One of the best things you can do for nature in your garden is build a pond. Anna Pugh shares her garden pond journey and some of the unexpected wildlife it brought!
If you build it, they will come.
I have never been one to often compare myself to Kevin Costner but I do believe that when it comes to wildlife gardening his ‘if you build it they will come’ mantra stands you in good stead. This is the advice I give to my long suffering friends and family when they ask me why their bird feeder is not swamped with birds two days after they put it up or why is it that the only thing using the bird bath is the cat. It can take a while for wildlife friendly changes to ‘bed in’ and for the birds, bugs or beasties to realise that you have created them the perfect rest stop with en-suite facilities. Saying that I do genuinely believe taking Kevin’s attitude to his field of dreams and applying it to your garden does bring rewards if you are patient.
That’s not to say that the rewards are exactly what you were hoping for. I have had a sparrow box up in what I thought was a prime position for several years now. Despite having a family of sparrows living and nesting directly next to it, the main action it has seen until this year was a great tit using it as a B+B during the colder months. Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty pleased with that, but also a little disheartened that it had never been taken up for nesting….that is until this year. We started noticing one or two bees around the box and I had just assumed they would be solitary bees looking for somewhere to make home but as the numbers started to increase, we started to realise that this wasn’t the case. Not being experts in the field we started getting a bit concerned that this might have been the start of a colony that could cause issues. But a quick search on the internet revealed that these were in fact tree bees who often use bird boxes for their nests and the cloud of bees outside the box wasn’t actually a swarm but a ‘dance’ of bees. These bees, flying erratically to the untrained eye, were actually male tree bees dancing outside the box to attract the attention of the females. We have loved watching them for the last couple of months throwing some shapes and showing off their moves.
Last year we spent some of our lockdown wisely and replaced our container pond with bigger pond dug into the garden. The container pond had been brilliant at attracting wildlife and was used by so many birds as a wee bath, but I had always wanted a pond as more of a focal point for the garden. I knew we were slightly cheating on the whole ‘if you build it, they will come’ as we knew that we already had frogs in the area and the container pond had a good few pond creatures in it. But within days the frogs had claimed it for their own and pond skaters had just appeared from nowhere.
It has continued to be an amazing addition to the garden, a place to sit quietly and watch what is going on but also of high drama at times. We made a conscious decision that we wouldn’t have any flowing water or fish in the pond as we wanted it to be more focussed on the frogs and passing wildlife. I hadn’t quite banked on the fact though that even without fish, herons are still interested and are in fact keen on a frog or two for their supper. Watching this happen is both horrifying and amazing in equal measures.
We have been determined that what will be, will be, with the pond and nature just has to do its thing. A year on and we have gone through stages of millions of little wiggly creatures taking over it, frogs a plenty, frogspawn and tadpoles, multiple flying insects, birds, cats, foxes and just recently we were extremely excited to have spotted a newt under the surface.
So I guess just like Kevin who hadn’t realised initially that he would end up playing baseball with a load of ghosts, I will keep building it and advising others to do the same, and find the fun in seeing just who or what turns up!
Read our tips on building your own mini pond here, or a large pond if you have room! You can also add water to your garden by creating a bird bath!
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