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West Virginia Wildlife Magazine
West Virginia Wildlife Magazine Past Issues WVDNR Home
Backyard Habitat:
Provide A Watering Place

As summer approaches, it is important to think about providing a critical resource for wildlife that is often missing from backyard habitats — water.

Setting out shallow pans of water will definitely make your yard more attractive for wildlife.   The water depth should be two inches or less in order to accommodate small birds.   You should vary the placement and provide more than one water source.   A water source place on the ground will attract chipmunks, butterflies and toads among other creatures.    The typical pedestal bird bath placed in the sun near a bush will be frequented by birds.    Place birdbaths in a sheltered area of the yard in proximity to shrubs and trees, so that birds can flee from predators.   Remember to change the water at least every other day to reduce the risk of birds contracting diseases.

Do you want to create a virtual wildlife magnet?   Moving water is irresistible to feathered and furred creatures.   Commercial fountains and misters are readily available at home improvement stores and bird specialty shops.   Simply hanging a leaking pail or plastic jug over your birdbath can be an effective draw for wildlife but requires frequent refilling.

Water Gardens

Building a pond is simpler than you think!   With a relatively small investment of time and money, you can create a pond that is not only beautiful to the eye but will support a watery “zoo”.

Choose a level site that does not receive much run-off or your pond may wash away in the next rainstorm.   The spot should get at least five hours of direct sunlight a day in order to feed the oxygen-producing plants necessary to support animal life.   Too much sun may result in excessive algae growth, however.

You can construct the pond of either a thick plastic, flexible liner or buy a pre-

Build A Pond In A Weekend!

1. Start by delineating the desired shape of the pond with rope or a garden hose. Dig a hole in the pond's shape to a depth of 18 to 24 inches.   Slope the sides to allow birds a choice of water depth.  

2. Use a level to make sure that the pond is even. Remove any exposed rocks. Line the hole with a one-inch layer of damp sand.  

3. Cover sand with flexible plastic liner.   Fill the pool with water. Cut liner, leaving several inches for edging.   Rim the pond with rocks or bricks and fill the gap between the edging with gravel.

4. Allow water to stand for two days and then place pots of aquatic plants (native preferably) in the pond. You can use bricks in order to raise the pots to the appropriate level.

formed rigid liner, both available at home improvement stores.   Flexible liners allow you to create your own design to fit the site and better withstand expansion and contraction due to freezing and thawing.   A pond should be at least three to four feet in diameter and should be at least 18 inches deep if you want to place fish in it.   Your pond should have a shallow end where animals can bathe and drink. Rocks could be placed in the shallow end to provide a basking spot above water.

Buy native plants from a local nursery to place in the water and around the perimeter of half of the pond. Recommended plants include sweet flag, cowlily , pennywort, Virginia blue iris, golden club and cattail.

Make sure that the water is de-chlorinated either by letting it stand for two days or by adding a commercial de- chlorinator before introducing fish or plants. You should also install a pump and filter to recirculate and clean the water.   Use chemicals sparingly on your lawn as they may wash into the pond or be carried by wind into it during application.  

—Laura Curtis is a former DNR WildYards coordinator.