1-7-2020 December Trip Recap and Bubbler Winter Maintenance Update

January 07, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Dan's Images from Our December 'Snowbird' Trip


Many of us like to get away for a winter warm-up, and we've been getting questions about what to do with bubblers when people have that opportunity. So, we have a new page added to our Bubbler Maintenance Guide. We'll cover the information at the end of this post, just email us from the contact page if you'd like a copy of the revised pdf.  Contact us


We thought we'd begin the year with some of Dan's beautiful photos from our own 'snowbird' time on Sanibel Island, Florida in December. The island is 2/3 protected habitat within the revered Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, one of the top ten places to see birds in the United States. We spent time watching birds wherever we were. On our beach walks and every time we drove through the refuge, it was different! Depending on time of day, tidal effects and winds, birds could be found feeding, squawking, flying or scampering about. We enjoyed the great opportunity to study birds we don't see every day, it is truly a special place. 


We chose a new complex our friends recommended to stay in that had a larger dune area to walk through as we approached the beach. I spotted a small falcon, an American Kestrel, on a fencepost the first morning. It was finishing off a meal. Mouse or bird? Too late to tell. It then flew to this shrub to digest its food, where Dan photographed it. The bird was out there every morning. We had never seen a kestrel near the beach before in all the years we've been there.


12-15-19 American Kestrel in the dunes12-15-19 American Kestrel in the dunes


Ruddy Turnstones are common on the beach and we saw them every day. Osprey are paired up and beginning to build their nests. This bird was collecting some materials.


12-15-19 Ruddy Turnstone Trio12-15-19 Ruddy Turnstone Trio 12-15-19 Osprey with nesting material12-15-19 Osprey with nesting material


On our first trip through the refuge, we came upon a solitary Roseate Spoonbill standing alongside these 5 Wood Storks.


12-16-19 Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Storks12-16-19 Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Storks


A Yellow-crowned Night Heron was resting after its early breakfast. Like the Green Heron in the next photo, birds find food and cover in the red mangroves.


12-16-19 Yellow-crowned Night Heron12-16-19 Yellow-crowned Night Heron

12-16-19 Green Heron12-16-19 Green Heron


Dan captured this pattern of windswept grass in the sand. A Snowy Egret caught fish at the shoreline at low tide while a lineup of Sanderlings worked in the shallows for the tiny animals inside coquina shells.


12-16-19 Windswept sand12-16-19 Windswept sand 12-17-19 Snowy Egret at the shoreline12-17-19 Snowy Egret at the shoreline 12-17-19 Sanderlings12-17-19 Sanderlings


We went through the refuge on Wednesday, the high for the day had been at midnight with a heavy rain. By afternoon, it had begun cooling down. This Great Egret caught a tiny fish as Snowy Egrets hoped for the same. The size difference in the two birds is obvious and the larger bird has the yellow bill, black legs and feet.


12-18-19 Great Egret and Snowy Egrets12-18-19 Great Egret and Snowy Egrets


We had not seen so many Snowy Egrets before. They are quite animated when they're competing with each other. This image is a favorite of ours. Not only does one see the yellow feet, usually hidden in the muck, but the plumage is so well-defined against the dark background of the mangroves. See the drops of water flying from its bill? Soon, these birds will be in full breeding beauty.


12-18-19 Snowy Egret in Mangroves12-18-19 Snowy Egret in Mangroves


Another interesting image Dan got was of this Great Blue Heron, reflected in the pool.


12-18-19 Great Blue Heron12-18-19 Great Blue Heron


The last day that we could go through the refuge was Thursday, it is closed on Fridays to give all the birds and animals a break from the human traffic. ​​The winds had really picked up and when we arrived, we found a 'super-low tide'. The conditions were forcing the birds into the channels where the water was still moving. It was also where the fish were concentrated! This Great Egret had speared a fish that looked  like a swordfish to us.


12-19-19 Great Egret with fish12-19-19 Great Egret with fish


The lighting was beautiful, as you can see on this Yellow-crowned Night Heron, protected from the breeze.


12-19-19 Yellow-crowned Night Heron12-19-19 Yellow-crowned Night Heron


A Brown Pelican watched a Snowy Egret carrying another small tidbit off to eat without interference.


12-19-19 Brown Pelican and Snowy Egret with prey12-19-19 Brown Pelican and Snowy Egret with prey


A Reddish Egret was finally seen, 'dancing' as it caught fish. This is a distinctive behavior of the species.


12-19-19 Reddish Egret dancing in front of a Snowy Egret12-19-19 Reddish Egret dancing in front of a Snowy Egret


Another Snowy Egret Dan captured had a sizable shrimp! Last but not least, two more Roseate Spoonbills were preening in the afternoon light with their prehistoric looking bills.


12-19-19 Snowy Egret with shrimp12-19-19 Snowy Egret with shrimp 12-19-19 Roseate Spoonbills12-19-19 Roseate Spoonbills

So, are you planning a trip to sunny shores?  You know your bubbler best,

but here are some things to consider for your bubbler while you're away. 


Bubbler Maintenance - When you’re away


Are you leaving town for a few days or weeks?  Are you concerned about what to do with your bubbler while you’re away?  First, trust your own experience when deciding what steps to take in preparing the bubbler for an absence.  To help in that process, here are a few ideas based on our experience and feedback from those with both pondless and pond type bubblers.



Fall / Winter

My usual recommendation is to leave the system ON.  Make sure the filter is clean, the reservoir is topped up and the heater is functioning properly.  As long as the water level remains above the top of the filter/pump, water should circulate.  The birds will appreciate having the “bubble” of water even if the usual water puddles aren’t there because the water level gets a little low.


If you decide to turn the pump and heater OFF, cover the bubbler with a tarp or heavy plastic sheet to limit evaporation and keep out debris.  Be sure to secure the edges of the tarp to prevent it blowing off.  Unless temperatures fall into the single digits (ºF) for several days, there is little chance of thick ice forming.  As long as the bubbler reservoir is a foot or more deep into the ground, residual heat in the soil will keep the deeper water liquid, and this is most likely where your pump is located.


The heater could be left ON with the pump OFF, but probably isn’t necessary.  If the heater is left ON, be sure there is no possibility of the heater going “dry” (no water around the heater); pond/trough heaters are designed to work either floating on or submerged in water.  


Spring / Summer

Evaporation is probably the main consideration during warmer weather.  There are so many variables that affect evaporation it’s difficult to make specific recommendations.  Any UL listed pump is thermally protected, so even if it runs dry, it will not burn up (that’s not to say it will still function properly, just that it won’t cause a fire or electrical hazard).  An “auto-filler” is one option if evaporation is a concern (search on-line for “pond auto-filler” and any number of options come up).  If it’s not obvious, these do require a connection to a water source.  And, of course, if you have a neighbor willing to look in occasionally and top-up the bubbler when necessary, that’s always a nice solution.


Please check back on Sunday, 1/12/20 for the first of January's highlights!






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