Water Ponds and Wildlife - How To Attract More Animals to Your Backyard
Wildlife require water just as humans do. Water is essential for life. Songbirds use it for bathing and preening; waterfowl and shorebirds for finding food and escaping predators; and muskrat, mink and beaver for every part of their existence.
Providing water can be as simple as a bird bath or small fiberglass water pond or as complex as the construction of a large, excavated wetland with an artificial or clay liner.
The simplest method of providing water is a bird bath. The structure need not be elaborate, an old pie tin works as well as a prefabricated concrete structure. Make sure the water is no deeper than three inches and that smooth bottom baths are enhanced with some type of structure or objects for perching. To cut back on maintenance, simply hang a garden hose above the bath and allow water to drip into the bath at a slow rate.
Birds also require water in winter. By providing open water, you may potentially attract more birds for viewing. There are a variety of options including dog and poultry water heaters as well as commercial water heaters designed specifically for bird baths.
It is important that you always keep placement in mind both for the bird's safety and for your viewing enjoyment. Keep the bird bath near a favorite viewing location but at least ten feet away from vegetation or other cover. This will help in preventing neighborhood predators such as domestic cats from killing birds.
Small backyard ponds with artificial liners are another method of providing water for wildlife. Choose a location that receives sun part of the day to stimulate plant growth. Begin pond construction with a pre-fabricated fiberglass shell or similar item such as a kid's wading pool or old washtub. A good option to both of these methods is utilization of 20 mil black plastic.
If you begin with a child's wading pool or washtub, it should be lined with 10-30 mil black plastic. This will insure water does not leak from the pond and will give a more natural background color than that of a wading pool or other structure.
Begin by excavating soil out of an area roughly equal to the size and shape of your liner. Remember, the location of your pond should be where you can view it from your house. You should also consider keeping it within reach of a garden hose for filling purposes or and electrical supply for powering any pumps or aerators. A pond need not be more that ten feet long and two to five feet wide. Providing varying depths from a few inches to a couple feet will increase chances of different wildlife using your pond
After fitting the liner, field stones, flat rocks or timber can help hold and hide the edges of the plastic liner. Adding soil over the top of the positioned liner will allow future planting of aquatic vegetation. An alternate method to lining the entire pond bottom with soil is to put aquatic plants into pots and then submerge the pots in desired locations within the pond. Stabilize pots with rocks or other means to prevent tipping. Plan to have enough aquatic plants to cover 30-40 percent of the surface area.
Provide areas for birds and turtles to make use of your pond by adding log perches or a rock island. Creating a sandy, gravel beach in one corner can provide the grit birds require for digesting food. A sandy substrate also makes looking for wildlife tracks an educational experience. After you have completed all the necessary preparations, fill the pond with water. If using tap water rather than well water, let stand for a week to let chemicals like chlorine dissipate.
You may choose to see if plants will come naturally. This could occur through transfer of seeds on bird's feet or from their droppings. Another method to introduce potential plant and invertebrate life is to scoop muck from an existing wetland and transfer it to your pond.
Keep an eye on your pond often and log the plant growth as a family activity. And be sure to keep watching for new wildlife to your new oasis.
This article is courtesy of D.R. Ray, owner of the Water-Pond-Guide.com website. Learn more about backyard and patio ponds at Water-Pond-Guide.com.