Building a pond for wildlife observation - Tips and ideas?

Хм, а не проще пройтись по окрестностям и посмотреть, как устроены естественные пруды? Найти водоёмы через карты Гугл несложно, они хорошо выделяются на снимках. И дальше свой делать по аналогии.
И, да, размеры пруда слишком малые, он может быстро заболотится.
В идеале не помешало бы нанять экскаватор и выкопать достаточно глубокий пруд, что бы он питался донными родниками. Так он будет гораздо более устойчив. Судя по описанию, местность заболачиваемая, так что с ключами особой проблемы быть не должно.

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Emergent vegetation will be much more useful than a dry island. I keep water iris in a pot to contain the soil; there are lots of beautiful rushes in warmer climates.

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I agree emergent vegetation is much more useful than an island. I would consider lowering the island to be below the water and plant some rushes/sedges on it.
It is the surface of the water in contact with the air that does the oxygenating. Floating plants such as water lilies that cover the surface will reduce this oxygenating process so be careful not to have too many. Gently churning the surface water over can improve the process. Being careful not to disturb the silt that has settled out of the water. Plants with submerged foliage can also aid oxygenation but at night they will strip some oxygen from the water so be careful not to overload the pond with too many.
The more varieties of local native plants you add the more species of animals will be attracted. Many of the exotic weedy plants might thrive but this could be just that nothing feeds on them so they are not ideal.
Be careful of adding vigorous smothering plants. In some places plants like Cats tail could entirely cover a small pond like this. There might be some trial and error to work out what is appropriate.
A thriving wetland area can have a lot of different species. Including mosquitoes. Efforts that repel them are likely to repel other insects too.

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Thank you very much for this info! I’ll be careful to not add too many plants then. Im considering either putting a bird feeder or a windmill (made into a sort of water pump) in the island, since some people said wildlife might have trouble finding the pond and running water/food could help with that. But I think for now I will keep the island as is and see how it develops. I also think if frogs end up living in the pond the island could be a safe place for them to chill and be more protected from predators possibly?
Do you think the mosquito repeling plants could mean things like frogs and fish will have less food available? I only planted two so far so maybe if I don’t add any more it will be okay? Those plants were the only non-natives I planted, everything else I got from the area around the pond, but I’ll keep an eye out in case any gets too overgrown.
Again, thanks so much for the info, you have given me a lot to think about!

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Its going to be lovely. One way to get some aeration is to get a floating solar powered fountain. They should be less than $20 US. Do a search on “solar-powered floating fountain for birdbath or pond”. My experience with them is that you need to clean them fairly often to keep them unclogged. That little bit of moving water might help it from getting too stagnant in the Sun and the sound is enough to attract birds. I think you are lucky to have a nice waterlogged area to do this. I use liners but have no choice. Have fun!

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Lovey idea! Many people already gave you very good suggestions, I will stress that regarding wildlife, it is important that you have different mini-landscapes for them to get out of the water, i.e. a little beach, and as somebody already pointed out, plants coming out of the water. This is specially important for dragonflies and damselflies.

The solar powered fountains are a great way to oxygenate the water, although I like more the kind that looks like a normal aquarium pump, with a separated solar panel. You can make a small cascade and pass a tube that will provide a natural bath for birds and other animals. I have a lot of wasps and bees coming to drink to my fountain.

Cattails could cover it, but remember they are edible! Harvest instead of weed them, is my advice. And gather some shoots of the plants you see on other ponds in the area.

Regarding lining a natural pond, traditionally ponds were sealed by adding clay, which you say you have, and compressing it. Also if you can ‘gley’, which is that kinda disgusting greenish-black mud that sits in lakes smelling badly, is very good for lining. My advice is to wait till the summer, and if the pond dries, go around your area and look for that gley mud, and cover the parts where you think it is leaking. Also shadow will be good to keep water in. Try to plant tall plants nearby that will protect the pond from the sun in the summer, and if they lose their leaves in the winter is even better.

Baytrees are beautiful but I am not sure they like water so much. I would rather plant a willow but it can get out of control. I agree that the little island is important for some animals to feel safe. I saw a couple of white wagtails nesting on the middle of a manmade cascade in a nearby town.

Try to have a nice refuge to get your own residential toad near the pond, maybe between the plants when they grow. A toad house needs to be humid and dark, so they can refresh in the hot days. You can do one with broken clay pots, or stones.

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Hello, great idea! My suggestions based on my experience:

  1. A pumping system is definitely not needed. If the pond vegetation is planned properly, plants will take care of water quality. You need to have the right balance of the 3 types of pond plants: submerged, floating and “tall” plants. You need to pick the right ones for your area and your pond size.
  2. Definitely no space for the tree, but not even a shrub.
  3. Make sure the pond is at least 60 cm deep in its deepest part and that it has at least a sloping side to facilitate entry and exit for the amphibians
  4. Wildlife will (incredibly) find your pond and be aware that part of the fun of pond life will come from insects (backswimmers, skaters, diving beetles, dragonflies and all those insects that have part of their life cycle in the water)
  5. To maximize biodiversity do not add fish to your pond or, especially in such a small pond, they will eat everything
  6. Lavander and rosmarine won’t do anything to mosquitoes I am afraid, but they are good to feed the other insects! A working pond itself is the best mosquito trap you can have. Mosquitoes will lay eggs in the pond but pond wildlife, especially insect larvae will eat all mosquito larvae before they reach adulthood (fish not needed).
  7. Put a lot of dead wood around the pond to provide refuges for amphibians (most of them spend only a very short part of their life in the water and the rest hiding under wood and stones)
  8. Yes in summer water will evaporate much faster than in winter. Also I am not sure how much water will infiltrate once the plants start putting roots into the ground. You will have to keep it monitored and then pick the best trade-off between water usage and rubber lining. Rubber lining will not prevent you from having all sorts of plants (in pots) and wildlife but yes there is an issue with it being made of rubber.
  9. You might wish to look for an NGO in your area working on wildlife ponds that can help you building a balanced pond and make sure the bottom doesn’t leak
  10. Enjoy, it is going to be fun and interesting! :)
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Oh, I absolutely love the idea of making a refuge for the toads! I think if I make it more “custom” it could even give the pond a bit of a fairytale feel. I will definitely add that!
And you are right, cattails are edible. I tried them once, sauteed them in butter and they tasted nicely, altough you need to pick quite a lot to get a decent protion size haha.
About the lining and this gley you talk about, would dead plant matter (from the water plants natural life cycle and organic debris from rainfall) that accumulates in the bottom of the pond help with this? could the pond “create” it’s own gley in time?

Thank you so much for all the advice!

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Thanks for the info! I’ll work on making a sloped entry as I think the sides of the pond are pretty even right now. I have some small logs I added that sort of connect the island with the shore of the pond, so I hope the frogs and toads have been able to use that as an entry point for now. Also, im glad to hear I don’t need a pumping system, as I would prefer to keep the pond in as natural a state as I can, but other folks where suggesting it might be necessary.

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At the Dragonfly Society we love new ponds! Everyone should have at least one.
Quite agree with castieler that a good oxygen level is important for fauna. Keeping the water pure helps. Farm run-off may contain fertilizer and manure which makes the pond eutrophic and uses up oxygen.
There’s more free advice on our website at https://british-dragonflies.org.uk/get-involved/resources/habitat-management-and-species-guidebooks/ especially the ‘Dig a Pond for Dragonflies’ leaflet. Of course the species list is native British species and wherever you live please only plant native flora, not potentially invasive foreign species.BDS leaflets

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If you want high diversity of invertebrates and amphibians, do not add fish. The diversity of these groups will be much higher without fish, due to both the consumptive effects of fish preying on these taxa, and nonconsumptive effects where these taxa avoid colonizing areas with fish.

Do not worry about transplanting animals from other ponds. Insects and amphibians will naturally arrive. You could get a bucketful of water from another pond and add it to seed it with microorganisms. It would be good, however, to add plants around it and possibly inside.

You’ll probably go through a period early on with mosquito issues, but after it is established, any mosquitoes produced by it would be a minor component of all those across the landscape.

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Hello everyone! Im here with some updates on the pond since I have been working to improve it during the weekend:

-With spring starting in the southern hemisfere the sun is definitely hitting harder now. Luckily the water level was pretty similar to what it was last week. Maybe 1-2 cm less, so no need to refill it for now, but I will keep a close eye on it.

-There’s an amazing difference in wildlife already! Saw a ton of different bugs around. Plenty of small flies are making their home in the shallows near the grass, and I even saw a spiderweb being built in the logs that I set up the week before.

-Sadly a few of the plants have dried up, but most of them seem to be doing just fine. The floating plants specially (they look just like little four leaved clovers, I think it’s kind of adorable) are doing really well, with some sprouts already being visible up close. The plants on the island are having a harder time, likely due to the fact that the sun hits them pretty bad.

-Added bushes and shrubs on one side of the pond (all gathered from the area so they shouldn’t be invasives there). Im hoping that by putting them in the same area they will provide shade to eachother and minimize the chances of them drying up. The ones I planted on saturday were looking a bit sad by the next day, but I think that’s understandable when transplanting, right?

-Planted some cattails on the other side. This was rather tricky as the soil of the pond is either completely hard or a total mush, but I managed to keep most of them attached and have the roots deep inside the water, if not really covered by dirt.

-Made two “ramps” to allow wildlife to enter and exit easier as was recommended. So far I havent seen any critter going in for a drink except my dog, but she used the ramps so I think that proves it works just fine.

-Added more logs around the sides to provide shade and housing, as well as a little terracota pot to act as a hiding spot for frogs and toads.

-Added three more tadpoles since the insect population seems to be booming. Also put some more water snails and various insects, all gathered from nearby ditches. Didn’t add any fish just yet, althought the water bodies around the area are totally filled with them now. My sister also found a frog inside our pool and we released 'em into the pond. Poor frog seemed a bit lethargyc, but I think that’s due to the pool not having any proper shallow place for them to rest or get out once they hop into it. I gently carried 'em to the shore and they took off right away, diving in and then finding a quiet place to rest and chill near the edge.

There’s probably a ton more stuff that im forgeting about, but this is the major updates so far. I am very happy with how it is turning out and I couldn’t be more thankfull to the iNat community for all the advice. I think all the bases have been covered so far, but I will continue to add more stuff as time goes on. Would you all be interested in more updates in the future?

Also, here are some photos I took (the last one is definitely my favorite, snapped the pic right as we were about to leave):

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I can’t see well enough…is there something in the terra cotta pot?

I covered the pot with some dirt and used water from the pond to make ir muddier so it would stick better. A bit of the water got inside the pot, I figured it would evaporate in time so that’s what’s in there!

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Ah, cool! I knew it wasn’t to hide a pump, per your initial comment, so I wondered if it was meant as a spot for critters to hide out and there were some in there.

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I’d like to see updates on this pond development. It would also be interesting to see research grade observations stemming from it.

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About gley: it is formed by the green plant matter that falls in the ponds, but if you add them in green you may deplet the oxygen level (as somebody already mentioned).
The pond will hopefully create its own gley in time.
Another way to seal a pond naturally is to let a couple of pigs play on it one summer, although depending on your setup it can be a bit messy :D

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Haha doubt I’ll be letting any piggies play around in the pond anytime soon (don’t even know where i would get live pigs for that anyway) since it’s pretty well set up already.

Update for this week:

-I didn’t take any pictures this time, since I was a tad bussy working on the pond and dealing with some critters that live in the area (here’s one of them who was sadly killed by my dog).

-Regrettably most of the bushes I planted last week dried up, but I am nothing if not stubborn so I added some more. I found a bag of soil so I used it to cover all the roots and bases of the bushes, as well as some dry grass. Im thinking that will help keep the moisture so it’s less likely they’ll dry up in the future.

-Against all odd, the cattails are doing great. Only one of them dried up, all others seem fine and dandy, even if they’re not very well attached to the ground.

-Had to add more water since a good 1/5 of it had evaporated, but refilling once every 2 weeks seems like a fair trade for me.

-Put a fair amount of dead plant material in the bank, under logs and on the island to speed up plant and moss growth. One of the logs I had placed last week fell onto the pond, but it looks nice so im leaving it there.

-Had to remove one of the floating plants (the one that looks like four leaved clovers) since it was a breeding ground for algae, and with all the hot weather starting I don’t want it to spread. I will have to keep an eye out in case more grows back.

-More and more fauna is living in or around the pond! I have seen lots of small flies, as well as some unknown larvae and beetles (found this little guy dead floating in the water, and there was a few like it alive as well).

-No frogs just yet tho, but im sure as summer comes around they will flock to it since the water in the nearby ditches dries up. My friends the mockingbirds, whom I’ve been feeding on and off since the day I dug the pond (they came to find bugs on the newly dug ground, and I tossed them the beetle larvae I found while digging, so they associate me with food now) enjoyed some tangerine bits while I sat near the edge of the pond to watch the microfauna. Seeing so many bugs makes me wish I had a proper camera instead of my phone, since I can never get the focus right when it comes to small animals.
Kiskadees and horneros also like to come to the pond, although not when I am near. I have also seen a chimango (Phalcoboenus chimango) perch on the fence near the pond once or twice, perhaps looking for prey to come have a drink. I can’t wait for my binoculars to arrive so I can watch it all better.

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i like what you’ve done with the pond.

the deeper you can make the deepest part of the pond, the less likely it will be to totally dry up (assuming the soil is relatively consistent at different depths). having some deeper sections is also nice if you have things like water lilies or water clovers growing in there because there’s usually a depth at which those kinds of plants won’t be able to grow and so you may be able to keep that section open even if such plants are growing in the shallower parts of the pond. i think i would avoid free-floating plants unless you have something that will control them. i think i would avoid aggressive growers like cattails, too, unless you’re committed to routinely harvesting them. (in my area, they are very hard to eliminate once they are established. so it’s a lot of work if you change your mind about wanting them later.)

yup. it just depends on what you want to live in the pond. if you want to raise a bunch of, say, koi (to attract osprey, perhaps?), then you probably will need to oxygenate. but there are plenty of critters and plants that will live in a pond like this without a pump.

where i live, rosemary and lavender don’t like growing near ponds like this. they prefer raised beds in relatively dry soil, though some rosemary varieties can tolerate a little more water than lavender can. i think it’s much more effective to stock/attract mosquito predators than it is to try to repel mosquitos.

i don’t know of any trees that will grow well on such a small dot of land in the middle of water like that. it might be nice for, say, turtles (probably not frogs, i think), but a log floating in the water will do the same thing. better to plant one or more water-tolerant trees next to the pond, which can eventually provide a larger canopy and more habitat and food options, i think. maybe just make sure the plants you grow nearby aren’t too thirsty, if you’re concerned about the pond drying up occasionally.

i wouldn’t worry too much about algae, especially in a new pond. i would just scoop it out for now. eventually, algae problem should go away on its own unless you use a lot of fertilizers nearby or something like that.

yup. the more variety you can provide in terms of habitats, the more variety of life you will be able to attract. i think the biggest thing that’s missing right now until your plants get established is more options for shade. you might consider adding some temporary structures to provide a little shade for both critters in the water and living on the shore.

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I live in an area with very poor soil so I don’t need to be concerned with plants taking over my dams. The water also contains few nutrients. It looks quite different to that black rich looking soil around your pond. I would be careful about cats tails taking over. My dams’ water levels drop about 1 metre each year in the dry season just from evaporation. They are plenty deep so they won’t dry out. The trick is planting hardy wetland species that cope with the the huge swing in moisture, from months of being partially submerged to months of being dry. There are plenty of native plants for me to choose from as this is the cycle lots of natural lagoons in my area go through. Perhaps you could find out what happens in other natural lagoons near you? The trick is to protect the area of the banks that get exposed when the water drops. This is easier when the banks are on shallow angles. Some I protect with layers of sticks and logs. This provides habitat whether it is submerged or exposed. Some is a gentle enough slope that a layer of leaflitter from the surrounding trees protects it. I have seen parrots drinking from this edge. They seem to like being able to wander over to the water’s edge. Where water flows in or out it can easily shift all the mulch and leave bare soil so I protect those areas with rock, dense rushes and dense wetland grass.
In order to get vegetation to still be in the water even when it drops 1 metre I have a large native rush that is planted down 1.2m deep. If your cats tails dried out then I suspect you didn’t plant them deep enough.

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