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Robyn's Pond Newsletter May 2002

Last Updated: 2/6/14

Introduction and Miscellaneous:

Welcome to my eleventh newsletter. If you have something pond-related that you want to share (information, jokes, web sites, something pond-related for sale), let me know, and I will add it to the next newsletter. What topics would you like me to cover? Thanks for your input!

There are now over 190 subscribers to this newsletter! Contributions of short articles, stories, hints, pond secrets, links, etc. are welcome!

My book is now available at amazon.com, bn.com, and borders.com. If you bought my book and liked it, go to amazon.com to fill in the book review/comments section. The least expensive way to buy Robyn's Pond Book is at http://www.1stbooks.com/bookview/8794....If you haven't bought a copy, please consider it. It makes a great gift for Mother's Day or a birthday for someone who has or should have a pond. Thanks to those who have bought the book and much luck with your ponds!

Significantly Altered or New Pond Web Pages (explanations below, numbers match):

1. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/book.htm
2. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/myfish/pictures.htm (URL changed to a new directory in 2014)
3. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/turtles/painted.htm

Additions or Changes to Robyn's Pond Web Pages:

1. This is the new page all about my new pond book called oddly enough, Robyn's Pond Book. It has been almost two years and over $1000 in the making. Thank you so much to everyone who has ordered a copy.

2. I added ten new photos to my pond pictures page. A photo of my cat Gino with the pond in the background can be seen under spring 2002 photos (gino4.jpg, 3/26/02). A baby pickerel frog can be seen under the frog photos section (pick2.jpg, 3/9/02). A bunch of my pond fish can be seen under the fish section (school.jpg, 3/9/02). Two just-developed photos of my big pond from last August can be seen under the summer 2001 section (augpond1.jpg and augpond2.jpg, 8/20/01). There are five new photos of my new Eastern painted turtle taken on 4/20/02 under the reptile section at the very bottom (turtle1.jpg, carapace; turtle2.jpg, back foot; turtle3.jpg, tail; turtle4.jpg, front foot; turtle5.jpg, plastron).

3. Now that I have a turtle (see Number 4 below), I have a new page on painted turtles which is the information I had on the turtle species page but with the addition of photos and information on my new turtle.

Happenings at Robyn's Ponds:

1. I got in the pond on 4/7/02 to pull out the floss for cleaning. I also squirted the bioballs and lava rock in the filter. Everything was filthy. Both the air and the pond were about 50 degrees F. Nothing unusual was found.

2. I repotted some plants on 4/14/02. The red lily was repotted into the same 5 gallon pot, and since I couldn't bare throwing the rest out, I put the rest in a 2 gallon pot. The Fabiola pink lily was repotted into another 5 gallon pot, and the rest was tossed out. I repotted the lizard tail into another 2 gallon pot and put some extra in a 1 gallon pot since I like lizard tail. The 2 gallon pot of overwintered Momo Botan tubers was removed, and the tubers stuck into the 20 gallon lotus tub pond/pot for the growing season. The pond water temperature was up to 68 degrees F, and the air temperatures had shot into the 80's. I was cooking! I also worked on mulching around the pond. It will take me about two months of a few loads a week to finish! Then, I have hundreds of other gardens and caged plants to mulch too. I won't finish until late fall.

3. The first goldfish spawning of the year started on 4/15/02 at early dawn. I had to rescue a large Sarassa comet who stranded herself up in the water forget-me-not (which will bloom soon). Spawning is a dangerous time due to cuts and scrapes, strandings (where predators get easy pickings), exhaustion, getting stuck in the water iris (I pulled many of them out of there last year), and getting stuck in the filter floss (my first year, the females went between the floss and pump and couldn't find their way back out and most of the females died).

4. On 4/19/02, a co-worker gave me a turtle. This is the first turtle I have cared for aside from feeding and providing water to our resident wild Eastern box turtles for a few days during periods of drought. The turtle is a female Eastern painted turtle which is the kind I've always wanted. She is 5.5 inches long. Aside from a little fungus on her back foot, she is healthy. I named her Molly. After a few days, she began to eat. So far, Molly only eats grapes, frogbit, and her favorite, earthworms. I put her in my 1800 gallon pond on 5/1/02. I really don't know what to expect as far as how many of my plants and animals she will eat. Hopefully, it won't be enough to be noticeable.

5. On 4/20/02, I got into the 1800 gallon pond to pull out the pump floss. Due to the fish spawning and stirring up lots of debris, the waterfall had gone from a drizzle to a drip. My 2600 gph pump was producing nothing but one drip per second! I replaced the floss with all new floss as it was too dirty. The falls now are a little more than a drizzle. When the pond was new and there was no pre-filter or bioballs, the waterfall used to gush. To provide more filtration, I installed the Cyprio planter filter that I use in the summer. It gives another 700 gph at the opposite shallow end of the pond which stagnates in summer without filtration. The pond water was 76 degrees F. Now that it's warmer, I will begin getting in the pond and squirting the floss off weekly and cleaning the filter out every 4 weeks instead of every 5 weeks.

6. On 4/28/02, I got in the pond to squirt off both flosses around both pumps. The water was 60 degrees F. I also squirted off the bags of bioballs and lava rock which were really filthy and very heavy. While in the pond, I got to see one of my male green frogs calling from behind at water level. I've seen them call hundreds of times but this perspective was pretty neat. I tried to fertilize the plants for the first time this year. I say try because it was very hard to try to get the pills in most of the pots which are too full of roots and rocks. The lilies, lotuses, and some of the marginals all got some fertilizer pills. My calico fantail was found dead in the pond. She had been laying on the bottom alive for over six months. She was the first big pond fish I've lost in over a year. The same night, tornadoes hit La Plata, MD and other areas and destroyed hundreds of buildings and killed five people. The main tornado was an F5, the worst tornado in MD history. Countless trees, plants, wild animals, and pets were killed. I was glad our power did not go out for the sake of the 5 chickens that were due to hatch in the incubator (only one hatched, two days late on 5/2/02). We were far enough away from the deadly storms to have only a few trees limbs downed.

7. On 4/30/02, I moved the green taro from the pot in the basement to the 20 gallon tub pond outside. It was in bad shape with three wilted leaves covered in aphids (despite removing them weekly with wet towels; I tried the non-toxic aphid spray but it killed the leaf I tested since I couldn't squirt it off.). Hopefully, although it's still a bit cold outside, it will recover.

8. I received an order I had placed last winter on 5/2/02 for a dozen each of trapdoor snails, Melantho snails (look like trumpets to me), and black ramshorns. They gave me more and a lot of babies (the 16 baby trapdoor snails may have been live-born after packing) and 6 pond snails mixed in with the Melantho snails. Some were dead from the trip and some were broken open but most were okay. I put them in my 1800 and 153 gallon ponds. I also got 20 assorted submerged plants (five each of moneywort, jungle valisneria, cabomba, and foxtail is what they sent; of course, I was hoping for good-ole anacharis) which I plan to put in the 1800 pond on 5/5/02.

Interesting Animal Sightings:

1. On 4/8/02, I saw a male rufous-sided towhee by my ponds. He probably came to drink since there is a drought. I didn't see a female. The few times I've seen them, they come in pairs. Some cedar waxwings came through the week before, stopping to drink at the bird bath. 2. The toads finally showed up. The males started trilling on 4/13/02. So far, I have seen two of them, both in my 153 gallon pond. See my toad page at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/frogs/toad.htm for more toad information. As of 5/3/02, I have yet to see any females or eggs. This is very abnormal. The ponds should have been covered in the black bead necklaces of the toads weeks ago.

3. On driving to work on 4/26/02, I saw a crow killing a robin on a side road. Just like a hawk kills, the crow was standing on the thrashing robin and pecking it hard. I'd never seen this before. Nature can be very cruel but with death comes life. It's survival of the fittest. Sometimes, though it would be nice if the songbirds won! One year we had a nest of bluebirds but then an English sparrow killed the mother. The father couldn't keep up, and blowflies killed the babies. In that case, only the flies really won.

4. We have over a dozen nest boxes. Most are out of reach and/or don't open. Three are bluebird houses that I checked on 4/26/02. One by the pond has a tufted titmouse sitting on eggs. Last year, that pair fledged four babies. The box out front has five baby bluebirds that hatched on 4/28/02 (they are still alive and healthy as of 5/4/02). This is the first time babies have lived in this box as wrens or house sparrows have always killed the eggs. They aren't out of the woods yet though as those birds will also kill newborns. The box in our back yard had six chickadee eggs. Last year, they hatched one of four eggs, and that baby fledged. This time, the day after I checked the eggs, the male house sparrow killed all six eggs. No birds have tried to lay eggs since. But, the house wrens showed up a few days later and pulled out the fur in the nest (the chickadees used my angora rabbit's fur I trimmed off and left on the ground for the top of their nest).

Web Sites of Interest:

1. There is a story called "weedkiller makes male frogs into females - study" at http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=585&ncid=753&e=2&u=/nm/20020415/sc_ n m/environment_frogs_dc_1
That is one long URL! This study gives yet another reason why pesticides and herbicides are harmful to life.

2. Want to have some fun? Go to http://www.00fun.com/dancing.shtml and play with the dancing ant.

What's your favorite pond-related web site(s)?
Do you have a web site you want me to mention here?

Pond Tidbits:

1. I get a lot of questions about worms, flatworms, planaria, and leeches that show up in aquariums or ponds. Most people are afraid for their fish. One person thought the worms were going to go after her snails. In truth, in most cases, if the worm is free-living (swimming or moving around all over the place), it is not a parasite. Parasitic worms will be fastened onto or inside fish, frogs, snails, and basically any other animal. All animals have their own set of parasites which usually do not kill their host. Worms will come out of many animals when the host dies and immediately seek another host. If they don't find one, they die. My aquariums used to have lost of planaria which are flatworms that feed on extra fish food and detritus. They don't harm fish. My ponds have leeches that were introduced with live blackworms. These leeches are not parasites. They don't suck my blood or that of my fish. They also eat detritus. Now, if you see a leech stuck on the fish, then that is a parasitic leech. Anyway, my point is, don't immediately presume a worm or leech is a parasite (unless you actually see if stuck on an animal or coming out of the animal), become alarmed, and perhaps dump in some toxic chemicals to "cure" the problem. I have some worm info at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/animals/worms.htm.

2. Hair algae likes cooler water and moving water (but will grow in still water). So, around late winter and early spring, questions start pouring in about how to deal with an overload of hair algae. Aside from the usual algae-preventative strategies of more plants, bigger filters, less sunlight hitting the pond, additions of live bacteria and enzymes, tadpoles, snails, and barley straw, there is basically nothing left to try except manual removal. I remove what I can. When the pond warms up, the hair algae dies back as the other plants and algae species start growing. I have hair algae in my 50 gallon aquarium where it is a bigger problem. I bought rosy barbs who are supposed to eat it. Instead, they spawned in it. Now, I have more rosy barbs who are supposed to eat hair algae and don't.

3. Apparently, someone has been telling people that adding plecostomus to a pond is a good idea. I don't believe that. First, plecos have been known to suck on goldfish and koi. My pleco did that. See my pleco page at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/fish/pleco.htm for more information on him. Second, plecos die below 50-60 degrees F depending on the species. If you live in an area where the pond gets colder than this, you will have to either leave the plecos to die or haul them in every fall. If you haven't tried to catch a pleco, then you don't know what you're missing! They are very hard to catch. If you do add a pleco to a warm pond with lots of algae, he will eat only those algae species that are attached to the liner or other hard surfaces. He will not eat suspended (pea soup) algae or hair algae. Oh, and most common plecos will grow to over a foot long! This isn't really a problem in a tropical pond but I have a foot-long pleco in a 40 gallon tank, and he is very messy! Bringing a dozen (the number that one ponder says she was going to add) large plecos in for the winter would be a lot of work.

4. Last year, officials sprayed toxic pesticides in many areas to kill mosquitoes that might carry The West Nile Virus that might render ill 1 in 100,000 people who contract it. Thankfully, the sprayers missed our area (which has few mosquitoes). Now, the news says that the gypsy moth is back. Well, I haven't seen one in what must be 14 years. Back then, we had them bad. A plane flew over our personal woods without notifying us and dumped poison on us and killed thousands of non-target species. They sprayed after the gypsy moths were under control on our land. They are going to spray all over for the gypsy moths now with dimilin and Bt. After much research, we found that they are not spraying our area this time. If they had dumped their toxic payload on our non-existent gypsy moths, they would have poisoned millions of beautiful butterflies like the swallowtail larvae that are in the hardwoods right now, native moths (I found two really pretty ones drowned in my lizard's water on 5/3/02), larval beetles, and other insects including those very ones that naturally prey on mosquitoes like dragonflies, and they would have harmed birds, frogs, and the fish in my ponds who all rely on insects for food. Many other areas will be sprayed. Some animals will die, some will starve, some will have mutated offspring, and some will just live shorter lives. The pesticides must surely have some effect, however minor, on the health of families and pets that go outdoors. See http://homepages.wmich.edu/~s8stahlh/malcolm.html for one site that says how bad Bt spraying is for insects and birds. They're also using Bt in MD too but only over water and not over land. I use Bt in my smaller ponds as mosquito dunks to kill mosquitoes but since they also kill other insect larvae, I deliberately don't use them in my two largest ponds with fish. The dimilin will not only kill all the insects in ponds but also all other invertebrates including shrimp, crabs, snails, daphnia, etc. It makes me ill that most people have no regards for life at all. My father says the pesticide companies are the ones behind the spraying but it's very true that many people are paranoid about various "pests" and fail to see the whole picture. A co-worker told me how much he hated the "weeds" in his yard that wouldn't go away and that he kept spraying pesticide, mowed them over, and otherwise attacked them. He finally brought some in. They were beautiful daffodils that the previous owner had lovingly placed in the ground. Anyway, I don't like the words "weeds" and "pests." Give me a field of dandelions, chickweed, and insects over monotonous pesticide/herbicide-laden grass any day. Plus, I can feed the dandelions and chickweed to the rabbits, guinea pigs, and chickens!

Non-Pond Animal News:

We got two new newborn chicks, Sugar and Spice. They are Easter egg chickens who will lay colored eggs. Photos are on my chicken page at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/birds/chicken.htm

After four attempts at incubating chicken eggs and over 50 eggs from 15 hens, I finally hatched a single baby on 5/2/02. The baby is so cute!! See photos of baby Beebee at the above-mentioned site.

The pair of rosy barbs in my 50 gallon tank are proud parents to some dozen babies that survived all on their own to "hah-hah, you can't eat me" size. Why? Hair algae! It looks awful and smothers half the tank but the eggs that are laid in it aren't all found, nor are the newborns, so some survive the hungry mouths of the other 50 some animals in the tank. Hair algae is the perfect spawning medium. If you have breeding goldfish in a pond with hair algae, I would bet they've spawned in it.

"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." -Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949. (From the 4/18/02 WildAlert newsletter, see http://www.wilderness.org)

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