Our hard working volunteer team has spent the last couple of Thursdays giving a few of the reserves ponds some tender loving care. On Thursday last week we visited an area known as the Dozings, a low area by the footpath on the approach to Goosander hide, named because it was created with bulldozers at some point during the sites industrial past. This area holds 6 ephemeral ponds that fill up during the winter and usually dry out during the summer. Last summer the ground in these ponds became very dry and cracked, and after the dry winter they have been holding very little water. So we had a go at ‘puddling’ the ponds by compacting the earth in them to try and get them to hold a bit more water. We first raked them old fallen leaves then compacted the mud and earth using shovels or our feet.
The small puddle in the base of this pond had several small water beetles, a great diving beetle larvae and quite a large number of mosquito and midge larvae, showing that even the smallest water body can have some value as a wildlife habitat.
We managed to give all 6 ponds some attention, and all are looking much better for it. Unless we get a very wet spring we may not see any results until next winter, but hopefully our efforts will be beneficial.
This morning we headed back out to another pond, this time in a reedbed near Lapwing hide. The pond has completely dried out and grown in with vegetation, so we set about digging it out again. It was hard going, the ground was tough clay and full of reed rhizomes but we made good progress. This area will be an on going project as it needs a fair bit more digging, but hopefully we will have a fairly decent pond eventually… by next winter!
The reason we are keen to establish ponds is to have some water bodies on the reserve free of fish. All the lakes on the reserve have high fish populations which have a big impact on amphibians and aquatic invertebrates, particularly as many species can’t establish in lakes/ponds with fish. The only really abundant amphibian on the reserve is the common toad, the adults and tadpoles of which have poisonous skins and fish spit them out as they’re distasteful. Hopefully having small fish free ponds will give newts, common frogs and various insects some much needed habitat.
Bird sightings on the reserve this week have included little ringed plovers, redshank, red kite (passing over Ivy Lake yesterday afternoon), willow warbler, sand martins and swallow. An osprey was seen heading north high over Ibsley Water on Tuesday morning and another today.