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Pondlife in your garden

Ponds support a huge variety of invertebrates. They may include pond-skaters, water beetles, pond snails, freshwater mussels and harmless leeches, and many other species too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Dragonflies and damselflies: Some common species will breed in ponds. The larvae need shallow, reasonably sheltered water and submerged plants as cover and hunting habitat. The larvae will take other insects, fish fry and tadpoles. Adults also need emergent plants to crawl up when they hatch.

Amphibians and fish: In general, these do not mix well because fish will eat tadpoles. Small fish, such as sticklebacks or minnows, may provide interest without eating too many tadpoles.

Ponds that dry out occasionally can be good for amphibians because fish will not survive. Amphibians are quite long-lived, and can afford to miss an occasional breeding season. They will feed in plants over 60 cm tall around the pond. Provide logs and stones for shelter. Frogs and toads also hibernate in ponds with areas over 60 cm deep which are unlikely to freeze solid during winter.
If you transfer spawn or adult frogs and toads between ponds there is a risk of spreading diseases. Please remember, too, that it is illegal to move great crested newts or natterjack toads without a licence.

Newts will eat frog tadpoles, but take toad tadpoles less readily. There is not much you can do about this except possibly rear a few frogs in an aquarium to release when they have legs.

Birds: Many woodland and garden birds will drink and bathe in the smallest pond, but wetland species are only likely to breed on larger ponds. Many birds like a low branch or log in the middle of the pond to drink and bathe from safely.

Some people wish to deter herons from fish ponds. Herons will usually land near the pond, then walk to the edge to fish, either from the side or by wading into shallow water. A barrier of two wires, one 35 cm high, the other 20 cm high, placed one above the other around the edge, or a vertical edge to the pond with a drop of at least 35 cm to the water can help to deter them.
Frogs, toads and hedgehogs find it hard to climb out of straight-sided ponds. A ‘ladder’ of near-vertical plastic mesh, such as clematis mesh, secured top and bottom and extending below the water will help hedgehogs to escape, and is unlikely to be exploited by herons.



Pond life


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