscape. They can, in fact, cause water quality and weed management problems, especially as spring approaches and those green shoots emerge from the dead growth. You need to do something about them, and here’s what we recommend.

Frosty Water

With water temperatures still on the chilly side, it’s likely too early to start treating your pond or lake with beneficial bacteria, like those found in Pond Logic® MuckAway™. Those little detritus-destroyers prefer water that’s at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit – and chances are good that it’s well below that mark (unless you’re in sunny Florida or California …). Besides, even with some oxygen-infusing aeration, it would take a long time before they would be able to decompose large cattail or phragmite stalks.

Winter Management

One option is to leave those dead weeds in the water until spring. They may attract wildlife and create an ideal home for insects, amphibians and birds – as well as small rodents and other possibly unwanted visitors that will hide out in the shoreline brush.

Right now, your best bet is to pull out your weed whacking tools and get to work.

We offer a range of cutters and rakes that’ll make the job easy. From a double-sided cutter with an 11-foot reach to a V-shaped cutter that sinks to the bottom and slices weeds at their base, these tools help you cut down those dead plants. And a rake, like one of our weed rakers, will help gather the cut stalks for easy pickup and removal.

Spring Solutions

In the spring when the water temperatures rise and the weeds start to grow again, treat them with an herbicide formulated to tackle the toughest weeds. Remember: those chemicals only work when they’re absorbed by a growing plant, so there’s no sense in using them when the cattails and phragmites are dried up and dormant.

Happy winter weeding!

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Cut Through Tough Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28 Inch Weed Cutter

 

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How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Q: How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Patrick – Vandalia, IL

A: Algae can be tough little buggers. An estimated 72,500 algal species exist worldwide, and some of them can thrive in inhospitable conditions, including areas with ice and snow. With a handful of nutrients and a little bit of light, they’re able to grow – even in the 39 degree water under the ice in your lake.

But if your lake’s water is clean and clear during the spring and summer, how can it explode with algae in the winter?

Food Aplenty

Algae feed on byproducts of decomposing organic debris, like phosphorous and nitrogen, in the water. During the warmer months, natural bacteria would typically break down these nutrients, leaving little food for the organisms. But in the cooler months, those bacteria go dormant. That means the algae enjoy a feast – and a population explosion.

If you keep a hole in your lake’s ice, you can help control the nutrient density with a product like Pond Logic® EcoBoost™. This bacteria enhancer, which has no temperature restrictions, binds suspended organics while providing trace minerals to fish. Simply mix it with water and pour it into the lake.

Let There Be Light

Algae also require sunlight to thrive – but not much. Even through a clear, solid sheet of ice, algae can get enough light to use for photosynthesis. When that light is impeded, however, the algae won’t grow as quickly.

A layer of thick snow cover is Mother Nature’s way of preventing light from penetrating the water, but you can also use pond dye, to block those rays. Pond dye is available as a liquid or in water-soluble packets that you can toss into your pond.

Algae’s Benefits

Believe it or not, algae growth in the winter does have its benefits. It helps to filter the water, and on warmer days it’s a great snack for your fish. Plus, when the algae photosynthesize, they give off oxygen as a byproduct – which is then available for your fish (and other aquatic critters) to breathe.

Don’t worry: The algae won’t take over your pond like it does in the summer. It can grow, but the cold temperatures aren’t ideal for explosive outbreaks.

Pond Talk: Have you seen algae growing beneath the ice in your pond or lake?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - Pond Logic® Pond Dye Packets

 

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We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it?

Q: We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it?

Rob – Hawthorne, FL

A: Surface area and pond depth are important measurements to know. They’ll help you determine dosage rates with chemicals like algaecide. They’ll help you calculate the right-size aeration system for your pond. And they’ll help you figure out how many and what types of fish to stock.

Finding those magic numbers isn’t difficult – but it does require some tools, the right equation and a little bit of work. Before you head out to your pond, grab a rope marked at 1-foot increments, a weight that’s heavy enough to sink to the bottom, and something for notetaking.

Calculating Surface Area

The easiest ponds to measure are those that resemble a rectangle, but you can figure out the surface area of a circular, triangular or odd-shaped pond, too. First, you’ll need to measure (with your marked rope) or pace off (one step is about 3 feet) some specific distances, depending on the shape of your pond. Then, plug those numbers into one of these formulas:

  • Square/rectangle: Calculate length and width; L x W = Surface Area
  • Circle: Calculate radius; Pi x R2 , or 3.14 x R x R = Surface Area
  • Triangle: Calculate base and height; (0.5 x B) x H = Surface Area
  • Odd-shaped: Use a handy online tool like Bing Maps to measure the pond. Online tools may be easiest, especially for irregularly shaped ponds.

To determine how many acres your pond is, you’ll then divide that surface area figure by 43,560 (one acre).

Calculating Depth

Figuring out your pond’s depth is a bit trickier, particularly if you have plant shelves or if the pond has a slope. Grab your marked string, the weight, something to write with, and a boat or canoe. Then, head out to the pond and follow these directions:

  1. Securely attach the weight to one end of your string.
  2. Climb aboard your boat or canoe with your weighted string and note-taking materials in hand.
  3. Travel to at least five points in various areas your pond, more if your pond is particularly large.
  4. Drop the weight into the water and note where you feel it hit the bottom. Repeat until you’ve gone to all the different spots and gathered a good sampling of your pond’s depth.

If math isn’t one of your favorite subjects, just take your measurements and plug them into our pond calculator. Simply select your pond type and shape, enter your measurements and let the calculator do the math!

Why They’re Important

Now that you know your pond’s size, why are those calculations important?

You’ll need the numbers to determine dosage rates on chemical products like those found in Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS. If the pond has been around more than three to five years, chances are good that you’ll need to address problems like muck accumulation and string algae growth in the spring.

Those numbers will also help you select the right-size Aquastream™ Fountain and Airmax® Aeration System. For instance, if your pond is less than 6 feet deep, the Shallow Water Series™ Aeration System is a good choice; if your pond is greater than 6 feet deep, the Shallow Water HP Series™ or PondSeries™ Aeration System is the one for you.

Since you’ll be able to calculate how many acres your pond is, you’ll also be able to determine what types of fish you can have and how many of them you can keep. Finally, because you’ll know the various depths of your pond, you’ll be able to stake out safe swimming areas for children – but don’t forget to put out your life ring!

Pond Talk: What pond maintenance tips can you offer to this new homeowner?

Keep Your Pond Water Moving - Airmax(r) Aeration Systems

 

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We had a couple of warm days. Is there anything I should be working on for the spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We had a couple of warm days. Is there anything I should be working on for the spring?

Q: We had a couple of warm days. Is there anything I should be working on for the spring?

Scott – Eureka, IL

A: We may have another month or two of winter ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t head out to the pond on sunny days and get a jump-start on your spring cleaning and maintenance chores. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Tidy Things Up
    Rain, snow, wind and winter precipitation do a number on landscaping, so take some time to clean up the foliage around your pond. Remove fallen branches, rake leaves and debris, cut down cattails and pull out any pond weeds you can reach. Two great all-purpose tools to use for the task are the Weed Cutter and the  Pond & Beach Rake. The cutter slices through floating debris like aquatic vegetation, weeds, cattails and phragmites; the rake, which works on land and in the water, allows you to mechanically remove those cut weeds, algae, muck and debris.
  2. Inspect Mechanical Parts
    Sunshine is a perfect excuse to tinker with outside toys, like your aeration system. Head out to the pond and check your air filters. Do they need changing? How’s the airflow from the lines? Is it what you expect? Is your air compressor operating properly? If needed, install new air filters, clean out your lines, and tune up your air compressor with a maintenance kit. Keep your system performing optimally – even if it’s still winter.
  3. Add Pond Dye
    Pond Dye can be used all year long. Even though the sun isn’t as strong in the wintertime, some UVs still get through – and they can fuel algae blooms that could affect your water quality. Pond dye shades the water and prevents those blooms from happening.

Pond Talk: What’s the first thing you plan to do with your pond or lake when spring finally arrives?

Remove Leaves and Pond Debris - The Pond Guy(r) Pond and Beach Rake

Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter?

Q: Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter?

Mike – Baldwin, WI

A: Frustrating, isn’t it? During the summer when it’s warm and inviting outside by the pond, the water looks cloudy; when it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoor scenery, the water appears crystal clear. What’s the deal? Let’s look below the water’s surface to see what happens during the two seasons.

Murky Summer

A lot happens in your pond during the warmer months. Fish are actively feeding and creating waste. Pond critters, like turtles and frogs, are digging around in the mud and stirring up muck at the bottom of the pond. Rainstorms wash sediment into the pond along with fertilizer residue – which provides fuel to algae and pond weeds growing prolifically in the summer sun. With all that activity, it’s no wonder the water looks cloudy!

Clear Winter

During the winter, however, activity slows. As your fishes’ metabolism decreases, they fast and hibernate through the cold season. Turtles, frogs and other pond residents reduce their movement, too, which allows the muck and sediment to settle at the bottom. Ice and snow cover the pond, limiting water movement and blocking sunlight. Algae still grows, but at a much slower rate. As everything settles and slows down, the water clears.

Extending Winter

If you want that crystal clear water all year long, follow this three-step formula, particularly as the days get longer and spring warmth thaws the ice:

  1. Feed Your Bacteria: First, be sure to add some bacteria enhancer, like EcoBoost™, to the water. It binds suspended organics, provides trace minerals to fish and other pond dwellers, and helps break down fertilizers from rain runoff. It has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it throughout the seasons.
  2. Shield the Sun’s Rays: Next, pour some Pond Dye in the water. The color reduces the amount of rays that into the pond. Like EcoBoost, Pond Dye has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it throughout the season.
  3. Add Oxygen: Aeration is the final – and most important – step in maintaining clean, clear water. By aerating your pond from the bottom up, you will circulate the water, improve the dissolved oxygen levels in your water column, and allow for increased levels of beneficial bacteria to accumulate in your pond.

Pond Talk: How do you keep your pond clean and clear all year long?

Create Clearer Water in any Pond - Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer

 

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People ice fish on lakes, but can you ice fish on a small pond, too? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: People ice fish on lakes, but can you ice fish on a small pond, too?

Q: People ice fish on lakes, but can you ice fish on a small pond, too?

Ron – Galesville, WI

A: Absolutely! Ice fishing on a small pond can be just as rewarding as ice fishing on a lake – particularly if it’s stocked with bass, bluegill and perch. Here are five tips for making this wintertime sport safe and enjoyable.

  1. Partner Up: Whether you’re ice fishing on a huge lake or a small pond, always fish with a partner. Venturing out on the ice is never 100 percent safe, so have someone there to watch your back and lend a hand in case of emergency. Also be sure to have a Life Ring and first aid kit easily accessible. Better to be safe than sorry!
  2. Check Ice Thickness, Quality: Before heading out, check the thickness and quality of the ice. It should be at least 4 to 5 inches thick and ideally composed of solid, blue ice rather than white, brittle ice or ice with cracks or trapped air bubbles. Here’s a quick primer that explains how to check the integrity of your ice.
  3. Tackle Box Ready: Make sure you have the right equipment on hand, including small reels or ice rods, jigs and a variety of bait. In addition, pack your fish finder, auger and any other tools you’ll need to track down and hook those finned beauties.
  4. Location, Location, Location: When the hunt is on, find your fish with a fish finder or pick a deeper, sheltered area where fish would most likely be and drill a hole with an auger. To make this fish-finding task easier next year, consider positioning Fish Habitat in shallower areas of your pond. Logs and shrubs with flexible limbs create a perfect habitat for the fish – and a perfect spot for catching them.
  5. Timing is Everything: The best time to fish is early in the morning or late at night when the fish are out and about, searching for food. If you haven’t caught anything after 15 minutes, try a new hole or offer the fish a different type of bait.

Ice fishing on a smaller pond or lake is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors – even when the weather is less than ideal. Have fun, be safe and fish on!

Pond Talk: What kind of bait do you use when ice fishing on your pond or lake?

Create Habitat for Baitfish - Pond King Honey Hole Fish Attractor Log

 

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