To build a garden pond is to help lots of native wildlife, including frogs and toads. 70% of our ponds have been lost, and with that a lo of native wildlife. However, obviously it’s not always a good idea if you have predator animals, young children or other issues. But if you do have a garden suitable for a garden pond (or already have one) this post can help.
If you do have a garden pond, it’s really important to ensure it has sloping sides. This enables wildlife to easily enter and exit, and also makes it safer around children and animals. Also see the post to make your garden safe for pets, as some pond plants may be toxic (and blue-green algae).
- How to Create a Wildlife Pond shows how to plan, create and maintain your pond and covers natural ponds, container ponds and formal ponds, all which attract wildlife. Learn what to expect through the seasons, the creatures that will visit, and the aquatic plants that will thrive. Also learn how to encourage a natural ecosystem and how to maintain your pond through the year. Learn how to create a pond without filters, pipes and chemicals and how to dig your own pond line, learn pond plants to choose and how to make sure wildlife can enjoy your pond safely. Expect to see blackbirds bathing, hedgehogs using it for water, and bats flying over at night to catch insects.
- Building Natural Ponds is a wonderful book, that contains all you need to know. Rather than a complicated mix of pipes, pumps, filters and chemists to adjust PH and keep algae at bay, work with nature instead. You’ll also learn how to build bogs and rain gardens. Master gardener Robert Pavlis has over 40 years of experience.
- You can fill ponds with water from a water butt, but don’t locate ponds in full sun or shade. If you don’t have pets, water lilies are good to stop water become stagnant. Same for natural swimming pools.
- If it’s chilly in winter, do your homework beforehand, so your pond does not freeze over. Any good pond expert or book will tell you what to do, and there are various methods to keep a little oxygen in the pond, to ensure fish and other creatures can survive. Some people suggest adding a tennis ball or football to the water, speak to your local pond expert for more details. Don’t smash the ice, as the shockwaves can kill fish.
- Also see safer alternatives to netting for wildlife (this is also good for pets & children).
How to Protect Your Pond from Herons
Herons are beautiful creatures, and you often see them hunting for fish in the countryside, near marshes. But people with fish in ponds are not big fans (herons and other creatures also eat amphibians, insects, reptiles, worms and small birds). Report any harm, as herons are protected by law.
You won’t see herons often, as they mostly hunt at dusk and dawn. Although they live wild, if they see ‘easy pickings’ in your garden, they may visit (esp. train youngsters how to fish). The perfect solution does not always exist (apart from letting nature take care of itself). If you choose to have fish in ponds, it is always a risk that herons will eat them.
- Herons are always on alert for predators. If you have tall plants near the pond, they may feel too vulnerable to fly in, as they can’t see the pond or fish clearly (choose plants safe near pets). Vertical pond sides would present drowning risks for many creatures.
- Solar fountains agitate the water, so fish are harder to see.
- ‘Dummy herons’ are not usually effective, as herons tend to hunt together, so will likely ‘join in’ to feed.
- The most effective method is likely a scarecrow, as herons are scared of humans. Some suggest keeping one nearby.
- Heron deterrent discs sound good (prevent netting) but can sometimes harm fish by choking oxygen out of the water (British Hedgehog Society are concerned that hog spikes could get trapped). They also collect debris, which can lead to pet-toxic blue-green algae.
- Not all ‘wildlife-friendly pond netting’ is true. If it has larger holes than 5mm, wildlife charities say it’s not small enough. There is always a small risk of any netting to harm, but don’t listen to companies selling the netting, listen to wildlife rescue charities.
Dragonflies and damselflies are toothed jaw insects. The dragonflies have shorter wings and hold their wings at right angles when at rest, while damseflies fold their wings in and have wider eyes. Dragonflies have large eyes that touch in the middle. They will only bite or skin if scared, but attack other flying insects. They live around 6 months to 6 years but mostly as larvae, and small damselflies only live a couple of weeks from predation, accidents or starvation. Wagtails and other birds and spiders eat them, as do frogs and larger dragonflies and underwater they are at risk from toads, newts, fish and kingfishers.
If you see it dipping its tail in the water, it is laying eggs so leave it alone. They have very good eyesight and open the windows if you see one in your conservatory or usher out gently with a newspaper. As a last resort, grasp the wing base firmly and release outside quickly. If you see one resting on a wall or hedge, it’s likely just gaining strength or digesting a meal, as flying takes a lot of energy, as does finding a mate. Move to a sheltered sunny location or leave it alone. Most can fly with a damaged or missing wing but are vulnerable to predators until their wings harden. They live near ponds, rivers or lakes or nature reserves. Attracting them to ponds with fish is not good, as the fish will eat them. Sometimes they end up in aquariums from buying non-native fish, another reason to not have fish imported. Don’t move them in the rain when their wings are soft, just shield it but don’t cover. Coloured blobs are water mites that hitch a ride and suck the fluid, but they won’t kill it, so leave it alone.
The Dragonfly-Friendly Gardener is a book by Ruary Mackenzie Dodds, who is our leading dragonfly expert. With stunning colours and phenomenal flying abilities, these extraordinarily beautiful creatures are vital to our ecosystem. Find top tips to attract these amazing insects to your garden. From creating a pond and choosing the right plants, to long-term pond care and help to identify dragonfly species. Ruary is buzzing with ideas for how to make your garden a wonderful sanctuary for both you and your new dragonfly friends.
The Dragonfly Diaries is the story of the first sanctuary for nature buffs. Ruary looks at the 40 species and their beauty, aerobatic grace and importance to water eco systems.