Wetlands (Tim Lawrence)
Apart from the ponds in Pond Wood which were originally duck shooting ponds and created prior to Foot and Mouth, the wetlands at Watchtree were created with the primary function of surface water storage and water treatment. Wetland creation at Watchtree contributes significantly to the reserves overall biodiversity value in addition to reversing the loss and neglect of ponds and wetlands nationally.
Designed as a surface water storage lagoon over an area of approximately four acres (1.6 Hectares) this wetland has proved to be one of the best areas for bird watching. The wetland was created with wildlife in a mind and has many shallow sloping edges, bay areas and narrow inlets favouring wading birds and aquatic species. May through to August is a good time to visit the north lagoon as conditions are ideal for Wading bird chicks, including Curlew, Lapwing and Oystercatcher in addition to foraging Swallow, Sand and House Martins. 2006 saw Watchtree's first breeding Little Grebes.
Late autumn through winter and into spring is a particularly interesting time as you can never be sure what may turn up. Severe weather often drives bird species off course and lagoons like that at Watchtree soon become refuges for migrating and passage birds. A National rarity, the Pectoral Sandpiper was sighted on the north lagoon during 2005.
During the spring of 2007 a new Sand Martin Breeding Colony will be constructed and sited opposite the bird viewing hide. With over ninety nesting chambers this facility will allow staff and volunteers to not only ring
South Wetlands including South Lagoon and settling lagoons
The South Lagoon, like the North lagoon is a surface water storage facility though the marginal vegetation in this lagoon is less developed than in other wetlands. Despite being relatively steep sided and having few marginal plants this lagoon has been a favourite feeding, hunting and roosting location for a variety of species: Watchtree's resident Mute Swans successfully raised two cygnets during 2006.
A family of Tufted Duck also utilised this lagoon in the early stages of the chick's development before moving across the runway to the North lagoon. The South Lagoons provide good habitat for dragonflies and damselflies; Azure and Blue Tailed damselflies being the most common in early to mid summer and Common Darter and Four spot Chaser dragonflies thereafter. Sand Martins and Swallows will often be seen hunting this wetland, particularly on calm evenings as they catch newly emerged insects.
Bats, including Daubenton’s, Brandt’s and Pipistrelle also hunt near and over the wetlands.
Nearby hedgerows, reedbeds, stony paths and rough grassland create ideal habitat for Reed bunting, Yellowhammer, Stonechat in addition to nesting Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher.
During 2006, less than three years after construction the southern wetlands had breeding Great Crested Newts. It’s likely that the original pond in Pond Wood is the source for this now endangered amphibian.
Being over thirty years old, the existing ponds represent the reserves original wetland. Smooth newts are common in this wetland though surveys found little evidence of either Great Crested or Palmate newts.
The well developed aquatic, emergent and marginal vegetation provides ideal habitat for not only newts but also numerous aquatic invertebrates, dragon and damselfly larvae and adults, wetland birds and amphibians.
The wetland/aquatic interface is a particularly interesting habitat as species associated with both environments merge, thus creating a particularly rich area for biodiversity.
New pond....small but certainly attracts the species!
Created by students from Caldew School back in 2009, the 'temporary' pond is a haven for dragon and damselflies, newts and invertebrates. Completely dug out by hand, the pond is at most a metre deep with most areas no deeper than a wet trainer! Being shallow ensures the water heats up quickly and the surrounding rank vegetation, rush and scrub provide shelter from strong winds - perfect for basking dragonflies. Within just a few weeks this pond had Great-crested Newts, Frogs, Toads and all the common invertebrates including Whirlygigg Beetles and Pond Skaters. In 2012 a tiny Bank Vole nest was discovered on the 'island'. Can voles swim? You bet - a recent school group, studying small mammals, saw a Bank Vole jump off the pond dipping platform, into the water before swimming (Michael Phelps style) across to the other side of the pond.