Our wetlands are a hugely important habitat for a multitude of Irish wildlife. Though they have a chequered history in Ireland and are often looked on as poor, or what would be classed as "non productive" or "marginal" land. That is of course from a human perspective, where the land is often assessed in relation to its potential for food production or for development.
From a potential Biodiversity perspective, wetlands are an incredibly species rich habitat.
Unfortunately over the last number of decades they have been under assault in various ways,.
Often drained for conversion to agricultural land, or to be built on. Or polluted through pesticide and fertilizer run off from adjacent farmland, and altered because of climate change.
To preserve and manage existing precious wetland habitats.
To create where appropriate, new wetland habitats designed to be optimal for biodiversity..
To monitor and log wildlife in existing and newly created wetland habitats.
EXISTING WETLAND HABITATS AT WILDACRES.
We are lucky to have some beautiful existing original seasonal ponds on our lands. These habitats are vital for freshwater biodiversity .Pictured here is a wonderful pond within a dense stand of native Willow Salix caprea
These typically hold water during the winter and up until the beginning of summer and remain a damp area for all of the year. Ponds that dry out can actually be extraordinarily good for wildlife and have a unique ecosystem, made up of specialized plants and animals adapted to these conditions.
One of the main features of such seasonal ponds is that because they dry out, as the spring and summer progress, they are not suitable for fish. Fish are voracious predators of other aquatic life, so their absence means such seasonal ponds are a much more suitable habitat for other aquatic animals to thrive in.
Seasonal ponds, as the photos show, can also be excellent habitats for all manner of plant life. The likes of mosses, liverworts and ferns, as well as other unique and often rare marginal plants growing in the rich damp soil around the edge of the pond.
CREATING NEW WETLAND HABITATS AT WILDACRES.
POND NO.1 - FIELD 3.
In January 2019 we created the first, of what will be a number of different sized ponds on the nature reserve.
We have also now in late 2020, dug out another complex system of ponds, one very large pond with smaller ponds in the close vicinity. This will provide differing pond habitats, to attract as many species as possible to colonize. There will be some seasonal scrapes that will dry out in the drier months and some holding water year round, with mostly shallow gradual sloping edges. It is this shallow area of a pond that is most beneficial for wildlife,, though there will be some areas of deeper water also that will not be colonized by reeds and remain open water.
This first pond we have created, as the photo, has already attracted a range of species even though it is still in its early phase of being colonized. We have planted very little, preferring, as happens with ponds, to let the wildlife colonize it over time itself. It already has attracted such wildlife as Mallard ducks, Kingfisher, Swallows quenching their thirst, Dragonflies, Damselflies, Water beetles, Minnows, and numerous acquatic and marginal plants.
On the north eastern edge we have planted a copse of native trees such as Alder glutinosa, two different native Willow species Salix viminalis and Salix autera. This will provide a wonderful habitat for all manner of wildlife in the years to come.
We have also put up some bat roosting boxes on the mature ash trees which border the pond. Ponds and rivers are rich hunting grounds favored by our fascinating native bat species, of which we have nine in Ireland. As the Redcross river runs close by, the tree lined edge (Riparian zone) also is a favorite habitat for our bats and many other wildlife species. So we look forward to the summer ahead to see some of our nocturnal friends showing up to thrill us with their aerial hunting displays.
CREATING NEW WETLAND HABITATS AT WILDACRES.
POND No. 2 - FIELD 2.
This year In October 2020 we started on the second pond system on the nature reserve.. This will comprise of one large pond approximately more than a half of an acre in size, with a series of smaller marginal seasonal ponds surrounding it.
All providing different types of habitat to maximize the impact for biodiversity.
This pond will have a natural clay lining and will be fed by a variety of water sources ranging from groundwater from our field above to water collected off the roof of our shed and as a backup water from our well.
Constructed with an island in the middle as a safe nesting site for water birds, with a deep section surrounding it which will remain vegetation free, Mostly the pond edge will have a very shallow gradient of approximately 1 : 20 which will be the area most suitable for aquatic and semi aquatic plants and animals.
We are constructing this new pond complex in a naturally wet area that intermittently collected water but had only grass and sedges growing there previously, and had been continuously grazed by livestock before we acquired the land. These new ponds will provide an ideal habitat for a huge number of native wildlife species.
We have planted some native deciduous trees on the eastern and northern edges such as Alder and Downy Birch and sown some wildflowers in the form of locally collected seed of some marginal native wildflowers such as