A Bank Holiday Monday provided the time for Helen, her mum Pam and Millie the dog to visit with all the kit to survey our ponds.
With five ponds to survey it isn’t a quick job but as the weather was kind to us, it made for an enjoyable and interesting afternoon. The real time consuming work is back in Helen’s Lab Shed where the samples are analysed.
The samples are full of activity and one included a newt.
The (hopefully) annual audit of our farm ponds happened yesterday with pond experts Peter and Helen visiting along with Helen’s Mum on admin duties and Millie the dog.
Samples of water clarity, ph and electrical conductivity were taken along with the invertebrates and plant life which have taken up residence in the restored farm ponds and our new scrapes.
Hopefully we will be able to share their findings in due course but in early news, there is a degree of excitement as Zannichellia, the horned pond weed, was one of the plants found thriving in the restored pond. I hope to learn of the significance of this but I am told it is worthy of informing the County Plant Recorder! Who knew!
Whilst clearing out are farm ponds last Autumn, whilst the digger was on site we also took the opportunity of putting in a series of wildlife ‘scrapes’.
Our scrapes quickly filled up with rainwater during one of the wettest winters on record.
The scrapes are just shallow depressions in the land with gently sloping edges, which (importantly) only seasonally hold water.
They create wet areas in the field that are very attractive to wildlife and support a wide variety of invertebrates that provide important feeding areas for breeding wading birds and their chicks as well as a watering hole for passing mammals.
The most important parts of scrapes for wildlife are the margins. Shallow water and muddy edges provide ideal conditions for wetland invertebrates and plants, and allow access for waders and their chicks to find food. Scrapes should hold
water from March ideally through to the end of June.
An invertebrate survey was done whilst the main ponds were being sampled. All three scrapes were teeming with life only a few months after being dug which begs the question where do they all pop up from?
Our cluster of three scrapes provides a variety of shapes and depths, designed so that each is at a different stage of it’s cycle at any one point in time during the breeding season. The middle one was the first to dry up in mid June after a prolonged dry spell but the other two still held water.
Update September 2018
Heavy overnight rain has meant standing water has once again returned to all of the scrapes. It’s only a bit but it is the start of the next cycle. I am just pleased they are doing exactly what they should do.
For the record (and our more sceptical readers) there were no grants received or stewardship schemes entered into etc. Just us doing our bit.
An out of the blue call from Helen Greaves changed the plans for the day as it became the day to do an audit of invertebrates in both the restored farm ponds and the newly created scrapes.
A lovely hot sunny day isn’t the best sort of day to don waders but, if you want to count pond invertebrates, they are essential attire. Sherpa, helper and stopwatch operator were just some of the roles fulfilled by Helen’s mum with Millie the dog just enjoying the walk and the sunshine.
A three minute sampling technique was interesting to watch and tubs of findings have been taken away for analysis. I really do hope we can share the data here in due course.
It’s been a few wet months since we cleaned out and restored the main pond and despite the rain the retained water level held in the pond has been disappointing.
As we had a digger on site today to prep a shed floor, it had a few minutes diversion to carry across a few buckets of clay to raise the level of the outfall ditch. Not a big job (with a digger) but hopefully it will have a big impact.
The vegetation around the pond has started to reappear after the shock of all the cleaning out activity.
The only wildlife I spotted today was a moorhen hiding in the scrub, four male mallards on the pond and a frog in the ditch.
Ecologists wanted for Hesketh Bank pond restoration project.
Ponds and scrapes provide environments in farmland for aquatic biodiversity covering plants, invertebrates, amphibians, fishes, and mammals. Many farm ponds in the area have already been lost to modern agricultural practices.
Our own derelict ponds have now been cleared of most of the overhanging trees, scrub, scrap and general detritus and the next phase will be the digger work. A habitat survey has been completed earlier this year to provide a baseline but if anyone is interested in following, monitoring or documenting the changes to the habitat and ecology they would be very welcome.
We are particularly keen to take a scientific approach to steering the re-establishment of these farm ponds and measure wherever possible the influence of pond restoration and management on the biodiversity in both the ponds themselves and the surrounding area. We ourselves have no previous experience in doing any of this but have sought advice from the UCL Pond Restoration Research Group, Freshwater Habitats Trust and the RSPB.
Grants or any other source of financial assistance have not been identified but we are pushing ahead on a very limited budget rather than wait any longer.
This opportunity to be involved may be of interest to any Ecology and Conservation Management students or Geography students as a as a case study or basis of a dissertation but the offer is also open to local amateurs / enthusiasts to have an input or just people who might be interested in volunteering as and when a bit of help is required. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details for more information.
Please, please share this post with anyone individuals or organisations who you feel might be interested in getting involved from the outset.