Pond life you will find living in your wildlife pond.

A wildlife pond is not only an attractive feature, but with a little thought put into its design and construction, can also be a haven for wildlife. Over the years nearly 3/4 of our natural ponds have disappeared from the UK countryside, meaning your garden pond has an increased importance for pond-life. Frogs, toads, newts, leeches and boatmen will live and breed in a wildlife pond providing the environment is right.

Pond life living in a wildlife friendly pond in UK
Pond life living in a wildlife friendly pond in UK

Frogs, toads and newts, can be beneficial garden creatures eating a wide range of garden pests and can be encouraged by providing log piles and other damp habitats in which they can shelter and a wildlife friendly pond where tadpoles can develop.  

What makes a wildlife friendly environment for pond-life?

These are the key factors in getting the environment and habitat right to attract and sustain pond life

 

Water is obviously essential to pond life and other wildlife living in and around your garden who will make use of it:

  • Frogs, toads and newts will use even small bodies of water to breed. Although the adults and juveniles do most of their feeding on land, all of these amphibians must have still water, such as a pond, in which they will mate and lay eggs
  • Caddis flies, damselflies, dragonflies, mayflies, pond skaters, snails and water beetles breed in water
  • Birds such as swallows and house martins will pick off insects from above the water surface and use the mud for nest building
  • You might even see grass snakes hunting in your pond. 

Structure 

  • Shape is crucial so make least one side of the pond a long shallow slope to allow easy access and escape for pond life and other wildlife like birds or animals that may visit to bathe or drink and for hedgehogs that might fall in. Help to build a wildlife pond.
  • Even frogs and other amphibians can drown if there’s no way out. 
  • A layer of cobbles and large flat stones on the sloping side will create a perfect habitats for amphibians and insects.
  • A shallow boggy area will create a damp habitat vital for many beetles, bugs and flies.
  • Frogs and toads need a point above the water on which to rest and breathe, areas of shallow water are best, but a few rocks or logs half in and half out of the water work too.

Shading over part of the pond

  • Helps reduce problems with algae and is tolerated by many pond plants and animals.
  • However, too much shade is not good for wildlife or plants. Try to shade about 3/4 of the pond surface.

Planting 

  • You may not have to plant up your pond if the pond is located near to other established ponds as natural colonisation by plants will occur surprisingly quickly. This also applies to pond life, again you will be surprised at just how quickly frogs and other pond-life take up residence in your new pond. However, planting up the pond yourself gives you control over its appearance.
  • Try to stick to native plants, they provide the best habitat and make a real and natural wildlife pond.  
  • Marginals provide important areas of cover and breeding sites. Dense vegetation on one side of the pond gives cover for wildlife entering and leaving the pond. 
  • Floating plants are used to cover and shade about 3/4 of the surface.
  • Submerged plants are the oxygenators
  • Dead branches and logs enrich the habitat.  

Ornamental fish 

  • Should be avoided in a wildlife pond as they eat the pond life.  

Maintaining a wildlife pond 

  • Is similar to any other pond this page on my website covers how to maintain a wildlife pond 
  • Silting up is natural process in a wildlife pond and essential to mud-dwelling creatures.  If you have to remove sediment do this in early autumn, removing only half at one time to minimise the loss of mud-dwelling creatures and their habitat.  Bear in mind some pond-life will hibernate in the bottom of ponds.

Problems.

  • Aquatic weeds such as duckweed can smother the surface cutting out all light, this will kill the pond.  
  • Pond water can become green or covered in blanket weed when algae takes hold. I have covered  duckweed and algae hear green water.

Stocking the pond. 

  • The best way to stock a pond with pond-life is to make it as wildlife friendly as possible and allow the new ponds to become colonised naturally by amphibians that are likely to be already present in the area.
  • By allowing the pond to be colonised naturally you won't be introducing wildlife strange to the habitat and likely to die.
  • I like to add a bucket or two of silt and water taken from an established healthy, clear pond to kick start the snail and insect population.
  • Newts can be attracted by allowing grass to grow over the pond edge into the water. See my article building a nature pond

As your pond becomes established, these are some of the more common insects and wildlife you will find living and breeding in a wildlife pond.

 

frogs, toads, newts, leeches, blue damselfly, Dragonfly and boatmen.

 

 

The Common Newt 
The Common Newt can be found throughout England. It prefers to live in garden ponds with lots of pond weed  and without fish, It spends more time on land than in water and thrives in an environment that is surrounded by lots of vegetation. I have even found common newts under a concrete path I was breaking up, with no pond in sight 
The male Common Newt is an orangy brown colour, with darker brown spots of different sizes. The female is almost the same colour but with smaller spots that are almost black in colour. Both the male and the female have orange undersides.  From  April to May the male Common Newt can be distinguished by  a long wavy crest running along the length of its body.
 
Common Newts lay up to two hundred eggs, wrapped individually in a water plant leaves, hence the need to have plenty of plant life growing in your pond.  After about three weeks the tadpoles will hatch out . They have long tails and feathery gills and  look like little fish darting about. In about three months they turn into Elfts (miniature adult newts) and leave the water to spend time on land  feeding on insects, worms and slugs.

 

The Common Frog
The Common Frog is the amphibian, most likely, to be the first to take up residence in your new wildlife pond. The Common Frog is found throughout England in ponds and lakes which are surrounded by dense vegetation.
The Common Frog can be easily recognised by its yellow-brown colour with lots of dark spots and patches all over its body. Its orangey yellow coloured eyes with large black pupils stick out high up on its face. If you take a look at its back feet, it has five webbed toes.
Common Frogs start their lives as tiny black tadpoles hatched from frog spawn laid in jelly like clumps just under the surface of the pond. (Frog spawn is easily differentiated as Toad spawn is laid in strings).  As the tadpoles develop, they grow legs, first the back ones and then front ones and at the same time the tail shortens and eventually disappears. The tadpoles have now turned into tiny frogs, able to leave the pond to hunt for insects amongst the plants and grass around the margins and edge of your wildlife pond.

 
Common blue damselfly 
The male Damselfly has a blue abdomen with black spots; the female, a yellow or bluish abdomen with variable dark markings and is common throughout England. Between May and September you will see the pair resting on vegetation near the wildlife pond. and flying together over the pond, mating and laying eggs on pond plants, just below the surface of the water. 
The eggs hatch and the larvae, called nymphs, live in the pond until they are ready to climb up a plant stem to moult into damselflies.

 

 Dragonfly 
A dragonfly is a double winged insect similar to damselflies, but the adults can be differentiated by the fact that the wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest. 
Dragonflies eat mosquitoes and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, wasps, but very rarely butterflies, so should be encouraged around your wildlife pond. They are usually found around marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their larvae, like the damselfly, known as "nymphs", are also aquatic. There are over 5000 different species of dragonflies so impossible to list them all here but If you want to know more, google dragonfly and find lots of sites with good information. 

 
The Common Toad
The Common Toad is probably the most widespread amphibian in England,  found in woodlands, rough grasslands, moors, and your garden pond. It actually spends most of its life on land. When breaking up old paths, I have even found them  living and breeding, apparently  trapped in small damp alcoves under concrete paths. But because they usually need to breed and lay  spawn in water there is normally a pond nearby  to head too, usually in masses, around February to March, to find partners, mate and lay spawn. Common toad spawn can be recognised  from frog spawn as its laid in strings.

 
The Common Toad is normally an olive-brown or a green-brown colour, but it can change its body colour to match its habitat, the toads I found trapped under concrete were almost white in colour. The common toads body is covered in tiny wart-like bumps which contain a poisonous substance to help keep many predators away, the underside of its body is normally pale grey.
 
Common Toads  tadpoles develop in the same way as I have described for frogs. The Spawn is recognizable, as its laid in strings, Frog spawn is laid in clumps. 
 

The Common Water Boatman
The Common Water Boatman is a fascinating small water bug, about two centimetres long, light brown or green in colour with piercing and sucking mouth parts. Its found all over England in ponds, canals, rivers and lakes, even in cow troughs. It has its name ‘Boatman’ because its long hind legs are shaped like oars and when it swims near to the surface of the water, it just looks like a very small rowing boat.
When the Common Water Boatman swims up-side down, it carries lots of air bubbles on its underside which makes it look a silvery white colour. It has two short front legs used for grabbing prey and two long, paddle-shaped hind legs used for swimming. It has a triangular-shaped head and mouth and two large red eyes.
The Common Water Boatman arrives by air, into your pond, powered by its four transparent wings and lives off small tadpoles, small water fleas and mites. Kids are fascinated by its rowing boat shape paddling across the pond.

 
The Medicinal Leech
The Medicinal Leech is the blood-sucking worm with a flattened segmented body, used for centuries for medicinal purposes, like removing ‘bad blood’ or to ‘treat headaches’. The leech is found all over England in muddy ponds with lots of waterweed.
The Medicinal Leech is about eight centimetres long with a dark brown or black body with orange-red lines running down it with a sucker on its head and at the end of its tail. The Medicinal leech uses these suckers to attach itself to frogs and other pond life to then bite into its prey and suck blood. When the Leech has taken enough blood, it drops off into the water and it may not need to suck blood again for another six month.
The leech is not easy to be seen but if you look very closely, can be spotted moving around your pond in a wriggling fashion, but you are most likely to spot it when attached to a frog.