It’s twenty years since we built the pond and this was the first winter we’ve had a net over it. The net was great for keeping fallen leaves out, but we were mostly trying to protect our ten-for-a-dollar feeder fish from the Great Blue Heron.
This makes no sense. We built the pond for the heron, not for the fish. The fish are food. We throw the tiny things in the pond every spring and they spend a relaxing summer eating and growing. The heron always gets most of them before the next spring.
And when he does, I feel bad.
The problem is that the fish become pets. By the end of summer they have come to expect to be fed when they see us near the pond. We take pride in their beauty, their health, and their growth. Some of them have interesting and distinctive markings. This is where our priorities get confused. We start with the intention of nurturing wildlife but end up nurturing the food.
Dave wanted to protect the fish this spring and summer, but I thought we should stick to our original intent – welcome the heron and his appetite. Then we took the net off last week and I saw the fish! Tiny babies from last spring have grown. Some of the babies actually hatched in our pond. I recognized the gold one with the large black oval on his back and I saw the white fish that has been around for three years.
I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let them be eaten. The last several years I’ve been lashing four long pieces of bamboo together forming a tic-tac-toe grid. I toss several of the bamboo structures in the pond and hope they discourage the heron. It hasn’t worked so far.
I’m trying something new this year. I attached the bamboo to stakes in the ground near the edge of the pond. That way the heron can’t use his trick of pushing all the bamboo to one end of the pond while he dines.
This morning we were delighted to admire a flock of robins bathing while standing on the floating bamboo.
When the heron comes, it’s a wonderful thing to see. He makes a deep croaking sound as he stalks around the pond. It’s a prehistoric noise straight out of the Jurassic Park sound track. Once in a while one of our clever ideas slows him down for a while, but eventually he will outsmart us. He always does.
Until then, the fish are happy and the robins are loving the bamboo!