We are told water is the most effective way to attract wildlife into your garden. Like many others I have been creating a new wildlife pond.
Go into any garden centre and you will find a whole array of bird and butterfly boxes, bug hotels, feeding stations for birds etc. etc. But do all these ‘fake countryside’ measures make much difference in attracting wildlife to our gardens?
My own experience this year has been that, with a number of bird boxes none seem to have been used, except perhaps as warm roosting sites in the winter. But blackbirds have nested in an overgrown hedge. So have the wrens. Baby blue tits, goldfinches and great tits have been abundant, which show that they have been choosing their own nest sites, often in unexpected situations.
The realities of wildlife gardening are a bit different to what the garden TV programmes tell us! The BUGS survey in Sheffield (‘Biodiversity in Urban Gardens’) (from 2001-2008) seems to indicate that such measures are not often really effective. But nesting holes for solitary bees and wasps do make a difference. So do long-standing log piles and dead wood. The measures most likely to produces results are the provision of water in mini-ponds and ponds, growing plenty of pollen-rich flowers for pollinators and allowing some general wildness.
Ecologist Jennifer Owens made a detailed 30 year study of the wildlife in her Leicester garden from 1970-2000, Hers was an ordinary suburban garden not specifically designed for wildlife. But her results confirm the conclusions of the BUG results. She found that over 2600 species of wildlife, flora and fauna, were using her garden. Clearly our gardens already have much wildlife of which we may not be aware.
The New Pond
Creating a new pond from scratch is hard effort. There are various initial problems along the way, like cloudy water, creating naturalistic edges, controlling blanket weed and algae. After hard work over several weeks by Rosie our two-hours-a-week-gardener, helped in the back-breaking early stages of excavation by her muscular son, we were ready to go.
With the shapes dug out and the protective white underlay and the black liner settled into position we were ready for the initial planting.
Even before the planting (using rainwater from two large water butts) a tiny froglet turned up unexpectedly in the pond as if itching to be the first to establish a home here.
The excitement will be when we see frogspawn in the pond and the arrival of newts and dragonflies. Then we can begin pond dipping to see what’s there!
Peace Beside Still Waters
‘He leads me beside still waters,From Psalm 23
he restores my soul’
Today sitting at the pond side in late afternoon I watch the reflections and the ripples as they occasionally stir the still water and the odd bubble of air rises from the oxygenating plants in the water. Pond skaters dash across the water surface. Hoverflies visit the flowers of the Brooklime which is delightfully called Veronica beccabunga! Who could resist something with a name like that! Earlier in the warm sunshine of mid day a few days ago a pair of blue damselflies formed their graceful mating pose. The restful reflections here are very calming. It’s hard to be stressed in a place like this.
As I sit here watching the pond, the intoxicating scent of the ‘Mermaid’ rose on the pergola nearby drifts as soft incense around me like John Keats’:
‘…musk-rose, full of dewy wine,From ‘Ode to a Nightingale’.
the murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.’
Though not yet fully furbished the pond has given much pleasure already – a focus of peace in our back garden. Like the wildlife, we humans always gravitate here, especially the grandchildren, eager to see what’s happening. This is a great place to unwind at the end of the day. There is a sense of Eden here, as in American poet Wendell Berry’s ‘This Day ; Sabbath Poems‘.
“I go among trees and sit still,
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.”
“I leave work’s daily rule
And come here to this restful place
Where music stirs the pool
And from high stations of the air
Fall notes of wordless grace,
Strewn remnants of the primal Sabbath’s hymn “
Read more about the BUGS Survey and tell us about your own wildlife pond if you have one.