The Ponds Project is not all about dam engineering, there are also many environmental benefits included in the scheme, such as improved water quality and an increase in habitat diversity for wildlife. One of the areas to gain from these improvements is the Bird Sanctuary Pond. This ecologically rich area is fenced off from the public and is an important area for all sorts of wildlife including grass snakes, amphibians and nesting birds.
Work in this location started earlier this week and will continue into next week. This has been timed to avoid bird nesting season and to minimise impact to vegetation.
A new wetland channel has been dug by an excavator around the back of the existing reedbed to increase the wetting of this area, encouraging further reed growth and increasing the potential nest sites for reed warblers. This area did suffer from scrub encroachment which competes with the reeds, and drying out, which reduces the reeds vigour. The new channel will stop this from happening. The channel is lined with a geo-textile material and hazel to stop it getting clogged with roots from the neighbouring reed beds.
Next week, wetland scrapes are being created to the west of the pond. These will create seasonal pooling, encouraging amphibian spawning and wetland vegetation. The scrapes are also designed to reduce sediment deposition into the Bird Sanctuary pond by capturing sediment before it reaches the pond. Several scrapes have already been dug in this area in previous years as sediment and vegetation deposition gradually dries out this attractive marshland. The scrapes will vegetate naturally but some wetland plants such as marsh marigold will be transferred and planted during the works.
Expansion of the reed area is being encouraged to the north west of the pond through a short embayment, or a small shallow recess of the pond edge. This will allow the reeds to extend into this new wet area. Shallow water also creates a good spot for amphibians to spawn and for birds who like wading.
The Heath’s ecology team are excited about these environmental improvements and will be keenly monitoring the area to see how they benefit the ecology.