Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fish stories, a birthday, and a lifer


My neighbors are moving away in August. I’ll miss them so much because they are like old friends, even though we’ve only been neighbors for less than two years. They have a water feature in their yard – a pretty stream that trickles down their back hill and empties into a small pool where they keep three Koi. My neighbors aren’t nature observers or lovers, but they named their fish. A month or two ago I promised to take their Koi before they move since they feel apprehensive about the new owners’ commitment to them.

While they oooo’d and aaaa’d over our new pond reconstruction last night, everyone thought it would be a great idea to bring their three Koi to our sparkling pond. I hated to bring it up, but I did. According to my pond expert, I was overstocked with fish even before he lined the pond with large rock and gravel. Now I have less water and too many fish! I told them so, gently. Then I told everyone again, a little more emphatically. No one understood the meaning of “too many fish – too much waste – too little oxygen". What I heard in three-part harmony was, “Oh, what’s three more?”

I upheld my promise and netted the three Koi from their little murky pool because I really like my neighbors. I wonder why I just can’t be assertive and say “Sorry, but NO”.

A decision had to be made this morning…


I needed to remove some goldfish. I thought of the following options. Do I know anyone who has a pond nearby? No. Should I take them to Petsmart or Petco? NO! Should I find a kid with a fish aquarium? NO! I had a place in mind.

They were hiding from me. I found my "pond" Keds and tied them.

I stood in the middle of the pond with my net and moved in slow motion to avoid crashing into the lilies and causing too many waves. It is very difficult to net small fish, especially when they have so many hiding places in their new environment. After ten minutes, I only caught one goldfish and I had about ten more to net. Hmmm… I thought of quitting but I couldn’t capture only one lone goldfish. I needed two and the second capture was easy from the skimmer. This is when my heart started breaking.


They are ordinary goldfish that have tripled in size since I brought them home. I just have too many. There are eight more out there that I should give up. Sigh… I am not attached to them in the same way I am attached to the Koi who allow me to drop food pellets down their throats, but I cared for all of these goldfish and their offspring.


A three-minute ride took me to the place and I parked the car. I skipped over Canadian goose poop and found a spot to release two of the ten. There were some life birds and nature buzzing all around but I couldn’t see them through my tears. Horrible thoughts of predators and water chemistry made me regret what I had done and I don’t know if I can do this again. It's torturous when you have a knack for being too caring and way too dramatic.


The Beta who watched me in the kitchen for two years died last Saturday. He looked like a male and I called him “Guy”. My new Beta looks feminine. I call her “Girly”. Creative, huh?

Less than ten minutes after I said my good-byes to two lovely goldfish this morning, I came home to see this:


For fear of further incriminating myself in the ID department, I ask for help. My Stokes guide provided no help. Internet, no help. Sibley’s gave me a clue but the bird doesn’t belong here.


It has a yellow-orange back with flecks of black on the wings.


Its color of yellow-orange ranges in different light settings. The tail is very short, yellow-orange. This bird is not a fast flyer. Its wings flap like crazy but it only seems to hover into a tree. The song is a repetitious, shrill and loud, “tseee tseee”.

It’s been hanging around my house all day and just a few minutes ago I saw it on the ground at the feeders, near the pond. If I learn this is a common bird with an easy ID, I will never guess again. Maybe the heat is getting to me?


100… in… the… shade. Add the humidity to 100 degrees and we’re in a sweat drenching pit.


It’s a day for swimming and bobbing for golf balls. Bella takes a running leap to be the first one to the ball.


Today is Chloe’s Birthday. 1996…over a decade of fun.


Chloe: “Gimme eleven kisses!” I say, “Ok, then we'll go wash your face and I will tell you I love you eleven times!"


Note: This post was ready for Sunday. A wild thunderstorm screwed up my computer in the evening so I spent Monday night on the phone with the cable company for thirty minutes and then another three and a half hours on the phone with Dell. I was in hell. Dell Hell? No dinner. Another thunderstorm cut off my conversation with Dell before we finished and I gave up. This morning, I discovered that I’m back in business and that’s a good thing.

This is my two hundredth post since October and I'm still hanging in.


Dorothy said...

Mary you are such a good friend to your neighbors! I feel for you.. being so often in a similar predicament..how do you say 'no' and mean it? The yellow and black bird is a beauty! I'm so glad you got your computer back!
Congratulations on your 200 post!
You've got yourself such a following here in blog land.

entoto said...

Happy Birthday, Chloe!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mary,
That storm sounded really scary. I'm glad you're back on-line again with no ill effects.

WOW that bird. Looks like some kind of a weird cross between a yellow-headed blackbird and an oriole! I have no clue what it would be.

I only have 2 goldfish in my little pond and every fall I net them out and bring them in the house for the winter and put them back out in the spring. I haven't named them, but they have lived for 2 years now and I sure enjoy watching them. I would feel bad if I had to let them go somewhere also.

100 in the shade! I can't even imagine it.

possumlady said...

Congratulations on your 200th post!! And, of course, happy birthday to Chloe!

I would be crying too letting the little goldfish go. Sometimes I feel I'm just too sentimental and attached to so many living creatures. I guess it's better than feeling nothing at all.

If it weren't for the yellow, I would say that bird is an oriole. Okay, I gotta go out and turn the sprinkler on. My garden is looking a bit distressed with this hot weather back.

Q said...

Dear Mary,
Happy birthday to dear Chloe!
I do understand the letting go of gold fish. We are connected to all the life around us. These were fish that were part of your day, part of your life. It was kind of you to let them go in the big pond!
I have no idea on yellow and black bird. At first I thought yellow headed blackbird even tho the range map has it way North and east of you but my husband did not think so. the beak is "wrong" he thought. I looked at all the other could be's and no idea. Could be the storm blew it up your way??
I think it came before the storm hit you but those winds could have blown pretty bird to you.
I will check back and see if anyone else has any idea.
Glad your internet is back and hopefully you have a break from the heat.
Baby Koi maybe in your future?
Maybe you could have a fish sale?

cat59 said...

Hi Mary,

I wish I lived closer. I would take your goldfish. I think our fish kill is over. The consensus seems to be that we over cleaned the filter this spring and upset the biological balance. I certainly understand about too many fish. I have a 20 gallon freshwater acquarium and most people don't realize how much you have to keep track of the water quality--amonia, nitrites, nitrates, Ph. My nitrates always seem high to me and I think it is because I have a few too many fish, but, now that I have them, what am I going to do? Frequent water changes. Your pond is so beautiful. Maybe you could give away your neighbors' koi that you aren't attached to to the local fish store. Glad you are back online!

Larry said...

Hi Mary
Happy Birthday to Chloe-sorry you had to give up some of your fish but ti was the right thing to do.
Very cool bird!-If no one i.d.'s it for you,I can get it i.d.'d on birdforum if need be.-glad to see you made it back online.

NatureWoman said...

Happy Birthday Chloe! Sorry about your fish! I like your new Girlie - she's beautiful! Congratulations on your 200th post!

Mary said...

Whew. So it's NOT an easy ID... Hint: Originated in Africa. Small population in California. The bird is still hanging around. I'm feeling like an idiot. At first sight, I thought it was a Baltimore Oriole and ran for grapes and oranges. It's a ground feeder.

Dorothy, I can't believe I've posted 200 times. I wonder, "about WHAT?"

Trixie, Chloe deserved a Happy Birthday o;)

Ruthie, it's HOT. Another T-storm tonight but I turned the computer off while there were lightning strikes. I'm skittish now.

Possumlady, I'm going to post a photo of a Japanese Willow that is dying quickly before our eyes. After all of that rain, we are still in a drought. Downpours just run down the street into the drains.

Dear Sherry, when I drive by the nice pond, I wonder how they are doing...or if they are "doing" at all... It's a very pretty bird but very odd!

Cathie, I'd send their Koi to the nearest pond but the owners are still here until August! LOL! I can't do that to them... Yes, most people don't get it. Too much is too much in a controlled environment.

Larry, please feel free to try to ID this bird!!! Take my photos and give it a whirl and keep me posted :o)

Pam, I have so much to say but little time. I had to highlight Chloe's eleventh birthday. Doesn't she hae a mug only a mother would love?

Ruth said...

My husband and I were looking at carp and goldfish that had been released in our downtown park's small lake. They were thriving and feeding close to the surface. It was 90+F here today and humid, but we are to get cooler air tomorrow. Hope you do too!

KGMom said...

No help on the bird.
Lovely lovely pond--I am developing serious pond envy.
Happy b-day to the puppy.
And, sorry about the goldfish.

KGMom said...

Mary--is it a western tanager? the other one I found is a black-headed grosbeak. Both have the deep yellow & black. The tanager has a harsher call. Both are west coast birds, usually.

sonia a. mascaro said...

Happy Birthday lovely Chloe! Love your photo and I see you are smiling!

Congratulations, Mary, for your 200th post! It's sounds really great!

Last but not least I am sorry about your fish.

Naturegirl said...

First of all Mary Congratulations on
your 100th post! I am so pleased that we met by way of Q!I tuly understand your connection and sadness regarding your goldfish! I did NOT choose to have fish in my pond because I would wail if any perished. I allow nature to bring me visitors like frogs and if they don't make it over the winter well it was mother natures decision.
Look at the smile on your doggy!!

Naturegirl said...

oops I meant ~truly~ and it was your ~2ooth~ post! Silly me I got caught up in your sadness re: fish hugs NG

dmmgmfm said...

I can understand your sadness, Mary. I'm that way too, which is probably why I have 6 indoor cats.

I hope your weather improves. We've had some nasty storms here ourselves.


LostRoses said...

Congratulations on your 200th post, Mary! I just passed one year and I think I only have about 75. Keep 'em coming!

Okay, what is the mystery bird? Your hint makes me think you know. It has the characteristics of several species but put all together it doesn't add up to any I'm familiar with. 'Fess up!

I think you found a good home for your fish too. But if you had my raccoons you wouldn't have that problem!

Susan Gets Native said...

As far as I can tell from the photos, it's a black-headed grosbeak. And WAY out of it's range! Report it to your local bird list serv.

200th post, huh? Do you realize that you get more comments than I do? And I have been doing this since 2005?

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your 200th post, Mary! Happy birthday, Chloe.

As for the bird, I don't think it's a Black-headed Grosbeak. they are much more ORANGE-RED than YELLOW-ORANGE. Just not the same bird -- and I've been seeing a lot of them lately.

I'm flummoxed as to what it IS though.

Mary C said...

Congratulations, Mary - and Happy BD to Chloe - she is so cute. Let's hope for some cooler weather. Wow! I remember those kinds of days when I lived back east. Yuck!

Is that bird possibly a tropical bird? Funny how its beak looks like a grosbeak, but the color isn't right. I hope Larry will find out for you.

Jayne said...

Oh ((((Mary)))), you have such a tender heart. I'd be sad about the goldfish too.

Hmmm... I also first thought grosbeak with that beak, but..... can't wait to see if someone can ID it. Never have seen anything like it, that's for sure! Maybe ask JZ?

Cathy said...

Oh sweet Mary - I was crying along with you. What a caring soul. I can well imagine the emotion as you parted with your gold fish. Dang.

That weird bird is wonderful. Your yard is a nature magnet :0)

I'm walking my laptop over to my hubby right now to show him Chloe's BD smile. Happy birthday, sweet pup!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Orange bishop weaver! Euplectes franciscanus, or something quite close to that. African, many in private aviaries. It's in the Ploceidae, the same family as house sparrows. A survivor, no doubt. Poor little guy. He's going to have to take a HOSP wife. Figures he'd show up in your yard.

Many, many sympathies on your goldfish. I had to give my two beloved koi away as my water garden's only 200 gal. Same water turbidity problems you were experiencing. They spawned and had a little black son. Gave him away, too. I cried. Koi have such wonderful personalities, but I think they're a mistake for all but the largest water gardens...they're carp, after all, with all the same growth potential. Rats, rats rats. I'm so glad you have a sparkly new pond and hope you can work it out.
Way to go on the bishop! Sorry I'm late in responding. Laundry and dead mouse in the dryer, you know.


Julie Zickefoose said...

Make that Euplectes orix franciscana. Science Chimps must be precise. He'd eat all the same seed you're serving the house sparrows. ;-)
I'd bet Susan at Lake Life knows all about these birds. They make wonderful woven nests.

Mary said...

Thank you, Julie! Oh, I hope he doesn't attract a HOSP wife. I've been lucky and don't have HOSP at my house!

My photos are crappy so here's a link to some good ones of the Orange Bishop Weaver:


Good luck with the mouse in the house!

Susan Gets Native said...

The Science Chimp never fails....

dguzman said...

I was going down through your 26 comments and waiting for the Sci-Chimp to ring in. What an answer! I gave up at yellow-headed blackbird. Congrats on your wonderful wonderful blog's 200th post! "on what?" you ask? on YOU! and your wonderful life.


Annie in Austin said...

Thank heavens Julie Zickefoose confirmed the name of that exotic looking bird, Mary! Have you checked the lost and found ads? Maybe someone in your area has exotics as pets?

All your travails are making me feel okay about our pondless life - having to evict fish would make me sad, too. Down here we have a large and active Austin Pond Society which holds a tour each summer. They have a website and bulletin boards for the members. Is there anything like that near you? Donating koi or goldfish to other pond owners might work better than releasing them - and you might meet someone interesting~

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

KGMom said...

Mary--now that Science Chimp has weighed in & ID'd the mystery bird, maybe you have found someone's escaped "pet." Not that anyone should have one, but how else to explain its showing up in NC all the way from Africa?

On the goldfish--have you thought about going on to Craigs List & giving them away on the pet pages?

Jayne said...

Orage Bishop Weaver! Well, who knew? Never would have guessed that in a million years. You have to wonder if someone is looking for him?

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I love your pond, first off- it just looks better and better. I understand your dilemma regarding the fish as I had similar when I kept an aviary of Gouldian finches. After I had populated the greater Ann Arbor area with them- sometimes even buying cages for people because I could NOT bring myself to give them to a pet store- the wooden egg solution hit me. That worked. But it has nothing to do with your fish. How about an ad on Craig's list for your area; perhaps other pond owners would read it and like them?

I was going to say Weaver as well because we have them in the African exhibit at the zoo but I can't imagine what he's doing in your neck of the woods. He's really stunning.

Congrats on the prolific posting! Your consistency is admirable and the content always great. And that dog has the goofiest face ever, hands down. Happy birthday, Chloe!

Elaine Cougler Author said...

Thanks for a delightfully interesting post. I love the pics of your yard, especially the fish ones in the pool. Your blogs are always interesting, Mary. Thanks for that.

Larry said...

I'm too late because of work but it created a nice little back and forth discussion as it was finally decided to be an Orange Crowned Bishop.