Pond life

There are several ponds within the country park which are important because of the wildlife they support. Ponds can be either natural (from rain water or a raised water table) or man-made (created for a specific use or function, be it environmental or industrial). A new pond was dug on the south side of Balgray Reservoir in early 2008, it is hoped that it will become a haven for wildlife.

Britain once had a large proportion of wetland habitat and as a result has many native species of plants and animals that are adapted to wetland conditions. Within the last 50 years Scotland has been losing many of its ponds as a result of increasing pressure and disturbance from human activity. Ponds have been drained for agricultural land or development, others have become redundant from previous industrial use and consumed by natural succession. Some existing ponds are unsuitable to support native wildlife due to nutrient enrichment. This can occur from a build up of plant material or from agricultural run-off (slurry and fertilisers).

Ponds and the areas surrounding them traditionally support a wide and diverse range of wildlife. They are of particular importance to aquatic plants, algae, invertebrates and amphibians. Some species will live in ponds all their life, like pond snails, whilst others will just use them when needed, like newts.

Pond dwellers

A pond in good condition can support a large and diverse range of species. Here are some that you might come across in the country park in closer detail.

Palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus)

A large decline in amphibians has been observed world wide. Although not classed as ‘threatened’ in the UK, the palmate newt is on the decline. This is thought to be due mainly to pond drainage for agricultural purposes. It is important to make sure suitable habitats are created, maintained and interlinked to allow easy passage between populations. There is more information about the palmate newt in the amphibians section within the website.

Common whirligig beetle (Gyrinus substriatus)

This insect is common and widespread in still water across Britain and is often one of the first species to colonise a newly created pond. They are normally seen in groups on top of the water hunting small aquatic insects. They are small (about 0.5cm) and have a dark, metallic-black, smooth, oval-shaped body. Their two rear legs are in the shape of broad, flat paddles, with a row of hairs. They have multiple eyes which are divided into two, one pair looking upwards and the other pair looking downwards into the water.

They are easily spotted on the pond surface whizzing about in circles which is where they get their name from. If disturbed they will dive into the water taking a bubble of air down with them for oxygen until they feel it is safe to return to the surface.

Water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)

This plant is found partially submerged or bordering fresh water. It also lives in marsh and fen habitats. This is a common plant across the UK. It carries light blue flowers with a yellow centre between May and September. The flowers have both male and female parts and are pollinated by bees, flies, butterflies and moths. Plants offer a refuge for aquatic winged invertebrates like caddis-flies and the flowers provide nectar and pollen for the bees.

Forget-me-not as a name is thought to have originated from an old German folk tale. The story involves a drowning knight who grasped a flower and threw it to a loved one on the bank, calling out “forget-me-not” as he did.

The website also contains a whole section on dragonflies and damselflies and amphibians.