Well ’twas pretty miserable for most of today – very grey, pretty cold and very wet. I may be wrong, but when I got to Ivy South Hide it seemed to me that these couple of coots had got together to have a bit of a grouse about the weather. After a quick moan at each other they went there separate ways. There was a kingfisher immediately outside the hide when I opened up, but with all the rain drops on the windows the camera couldn’t focus on it and of course as soon as I even thought about opening the window it was gone in a flash of blue and orange.
I had planned on giving the pond its annual clear out today, while Jacki was in on her regular Saturday morning volunteering shift to provide “shore cover” (and assistance should I encounter any difficulties. I am sure that she would have leaped to my aid without falling about laughing, or pausing to take a picture of my predicament, but equally I was glad to leave the pond without incident and without having had to test this theory!).
At the start of the morning the pond was looking pretty wind swept, with reeds both encroaching into the middle and flopped over from the edges and lots of young (and some not so young!) alder tree’s coming through.
Every autumn, when the pond is relatively dormant and any eggs laid by invertebrates and amphibians this summer should have already hatched, I spend a few hours in the pond reducing the encroaching reed, soft rush and tree’s in order to maintain the pond habitat (and prevent it’s succession into a woodland, which is what will happen, surprisingly quickly, if there is no intervention at all).
In some ways it seems a shame to remove the alder saplings when elsewhere on the reserve mature tree’s are succumbing to the Phytophthora virus and dieing, but they are unsuitable by this small pond and the roots could easily puncture the butyl liner too.
Like the surrounding lakes, the pond also has the highly invasive non-native “Crassula” pond weed in it, which Ed referred to in a recent blog following his visit to Holmsley Gravel Pits. I doubt that I will ever remove this weed from the pond completely, but what I can do each year is reduce the re-growth and keep it in check in order to prevent it taking over the pond entirely, which left to it’s own devices, it would very readily do. Like most aquatic weeds it has amazing powers of regeneration and will re-grow from the smallest fragments – if stocking your own pond please do be very careful with where you source your plants from as the plant is very easily spread from one body of water to another, with just a tiny piece concealed among other plants being enough for it to colonize new habitat.
The ecology of the pond has changed dramatically over the course of this year, possibly because of the cold/late spring, with the assemblage of pond plants changing radically – in the past hornwort (a native pond plant) has dominated with some Canadian pond weed also present, but this year saw the hornwort die off and the Canadian pond weed largely take over. Both are oxygenators but the Canadian pond weed has a very vigorous growth habit so over the course of this morning I removed a reasonable amount of this weed and I hope that this spring the hornwort will grow better and keep the Canadian pond weed in check again.
The water, understandably, gets pretty mucky with suspended silt after I’ve yucked out pond weed, reeds and I’ve splashed my way backwards and forwards a few times, but it will clear. When it has I’ll see how much weed is remaining and decide whether or not I need to take any more out this year. In the meantime, the weed and reeds that were removed are in a neat(ish) pile on the dipping platform:
These will remain here for a few days in order to give the invertebrates that were inadvertently removed with the plant material a fighting chance of making it back into the pond. The base of the heap will remain wet and the snails, beetles and larvae will remain alive for a surprisingly long time in this situation so I’ll scoop off the top plants to the compost heap a bit at a time, staggered across a few days, in order to allow the maximum amount of animals to return to the pond.