Fish Pond Secrets


Beating up on the female.

Every year around about this time, the Koi in my ponds decide that it is time to go through the annual mating ritual which is pretty dramatic to watch and for the fish involved. My little dogs obviously thought so as they barked very excitedly at the spectacle.

There is nothing gentle about it especially to the females and it is made worse by more than one suitor at a time. In fact, it is not a bit uncommon to see a single female being chased by a half dozen of the opposite sex all pushing and shoving and literally bumping the female in an effort to induce her to drop her eggs which they will then fight over to fertilize. Once dropped, the eggs, of which there are several hundred, can be fertilized by several different males and only in the case of selective breeding under controlled conditions by Fish Breeders are there any choices made.

The movie shows just how aggressive the males become and there is always an element of risk involved for the females. A few years ago, I had one female jump clean out of the pond and before I could get to her, Richie, one of my dogs had grabbed her and ran off down the garden. By the time I reached them, the dog had taken a large chunk out of the fish’s head. This year, I did not have anything quite so dramatic but did have two of the large Koi die, one in each of the big ponds probably due to egg binding or some other related problem. The big female Koi in the video are all of 24 – 36 inches long so are pretty big.

When all of the eggs are laid and fertilized, some semblance of peace returns to the otherwise tranquil ponds. The eggs themselves are at risk from getting eaten by the Koi themselves or by any turtles that may live in the pond. Even after the remaining eggs hatch out, the fingerlings are still subject to getting eaten by their elders and by the same turtles and in my case, Brown Snakes of which there are two that live in the ponds. So, for all of the hundred of eggs that get laid and are successfully fertilized, very few will ever make it to grow into larger Koi. This is not a bad thing as there is such a thing as too many fish in one pond.

Now it is a game of wait to see if any of the fingerlings survive. Next year, we will do it all over again as such are the ways of Nature.

Written 5/7/2019

APS April Meeting 2019


The view out of the back window looking towards Zilker Park and the City of Austin.

With frightening regularity, the calendar once more moved to the third Monday of the month bringing with it, the Austin Pond Societies Monthly Meeting held as usual in the Zilker Botanical Gardens Clubhouse. This meeting was our Annual Plant Swap when our members bring in their surplus plants both of the garden and pond variety. The one stipulation is that if by chance, anything you bring in is not taken by another eager Ponder or Gardener, then it must return home with the original owner. That turned out not to be the case this time around as the offerings were pretty slim compared to previous plant swap meetings which is surprising considering that this was our best attended meeting of the year with about forty members showing up.

Along with the Swap and at the same time, Darren Bayhi was holding a re-potting seminar for anyone interested in “How to re-pot Lilies” which included both Tropical, Hardies and also Lotus.. As the swap was drawing to a close, more and more people stopped by Darren’s table to ask questions and watch his demonstration.

Prior to the swap, many members had volunteered to help set up the tables and kiddie pools used for this event. For this, they were given the opportunity of having first dibs at whatever took their fancy before the main body was let loose. With the small number of plants on offer, this was a good decision on their part.

Prior to the actual swap and following a meal of hot dogs with all of the fixin’s topped off by various deserts brought in by the members, Barb Lenhardt, President, had some business to offer which included a discussion by Ted Paone, who talked about the upcoming Tour with the membership. He outlined the Charities that will benefit which includes Central Texas Gardner on KLRU-TV, Austin Pets Alive, and Donor Choice, a charity which funds projects for teachers and students. Prior to his presentation, Ted was awarded the Koi Person of the Year Award voted on by the Members present for his efforts with the Pond Tours.

Ted was followed by Mike Peppers, our new Treasurer who outlined the budget for the Members along with many apologies for the lateness of the report. With the budget voted on and passed by the Membership and there not being anymore business, it was time to get on with the important event of the day which of course, was the Plant Swap.

Following the aforementioned reward for volunteering, they were allowed out the door first followed after a few minutes by the rest of the Members. The plants were taken in record time and the clean up started by those same volunteers who we thank for their efforts.

The next meeting will be on May 20th. The Speaker will be Katie Boyer of the US Fish and Wildlife and she will be talking about Monarch Butterflies. As these are another of Nature’s species that are in trouble due to man’s incompetence in managing the Planet, then it would be well worth our while to see what we can do to help save this species.

Hope to see you there.

Written 4/17/2019

A Battle of Wits


Scarecrow


The Heron is a very wily adversary and relies a lot on keeping the pond owner guessing as to when he is likely to show up. I spent a week at home only leaving when I absolutely had no other choice, like running out of food or keeping a pre arranged Doctors visit. Normal stuff except when there is a hungry Heron wanting to catch and eat your Koi and Goldfish. He kept no regular patterns and it meant getting up at the crack of dawn because as soon as it was light enough for him to see, he would swoop down from the tree that he had perched in and land on the Goldfish pond wall. If the fishing wasn’t very good there, he quickly moved over to the L shaped pond which is the shallowest pond out of the four big ones. The Heron knew he could safely wade in this pond and as the video shows, spent time pursuing and if he was lucky, catching and eating fish. Other times he would fly in mid morning, other times mid or late afternoon and even late in the evening. There was no telling when he would show.

On a previous run in with a Heron several years ago, I put wire fences around each of the ponds and then attached a doggy shocker which worked pretty well as eventually, that particular Heron stopped coming. I was Heron free for maybe 3 years before the current one has shown up. I went to work on the shallow pond and installed a system of cross-wires that diagonally dissected the pond and were about a foot above the water essentially dividing the pond up into small sections. I tried to install the doggy shocker but the wires grounded out in several places so the system would not work. I left the wires as strung and turned my attention to a more physical presence in the form of a Jet Spray Scarecrow. I had purchased one several years ago but due to non use and probably neglect on my part, this one leaked and I could not find a way to prevent it. I had no choice but to go on line and see if I could find another on E-Bay or Amazon and managed to locate several that were available. They were by a different manufacturer, Hoont, but as they were a lot cheaper, I quickly tagged one for $29.99 and went through the checkout process. I deemed that this was an emergency and paid additional postage to get it to me in three days in which it duly arrived. This one is brand new in an unopened box and I quickly set about installing it on the shallow pond.

The very next day, the Heron showed up and my first inclination was to rush outside and scare it away but I decided to watch from my vantage point indoors to see what happens. After exploring the Goldfish pond without any luck that I could see, it flew up into a tree above the shallow pond and then sat there for what seemed an eternity. It kept looking down at the shallow pond as if it so see a way for it to safely fish but it stayed in the tree. Then all of a sudden it hopped around and flew off as fast as it could. I went out and checked and the Scarecrow had been activated and as it is pretty noisy, was enough to frighten it away.

I immediately went back on line and purchased another for $25.00 from the same company only this one was a slightly used one. When it arrived, it was missing a couple of screws which I was able to replace and I installed it on the Goldfish pond. I was able to adjust them both so that they limited the spray to the distance of the pond meaning that I am able to walk around the ponds without getting soaked. As far as I can tell, the Heron has not been back as the fish are beginning to lead a normal life and are starting to show themselves again.

I am not suggesting for one minute that I can declare victory over this wily opponent as I am sure that it will not give up that easily. If, by chance, he decides to turn his attention to either of the big ponds with the the very large Koi in them, then I will purchase a couple more of the Scarecrows and get them set up. Here’s hoping that it wont be necessary.

Written 4/8/2019

A Visitor to my Ponds


A not very welcome visitor

I had a very interesting visitor to my ponds yesterday. This one was about 4 feet tall with a 5 feet wingspan and was a beautiful blue-grey color. He was not a welcome visitor but that didn’t seem to phase him one little bit.

I have put together a video of his/her time that was spent in my ponds yesterday morning. The video is not of the greatest quality as it is made up of 7 separate videos that I got from the surveillance cameras of which I have 4 scattered around the yard and pointing at the ponds. These cameras only record in 2 minute increments and are motion driven which quite literally means anything that moves be it wind, water, waterfalls, decorative fountains and the like and includes me, when I am out there and of course, the dogs. The very first set of pictures is from a camera that is going bad and needs changing out hence the black and white effect. The rest show the heron in all of its glorious color.

The black and white picture is of a pond that used to be joined together to the pond in the color pictures that follow before I rebuilt it making it 4 feet deep. Way too deep for the heron to jump in which is probably why he moved quickly to the adjoining pond where the water is only 2 feet or less deep making it easy for him to wade around at his leisure as you can see from the video.

It is not clear just how many fish it managed to eat but judging from the absence of goldfish in the pond, I would say that he got quite a few. They could be hiding out and may appear in one’s and two’s later on but I am not holding my breath. There are still 7-8 12 plus inch Koi which is about what were there before so I imagine that he left them because they present a more difficult eating/swallowing problem than do the much smaller goldfish. We will just have to wait and see if when he returns. I keep calling it a “He” but truthfully, I have no idea if it is male or female and I have not read of any differing characteristics.

Stay tuned as I’m quite sure he will be back. Where were the dogs, you might ask. Probably curled up with me in bed and even if they heard anything were way too comfortable to be bothered with it.

Written 4/8/2019

APS March Meeting 2019


The third Monday of the month around 6:30 pm and it’s time for another Austin Pond Society Meeting held at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens. There were around 35 members who showed up to be treated to a meal of Chinese food from one of our sponsors, Bamboo Bistro.

They were really here to listen to Reeve Hobbie from Travis County Master Gardeners and his topic was “If Plants Could Talk “ – unusual facts about native plants. His was a very interesting presentation and was well received by his audience. Lets face it, who doesn’t like flowers and the fact they were all to be found in Texas., really helped.

Following the presentation, BJ Jenkins, who was filling in for the President away on Business, opened a discussion on “My Favorite Tool”. She had brought along a couple of her own to demonstrate their uses. Ronnie Hubenthal brought along a very useful and very long handled cutter used to trim lily pads and other plants way out in the pond. This was followed by a general business meeting with updates from the Board Members and a quick run down of the current status of the Pond Tour by Ted Paone, Pond Tour Chairman.

The meeting ended with the drawing of the door prizes which is everybody’s favorite as we all waited with baited breath to see who’s number was selected next. Needless to say, mine was not one of those drawn but it was all in good fun.

The next meeting will be held April 15th and this one is our Annual Plant Swap. Members are encouraged to bring along any plants both of the pond and garden varieties that they wish to swap or give away. The one stipulation is that anything you bring that is not taken, must go home with you. Darren Bayhi will also be demonstrating “How to Replant Waterlilies”  so if you have never attempted this, Darren will show you just how easy it really is.

Hope to see you there.

Written 3/23/2019

Return of Winter


Springtime

Isn’t it ironic that on the day I post a poem heralding the return of Spring to my part of Texas, that same night we get temperatures below freezing that lasted for three days. It was mostly overnight temperatures that were freezing as during the daytime, the thermometer went up to around 40 degrees which by itself is way too cool for us warm blooded Texans. Just like our women, we like the weather to also be hot although to be fair, you will hear us grumble about continuous 100 degree days in the Summer. Given the choice, most of us will take the heat anytime.

For someone who moved down from New York State 42 years ago, these cold days are nothing compared with some of the horrendous winters that I endured in my 10 years in that State, resulting in my fleeing as fast as I could and as far south as I could in double quick time. When I very occasionally go back for a visit, I make sure it is in the Summertime.

That being said, the frost damage to the new vegetation was not as bad as I thought it might be but will still require some clean up work on my part, darn it. Dare I hope that this is the last of the freezing weather for us. I really want it to be as I can’t remember having frosts this late in the season. Normally, ours is over by the end of January. The forecast is for it to be back up in the 70’s by Thursday with overnights in the 50’s. Makes me wonder if the weather patterns are really changing or is it just some freak act of Nature. I’m waiting to see if the Brown Snake made it through OK as I have kinda got used to having him make me jump out of my skin when I come across him unexpectedly. Good job he is harmless. I wonder what it is about snakes that makes man fear them so much. BTW, I say he but it could be a female. I wonder how you tell the difference?

Talking of ponds, the frost has done a job on the some of the pond vegetation which means that I will need to get into the ponds in order to clean it up. I will put that off as long as I can as the water is freezing cold. Not literally of course but figuratively speaking.

Let’s see where we go from here temperature wise…

Written 3/5/2019

A Walk Around the Garden. 2/5/2019


With the weather as mild as it is here in Texas, it is hard to believe that technically, it is still winter. The outside temperature is at 65 plus degrees and true to form, Mother Nature is hurrying all of her charges along in an attempt to put on a show. Luckily for me, I managed to get ahead of the game and cut down all of the dead and decaying material giving the new growth plenty of room to succeed.

The Knockout Rose is really excelling and has some beautiful blooms and lots of them. Years ago, I planted a bunch of bulbs and some of them, mainly Narcissus, are flowering like crazy. I also discovered several clumps of Violets except they are of the white variety. One plant is in the waterfall on one of the ponds.

I also spotted my resident garden snake that seems to have found a permanent home here. I have watched him (or her) grow from about two feet long to almost four feet long today. He has also increased his size around the girth and is now a very plump specimen. Probably due to his frog and the occasional fish diet. This time, he was sunning on one of the pond plants in the 6000 gallon pond and when he did eventually spot me, all he did was disappear back under the cover of that plant. Below are three more pictures of him.

Since taking these pictures, the weather has got a little cooler with chances of overnight frosts. Hopefully, we will get lucky and if there is a drop in temperature it will not go below freezing. We are almost halfway through February and winter officially ends on March 21 although for us, it will be much sooner than that. It is worthwhile putting up with the summer heat and 100 plus degrees just to not have winter. I hate being cold…

Written 2/8/2019