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The Lonely Goldfish

The Lonely Goldfish

The Lonely Goldfish

Years ago I bought a plastic heron for our pond. It’s pretty hideous and didn’t seem to keep the real herons at bay. Suddenly, this afternoon, I discovered how to use it properly when I went to buy some new goldfish.

“Do those plastic herons actually do any good?”
“Yes they do but there’s a trick to it. You have to keep on moving them around the pond. A heron is an intelligent bird,” the girl that is in charge of fish responded.
“We have a problem here with all these tanks of fish. One evening we saw a heron arrive near closing time. It waited in that tree over there. We locked up and hid near the tanks. The heron was down in seconds, lifting up the covers and eating the fish. We use hard covers now.”

At the cottage we restocked our pond rather late last year. I had undertaken a massive overhaul in February but it wasn’t until June that I started to buy new fish. These were just goldfish and shubunkin but these are fine in my book. I just want to see a bit of colour and movement in the pond.

This spring I noticed that the heron had visited. A sure sign is a few dead fish on the surface of the pond weed. If any fish survive the hungry heron’s visit they will lie low right of the bottom of the pond for days. But after a few days, I realised that there was just one fish left. On sunny days I’ve spotted him in amongst the oxygenating plants waiting to catch flies. I called him The Lonely Goldfish.

So I motored over to our nearest local fish supplier in Fordham this afternoon to buy some more fish. Ten tiny goldfish, four medium shubunkin and three big goldfish. When I got home I laid the plastic bags of fish on the top of the pond for an hour. This is an important procedure as it guarantees that the water inside the bags is the same temperature as the pond water and the fish are not shocked. The fish inside the bags are not keen on this at all. There were skirmishes from the cheap seats as the ten smallest fish flapped about – perhaps the ones that I’d chosen were from rival gangs.

The moment of release is always a joy. Fish that have been cooped up in tanks suddenly find that there world has increased massively in size. After staying relatively still for a minute or so, they start to swim about. I spent a good hour observing them as they explored their new domain. Some in little groups and a few singletons.

I found the old plastic heron and put it in amongst the reeds – well away from the main area where the fish like to swim. Once I showed the plastic heron to the fish and their reaction was amazing. They shot away out of sight in an instant. I got severely ticked off by Danny for frightening the fish.

We have pipes at the bottom of the pond for fish to hide in. Clearly some are not is canny as the heron. I have some much larger plastic pipes that need to be weighed down with rocks that I can put in this year. I don’t want to net the pond as so many birds come to drink and bathe there.

I’ve been out several times this afternoon to watch the new fish. No sign of The Lonely Goldfish, though. Maybe he actually liked being the solo  fish in a very large pond.


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  1. Mike Allen

    A very familiar story! When we moved into our property we were told that the previous owner had stocked the ponds and time and again the heron took the lot. We never saw any fish for months. One day a single gold fish appeared, and we called him Elmo, but he was a rare siting. We put in a few trout after which he could be seen all the time chasing them around the pond, obviously loving the new company after being in solitary for such a long time. We added more fish but then the herons started visiting and cleaned us out time and again. Elmo was an escape artist and lasted for some time but eventually he disappeared as well. Plastic Herons do not work! We have tried everything! The first time we put the plastic Heron out the following morning there were two real ones along side it. We had two plastic herons and moved them about with zero effect. A scarecrow is thought to be a better deterrent. I made an impressive one but it was not effective, the heron would land next to it. We even dangled cd’s on it, which are meant to be another deterrent. The only way was getting up at the crack of dawn to be waiting for the Heron to arrive. They do not like real human Company! We have put fish lines around the ponds to stop them wading in and are monitoring with PIR triggered video camera [scoutguard]. The only problem with the scoutguard is the limited PIR sensing distance, so it has to be positioned somewhere close to where the herons will be. Herons like to land next to ponds and wade in, so we will see if they try hopping over our lines. Herons are clever birds and seem to find a way of knowing when you are not around. We will see if we can arrange the lines in such a way that stops them reaching the fish.

  2. I had always thought that a plastic heron would send a message to other herons that ‘lunch is here’.
    However, if heron are particularly territorial, I suppose it would have the reverse affect.

  3. I would be happy to sacrifice the fish for the joy of having a heron visiting my garden.

  4. Ooh that’s a good idea and very obvious really, never thought of moving the plastic herons around to scare off other herons. I think that is supposed to work with other birds, so why not herons.

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