Great Blue Heron

2022 August 21

So, way back in the summer of 2016 we built a small decorative pond in our back yard. It’s about 12 feet long, 8 feet wide, and maximum 5 feet deep, with a circulating filter and a waterfall. It has turned into a favored spot for all sorts of small creatures; frogs, dragonflies, other aquatic insects, the birds like to bathe in the waterfall, and so forth. We even put in some small goldfish the next year, that successfully overwintered in the pond and lived there for about 5 years. And then last evening (August 20, 2022), Sandy spotted this bird hanging around the edge of the pond:

That’s a Great Blue Heron! They are normally pretty shy birds and don’t hang around houses. But, I guess our goldfish were irresistible. After it flew off, I went out and saw that all of our goldfish were, well, gone[1]. It did leave a feather floating on the pond, though.

We weren’t sure we were going to see it again, but this morning I looked out the kitchen window, and there it was, standing on the edge of one of our raised-beds, right next to the hummingbird feeder. This was way closer than it was last night.

In this next picture, the little blur that I circled in red is a hummingbird, very irate about this big interloper hanging around their feeder.

Here’s a closeup of his head

and of his feet.

After a bit, he moved back to the pond, apparently hoping for more goldfish.

And as I write this, several hours later, he’s still there.

The big goldfish are all gone at this point, but they did reproduce last year and there may still be tiny ones that he’s picking off. There may also be frogs. Herons apparently eat any small animal that they can manage to swallow, so he may pick off some of our local voles and chipmunks, too. I don’t know how long he’s going to be here today, I expect he normally hangs out at the beaver pond out back. But, we are probably on the route now, and we are likely to see him again from time to time.

We are contemplating whether we should start stocking the pond with minnows from the bait shop, or something. Small fish with some degree of camouflage (rather than being brilliant orange like the goldfish) would probably be more successful at hiding from a heron, so it wouldn’t be able to catch them all right away like that.

[1] We’ve been wondering for years whether something was going to show up and eat our goldfish one of these days. They were big and healthy and colorful (apparently living in a pond suits goldfish much better than aquarium life does), and I suppose it was only a matter of time before a heron or kingfisher or other such fish-eating bird twigged to their presence. Still, considering that five of them were “feeder goldfish” that WalMart used to sell for 29 cents each, and one was a fish that Sam won at the fair, five years was a good deal longer of a lifespan than they could have expected anywhere other than in our pond.

4 Responses
  1. August 29, 2022

    Although I’d love to set up a pond, herons are the main reason why I don’t. Here on the west coast of Canada where there are herons a-plenty, pond goldfish wouldn’t last very long. One can put up netting, but that would detract from the attractiveness of a pond. Pond lillies could help, but the fish wouldn’t be visible. I suppose that native fish would be more resilient to heron attacks.

  2. August 31, 2022

    Luckily, in our case the fish in the pond were something of an afterthought. We mainly wanted things like frogs and crayfish and dragonflies, which we also have. We only put in the goldfish because our daughter won the first one at the fair, and the others were added to keep it company. And now, the nearest place that still sells goldfish is almost exactly 100 miles away, so I doubt we are going to put in more any time soon. Even without the fish in it, it is a fine pond.

  3. October 16, 2022

    Someday, I want to come across an animal with a more appropriate name. In this case it would be a Perfectly Adequate Blue Heron. Or maybe It’s Not Terribly Blue, But It’s The Best We Could Do On Short Notice Heron.

  4. October 16, 2022

    While it is true that a lot of animals get superlatives that they don’t deserve, I’m inclined to give it to this one. The heron was darned near tall enough to look me in the eye. They are either the biggest or second-biggest bird that we get up here. Sandhill Cranes are approximately the same size, maybe a bit taller. Canada Geese are quite a bit shorter and probably weigh less. The swans we see from time to time may be as heavy, but are a lot shorter because of their stumpy little legs. No other local birds are even in the ballpark.

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