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Peepshow without ducks.

Making a pond more natural had an immediate effect - just in time for Wildlife Week in Wales FOR the first time in years I'm duckless. Not a quacking duck nor a rasping drake in sight. No, it wasn't another fox attack. Gerry and I decided that, after years of having a big pond inhabited by Indian runners and very little else, it was time to give nature a chance.

The trouble with ducks is that, entertaining as they are, they tend to devour everything in sight. Our plan for the pond that we dug two years ago was that it would become a wildlife haven. What we didn't consider was that the pond would need time to settle and develop its own ecosystem. We were keen to see all kinds of living things colonising the place and soon moved in 10 fluffy ducklings.

All was well until the ducklings started to grow and investigate their new surroundings. Soon all signs of vegetation on the banks disappeared and nothing remained but bare clay and muddy water. No matter what we tried to plant, submerged or marginals, oxygenators or bankside ground-cover plants, the ducks devoured them.

In the end we gave up, and the only things that survived were docks and thistles, interspersed with a few plantain, pineapple weed, and creeping buttercup.

It wasn't even as if the ducks were earning their keep. All the time they were with us, they laid eggs out in the open - instead of in their purpose-built house - which meant they were quickly snaffled by the wily crows and magpies.

But now, the predators' game is over. No more eggs, no more easy pickings, and no more disappointment for us. The ducks have all gone to a good home - some went to a Wildlife Trust colleague who lives near Welshpool and the others went to a friend from the Pencoed College smallholder course who lives just a few miles away from us.

It was a really strange feeling, stepping outside on the first morning of being duckless, but we've got used to it. After all, we've still got the cackles of the chickens, the purring of the turkey hens, the grunts of the pigs and the various bleatings of the sheep and the goats.

But it still seems odd. The first step towards making our pond more wildlife friendly was taking away the perimeter fencing - previously a necessary evil which had to be put in place to protect the ducks and the neighbouring hens and turkeys from predators. Once that was gone, it was a completely blank canvas, just waiting to be designed.

In went the native oxygenating and marginal plants, and then the surplus water lilies from the existing ornamental pond, in an effort to add instant impact.

Within hours - and yes, I mean hours - chunky, colourful dragonflies were performing intricate aerial circuits over the water and pond skaters were skimming happily across the surface. Soon, swallows and swifts were swooping low and the occasional heron flapped overhead


It's fine watching a programme like Springwatch on BBC1, but when you have your very own peepshow at the bottom of the garden, who could ask for more?

This week is Wildlife Week, an annual event organised by the Wildlife Trusts to raise awareness of the fascinating things that we all have all around us, but are often too busy to take notice of.

There will be Wildlife Week events happening in your area, so contact your local Wildlife Trust for details:

Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales 01656 724100

Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust 01938 555654

Brecknock Wildlife Trust 01874 625708

Gwent Wildlife Trust 01600 740358

Radnorshire Wildlife Trust 01597 823298, and

North Wales Wildlife Trust 01248 351541

You can write to Liz Shankland c/o Western Mail, Blue Street, Carmarthen SA31 3LQ. Please enclose an SAE for a reply. Or send an email to
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 6, 2006
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