Everywhere in nature where you find fresh water, you will also find a diverse eco-system of wildlife. Lakes, Ponds, Streams, Rivers, Canals, Fens, Marshes, Dew Ponds and Mountain Tarns are home to thousands of animal and plant species such as, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, Mammals, Fish, and Invertebrates. All these intriguing little creatures are dependent on water and generally prefer to live on or near to fresh water. Not surprising then that creating wildlife ponds, has become a very popular, enjoyable, eco-friendly project for gardeners over the past 20 years. From the smallest sink to the largest clay bottomed lake, if you add water to your garden, you will soon have a variety of wildlife on your doorstep, that will either fly, walk, slither or hop gladly welcoming the water haven that you have lovingly created and provided. Fish can sometimes suddenly appear as if by magic in your pond as visiting birds and water-fowl often unknowingly carry fish eggs from one pond to another by attaching themselves to the bird’s feet, legs and bills. Some creatures will spend their seasonal life cycle undergoing various stages of maturity from, eggs to nymphs, and from larvae to breeding adults in the water, on the water, or under the surface, while others such as some birds, reptiles and mammals will simply use the water to drink, swim, hunt or bath. It is therefore essential that a wildlife garden should have gentle sloping sides to allow all that use it a safe haven and a get out clause!
Wildlife you can attract
There are such a diverse variety that I could write a separate blog on each and every one of the following species, so I’m simply listing below some of the wildlife that you can attract.
Birds and Mammals such as – Ducks, Herons, King Fishers, Water Voles, Water Shrews to name but a few of the hundreds of species that will visit for a drink or bath.
Fish – There are hundreds of fresh water fish in Britain and Europe, and it’s quite common to discover Stickle Backs and even ornamental Gold Fish in wildlife ponds that have been accidently introduced by eggs carried on the feet and bills of visiting birds.
Invertebrates – There are quite literally thousands of creatures that spend part of their lifecycle in, under or on the water surface such as Pond Snails, China-Mark Moths, Water Beetles, Spring Tails, Crane Flies, Fresh -Water Shrimps, Water Scorpions, Water Fleas, Cadis Flies, Dragon Flies, Damsel Flies, May Flies, Blood Worms, Leaches, Raft Spiders, Water Skaters and Water Boatmen. Bees and Hover Flies will also visit high pollen producing plants such as Potentilla Palustris to drink and collect the nectar.
Micro-Organisms – Thousands of tiny and microscopic organism such as Hydra and minute Sponges, spend their entire life in fresh water. Although bottom of the food chain and seemingly insignificant as most are invisible to the naked eye, they are however an essential and highly important part of pond life and provide a very important link in the whole eco-system maintaining water quality and providing food for many tiny pond dwellers.
Many people are miss-guided by incorrect information that they find in some books that states that “A Wildlife Garden must have only British Native Plants,” and this information is in my opinion, incorrect. There is no reason whatsoever why a wildlife garden cannot have Non-Native and Hybrid Cultivar varieties intermixed together as it is most important to have a good diverse collection of plants in and around your pond. Potentilla Palustris and Lythrum Salicara as well as many others with a high nectar count, will attract Bees, whereas various Rushes and marginal plants will help any emerging Nymphs to climb out of the water to dry off and shed their skins to emerge as flying adults. Low growing creeping shallow marginal plants are great planted all around the edge of the water too. Plant some aquatic Mosses amongst them and this will create the perfect hiding places, entrance and exits for all visitors. Plants with floating leaves such as, Water-Lilies, Nuphars, Apponogetons and some free-floating plants are beneficial to certain wildlife. Pond weeds such as Starwort’s, Hornwort’s, Milfoil’s, Water Crowfoots, and Potomogetons (True Pond Weeds), are also an essential edition to any pond as they provide shelter and a breeding ground for many creatures including Amphibians. They plants will also take out excess nitrates in the water and in return, give out much needed oxygen. I recommend that at least two thirds of your wildlife pond should be covered by Submerged, Free-Floating or Surface Leafed Plants to create that perfect balance for a happy, healthy, wildlife friendly environment for all our fascinating and wonderful wildlife to visit and live in.
Wildlife – We love you