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Wildlife Benefits to Your Pond

Below are a few wildlife benefits to your pond.

Newts

 

Newts are amphibians, which can grow to around 12cm and are frequently found within ground level ponds, the adults normally live within the plants or damp grass areas near to the pond. There diet consists of worms and insects.

Most newts only visit the pond for their breeding season, which is usually around April/May in the British Isles. Like Frogs the newts lay their eggs (spawn) within the pond, which then become free swimming tadpoles and these will remain in the pond until they reach 3-4cm, which is when they become terrestrial. There are only half a dozen species native to the British Isles and not surprisingly it is the common newt that is most often seen.

Newt Picture

You should be aware that the slightly larger (15cm) great crested newt, which is recognisable by the presence of warts on it’s skin and the distinct jagged crest along it’s back, is a protected species and it is prohibited to collect them or in anyway disturb there habitat. Newts are extremely common in ponds and pose no real threat to fish or plants.

 

Frogs & Toads

 

Frogs will be found in most ground level ponds, regardless of whether you want them or not. As they are amphibious it is normal to find adult frogs breeding within a pond between February and May, although this time frame may vary according to the weather. Breeding usually occurs several times each year and the males will call the females with a loud croaking sound. The male will then grasp onto the back of the female in order to fertilise the spawn as it is expelled from her.

The spawn consists of a transparent jelly like substance containing small black spots, which are the embryos. Once hatched the free-swimming tadpoles will, over a period of weeks, develop their legs and then adsorb their tail. When the tadpole has fully developed into a small frog it will soon leave the water and this often happens during wet weather. Frogs feed on a diet of insects.

 

Frog Picture

Toads spawn in the same manner as frogs although often a few weeks later, and tend to be more vigorous than frogs when spawning, often grasping hold of the wrong object by mistake.

Frogs can easily be distinguished from toads as frogs have smooth skin and also two distinctly raised lines on their backs compared to a toad’s rough skin, which does not have these raised lines. The eyes on a frog have round pupils and a toad’s pupil is more like a slit, which can be either horizontal or vertical dependant upon the exact species. Toads feed on a diet of insects.

 

Ducks

 

Ducks are frequently found in and around ponds and often return to the same pond year after year. They will submerge their heads under the water and forage for food, living on a diet of aquatic insects and plants. The males (Drakes) exhibit bright colouration and the females are mostly brown. Ducks will stir up the bottom of a pond quite considerably in search of food but do not generally present any other problems. Ducks that return annually are often fed and treated as welcome visitors by pond owners.

 

Duck Picture

Water Boatmen

 

These can be seen moving around on the surface of most ponds and are easily recognised by their large rear legs, which are used like oars to propel them around the waters surface. The front legs however are much weaker and are used to hold onto vegetation so that the water boatmen does not drift from its chosen resting place. Many different sub species of the water boatmen exist and some are vegetarian whilst others feed on smaller insects. Not all water boatmen swim on the surface as some (back swimmers) will swim as the name suggest upside down just beneath the water surface. Adults have wings and are good flyers. Water Boatmen can give you a small nip if you touch them.

 

Water Boatmen

Dragonflies & Damselflies

 

Both dragonflies and damselflies are often seen darting around ponds, and frequently landing on the plant leaves, during the summer months. Both have a lifespan of up to two months but usually less. Dragonflies can grow to around 8cm long and are often confused with their smaller cousins the damselflies that only grow to around 4cm long. The easiest way to distinguish the two species is to watch them while they are at rest; Dragonflies rest with their wings held out as though still in flight while damselflies rest with their wings closed together.

Both species come in many differing colour varieties (sub species), with the male usually tending to display brighter colouration than the often-quiet dull females.

They both feed on a diet of smaller insects, which they catch within a trap formed by their legs during flight, the prey is then consumed while resting.

Mating can occur either in flight or at rest and is performed when the female latches onto the males neck from above with the end of her tail, and the male uses the glands at the end of his tail to fertilise her from below. This method is called the copulation wheel as the two bodies effectively create a circle. Once fertilised the female lays her eggs on plants either above or below the water surface, which will in time hatch out as fearsome looking nymphs. These nymphs will inhabit the messy areas usually at the base of the pond, from where they hunt for any creatures that are small enough for them to catch. Dragonfly nymphs can propel themselves through the water for short distances by expelling water through an opening in their abdomen; this is not the case with damselflies.

Both of the nymphs have a uniquely developed lower jaw that has a pair of pincers at the end and extends out in order to catch its prey Nymphs from the same batch of eggs usually all leave the water at around the same time and usually at dawn or dusk where they moult from their skin and release their wings (similarly to caterpillars becoming butterflies).

 

Dragonfly