Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Towards the end of last winter I dug a pond on my allotment and planted a bird feeding station nearby. The birds arrived soon enough, gobbling up fat balls and mealworms while they raised their chicks, and sometimes visiting the pond to drink in the evening.

Ponds take a little longer to develop. I planted flag iris, marsh marigold and water mint around the margins and water crowfoot in the pond itself. Two pond skaters were the first sign of animal life but my excitement was short-lived: they disappeared two weeks later, probably eaten by birds. Red damselflies made a brief visit in May, followed by a flourishing of not-so-welcome mosquito larvae.

In mid-summer, the water suddenly cleared, revealing teeming colonies of invertebrates: pond-snails, worms and tiny beetles. Soon after, a sprinkling of duckweed coated the surface and blanket weed began to form beneath it. By late August, my early amphibian dreams were almost forgotten...

As I sat by the pond one day, removing blanket weed, a pair of eyes caught mine, protruding from the water under overhanging grass. A tiny frog! I experienced a childlike sense of wonder and gratitude that it should choose to live in my pond. Then I glimpsed a diving beetle, rowing back and forth between the bottom and the surface.

Two days later I returned to the pond with my partner and a camera. He snapped away, as I planted some hollyhocks and over the next hour we counted at least six frogs, some of them much larger than the first I spotted. One of them was a giant and quite unafraid of us as he lazed in the shallows.

The magic of creating a tiny ecosystem more than rewards all the digging and waiting.

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