Posts tagged ‘Pond’

May 7, 2013

The emergence of the damsel flies

Large Red Damselfly, just emerged, with the empty pupal case to the left

Large Red Damselfly, just emerged – you can see the empty pupal case to the left.

Walking past the pond a day or two ago, I noticed the flash of shiny wings and thought it was a crane fly, or similar, as I’d seen one a few days previously. Carrying on across the garden, I saw a flying insect land on an allium leaf, and on closer inspection, it was a damselfly. This made me wonder if it was actually a damselfly I’d seen over the pond, and whether we might have some emerging.

We regulary see dragonfly/damselfly larvae in the pond – they often catch your eye because they move so quickly, though in doing so, they’ve probably shot out of sight. A good way of seeing them is to go out with a torch at night, when they will often be visible and quite still on the side of the pond. We used to have Southern Hawkers emerging from the pond quite regularly at the end of May; we didn’t get any last year, but the experience has taught us where to look for the emerging larvae.

Large Red Damselfly clinging to leaf

Large Red Damselfly

I grabbed the binoculars and headed back to the pond. Sure enough, on looking towards the bottom of the many reeds starting to grow out of the water, I soon spotted a small larval case – then another, then another. By the time my husband and I had been staring at the reeds for a while, we were up to at least 10, and no doubt there were more we didn’t see.

One adult damselfly, as we watched, flew up and landed on some leaves at the side of the pond – shown in the photo above. He/she sat there for some time, then took off and flew towards the hedge, wings glinting brightly in the sun, only for a bird to fly out and grab it. It seemed a rather sad end, after all that growing as a larva, then surviving the actual emergence, but the bird needed to feed its young, so that’s the way it goes.

We live in hope of Southern Hawkers emerging again this year, as we know a female laid in and around the pond last September, but the larvae sometimes stay in the pond for two years, so there are no guarantees. The photo below was taken on 1 September 2012, and you can see she is bending the back half of her body round, to lay her eggs; she not only laid them around the edges of the pond itself, but also in a couple of logs we keep to each end of the pond bench as tea-cup stands. It definitely shows that having natural wood around the garden is wildlife friendly, just as the experts say.

Female Southern Hawker dragonfly laying eggs at the edge of the pond

Female Southern Hawker dragonfly laying eggs at the edge of the pond

April 12, 2013

Building a pond edge for wildlife.

12 April 2013

Thursday wasn’t too bad weather-wise, so spent the afternoon in the garden. We created the pond in 2000, and opted for a crazy paving type edging. This looked good at first, but we have been having increasing problems with stones becoming very unsteady, and in some cases with the layers within the stones splitting apart. One edge of the pond is against a wide grass path, so the grass holds the stones steady, but on the other three edges the situation was becoming impossible. We worked on the far end last year, and replaced all the original stones with much larger ones, so they have far greater stability without using concrete, which isn’t stuff you want in your pond. We intend to do the same along the near edge, but the back remained a problem.

Left: pond on 31 March with old stones on left hand side as shown in the photo. Right, the nearly-done wildlife-friendly dry stone parapet.

Left: pond on 31 March with old stones on left hand side as shown in the photo. Right, the nearly-done wildlife-friendly dry stone parapet.

After thinking about it, we realised that we hadn’t walked round the back of the pond for a couple of years, as it was too dodgy, so we probably didn’t need a path that side. That has allowed us to build up the (flat) stones in several layers, hopefully providing lots of nice nooks and crannies for wildlife, especially the amphibians. We deliberately left the ground underneath the bottom stones uneven to create small areas frogs and the like can climb into: it is amazing how small a space they can use. Our friendly blackbird certainly gave it the thumbs up (claws up?) – he thought all the digging and stone turning was a great idea. The photos show the before and after – the reddish spiky plant at the back of the pond is a phormium, which we had to dig up and re-situate slightly. Our pond clearance of a few days ago doesn’t seem to have put off the newts – thanks to being able to see them better with less growth in the pond, and probably to more of them making their way back to the pond to breed from their over-wintering hidey-holes on land, we counted 14 today, with lots of courting activity going on – they obviously think it is Spring, even if we humans still have out doubts!

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