Tuesday, 15 April 2014

New season, new pond.

During late summer of last year, inspired by the RSPB's "Homes for Nature" campaign, I installed a mini pond in our garden. As we live in a rental property, I wasn't able to commit to a full-size pond (one day I will though! It's one of my dreams) so I used an unused cat litter tray as a base and edged it with rocks. It served well as a small source of water for the birds mainly but aside from a toad I found nearby and some fly and mosquito larvae, it wasn't particularly successful at attracting wildlife.

Last week, we had visitors to the house who were accompanied by some rather energetic young children. Unfortunately these children were rather handsy and I found out after they had left that one of them had picked up the rocks edging the pond and dropped them from a height into the water, cracking the bottom of the tray and draining all the water away. Let me tell you, I would be ten times more angry about this if I'd had any wildlife occupying it! Still, I was a little peeved but it actually have me the perfect opportunity to build a better one from scratch.

I was only able to make the hole slightly wider as there are large tree roots either side which I definitely had no intention of destroying. I extended it further outwards and made a shallow sloping ledge to allow any wildlife to easily get in and out. I also made the center of the hole deeper. 
I included two oxygenating plants; ivy-leafed crowfoot and cotton bud rush. I'm hoping these will not only help to prevent algae from growing but, as they are both flowering plants, they will attract insects. I've also arranged a group of paddlestones around the front to create some hidey holes and piles of pebbles at the deepest part of the pond. 
It looks a lot more pond-like now in comparison to the litter tray version! It will take a few days for the water to naturalise as I didn't have any rainwater to use but once it has, I'm looking forward to seeing if any local critters fancy moving in. At the very least, the birds will be happy to have their drinking/bathing station all spruced up! 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

April brings intruders!

The nuthatches have been toiling away non-stop these past few weeks to prepare their nesting hole. I have really loved watching them working so hard and it's now easy to see the result of their work as the hole in the oak tree is visibly 2/3 smaller and dried with mud. I've managed to spot them a few times coming in with beaks of dried leaves which they will be using to line the base of the nest, creating a soft bed for their eggs.

Today I witnessed the reason for all of that hard work closing the hole.
I have to say, this is the first time the jackdaws have visited our back garden. They are quite frequently out on the big front lawn (which actually belongs to the 'big house'; we are a gate lodge) but I've certainly never seen them venture into the back. I guess they've found something interesting enough to tempt them in!

I'm in a bit of a dilemma over this. As far as I know, the nuthatches haven't yet laid their eggs; they were still bringing in leaves and mud yesterday so I'm only assuming this is the case. Once they do, however, I'm sure the jackdaws will be back to stick their beaks in and cause trouble and I really hate the thought that they might actually cause harm to the birds or their eggs. I know it's nature and you shouldn't interfere but it's pretty damn hard when you've watched these birds work hard to build a safe place to nest. I'll be keeping a very sharp eye on the situation.
Photos snapped this morning after refilling the tray with black sunflowers.

In other news, I have seen the blue tits go into the nestbox several times carrying bits of twig and straw in their beaks, so I think I can venture to say that they have started nesting in there-hooray! It's still no guarantee they will actually lay eggs but the signs are all positive so watch this space!