August 30, 2008

Some Fast Work By Mother Nature

MORE than 100 ponds have now been created in a North forest to provide more wildlife habitats.

Two of the ponds in the Kielder Water and Forest Park in Northumberland have already been rated as of outstanding conservation value for attracting nine species of dragonfly, including the rare lesser emperor and the southern hawker.

One of these prime locations is Bellcrag Flow, near Wark, part of the Border Mires restoration project.

Earlier this year, Northumberland's first breeding record of the broad-bodied chaser dragonfly was logged in forest ponds near Wark.

The species generally prefers southern climes, but seems to have found a niche in the North thanks to the habitat creation project.

Elsewhere, 23 ponds have been created in Hamsterley Forest, near Bishop Auckland, seven in Chopwell Wood, near Gateshead, and eight in woodlands around Rothbury.

Tom Dearnley, regional Forestry Commission ecologist, said: "Wildlife thrives when there is a good mix of habitats such as forest, water and heath, and we are seeing the fruits of our pond- building labours."

A range of ponds have been sculpted with various depths and profiles, meeting the diverse needs of aquatic plants and animals. Most of the work has been carried out by excavators, but at Kielderhead national nature reserve, explosive charges were used to blast water-filled peaty craters for use by wading birds like golden plover and dunlin.

Gordon Simpson, County Durham-based wildlife consultant with the Forestry Commission, said: "It's amazing how quickly Mother Nature takes a grip on the ponds once they have been built."

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