I had a live and let live attitude about the birds visiting my pond until the Summer of 1994. Spring came and my Flora Plena (double yellow) water irises started to grow and bloom and were just gorgeous. Within the space of two weeks they were nothing but 5 inch stubs, thanks to the birds.
I had the irises in large pots in my pond and the birds were landing in the pots to get to the water for a drink, breaking leaves off in the process. Some particularly stupid birds also thought they could land on the thin strip of the iris leaf. I fought with the birds (mostly Grackles) all Summer. I tried hanging "bird tape" by the pond; I hung a couple of wind chimes and a wind sock too. As far as I could tell, these things only served to entertain the birds. They came back and brought their friends....and a good time was had by all. The only time I was able to keep the birds at bay was when my German Shepherd dog, Ursa, was in the yard. She has always felt it was her duty to keep the yard bird-free in any season. I tried to leave her out as much as I could without putting her in danger of a heat stroke. Then I discovered one key to her success was that she was catching the birds and eating them (causing several visits to the vet). Back to the drawing board....... Eventually that Summer was a water gardening washout. I hardly took any pictures of my pond because it looked so terrible.
Starting the Spring of 1995 I was determined to redouble my efforts against the birds and win this time. I started the season with the purchase of a very large plastic owl. I called him Bad Art (don't ask). Anyway, I sat him on the side of the pond and for a few days the birds stayed away. If you have ever noticed, with birds there is always that one brave bird who checks things out, and then if he lives through it he tells his buddies. Bad Art was quickly discovered to be a fraud and the birds were back. I still had time though, not much damage was done YET.
I decided that what the owl needed was animation. First I filled him with sand and then mounted him on a pole that would allow him to sway just a little because of the weight of the sand - and he swayed even more when the wind blew. I was just starting to think it was going to work when I happened to be looking out the back window and saw a bird land right on top of the owl! He jumped off and coasted down to the water iris pot and got a drink. They were using Bad Art for a landing zone!!
At this point I admit I was a bit crazed and even family members started to avoid me.
My next brainstorm was to create "feathers" for Art. My Mother gave me side looks as I headed outside with a hot glue gun, scissors, a roll of landscape fabric and a 50 foot extension cord. I cut strips of the black plastic and glued them all around the sides and back of the owl. My thinking was that when the owl swayed or the wind blew, the plastic would flutter, giving a more realistic "bird type" appearance. I believe it was at this point that my family started to check out "in-patient" care facilities. I have only recently started to wonder if this had anything to do with my son and his wife suddenly moving to Terre Haute from Hawaii. Do you think.....? Naw....Once again the birds looked at the owl and chuckled (rolled on the floor laughing might be a better description). Even though it didn't work, I had become quite fond of Art and he still resides on his pole in the backyard, with bird poop all over him.
My next idea was to cut down on the "glide path" that I had noticed the birds using from the garage roof over to the pond near the bubbler. I put up two posts and cut a piece of bird netting and stretched it and stapled it in place. I had hardly put my tools away before I heard my Mother yelling for me and yelling at the dog at the same time. Running outside I immediately saw the problem. The birds could not see the black netting and one had flown right into it and was firmly caught. Ursa, my dog, thought this was a gift from the gods and was attempting to have a snack while my Mother was trying to stop her. In the fracas that followed, many of my flowers, planted in front of the pond, were trampled by the dog, one post was pulled over causing the net to fall into the pond, breaking off several lily blooms and knocking the fountain and an umbrella palm over for good measure. To add insult to injury I had to free the bird (who was mighty upset by this time) from the netting and was pecked repeatedly for my efforts. At this point I was starting to develop a nervous tick!
As I was cleaning up the mess, I started trying to think of things that birds were afraid of. There were owls of course (of the real variety) and then I thought of snakes. Yes, snakes! That HAD to be it. I needed a snake, or two, or even three! The mere mention of the word "snake" caused my Mother to pick up the cordless phone and lock herself in her room. Surely she didn't think I meant a "real" snake?? I quickly discovered that snakes were not that easy to find. I looked every place for them and finally found them at Dean's Party Mania. They had several sizes and colors and I bought 4. I put one on each side of the pond and this is where I finally have discovered a degree of success. As long as I moved the snakes' positions everyday, the birds stayed away from the pond. If I happened to forget to move them, the birds came back. The snakes have brought a happy ending to my story (although Ursa misses her snacks), so those of you fighting the good fight with the birds - my advice is to get some snakes!