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Building the Stow Maries Waterhole

Water is one of the most important elements to add to any wildlife garden. I have built lots of waterholes for wildlife, usually from old tyres, but when I headed to Stow Maries Aerodrome to undertake some wildlife work with Denis Stretton, who is based there, it was on our list of things to do!

Denis and I have been working together for the last few years, setting up different cameras and trail cameras to try to record the incredible wildlife on the site.

This visit consisted of a few days, in which Denis and I had a long list of tasks we wanted to achieve. Creating a waterhole was something we felt would be really good to set up near a feeding station and kestrel box. Although there is a pond not far away, creating a small body of water can be a valued resource for drinking and bathing.

Denis had been given a large, plastic circular container. Using a jigsaw, we cut it down, to create a shallow container.

We then cut out the turf so we could sink this shallow container into the ground.

Once, we had created a hole deep enough, we levelled it to ensure that the container was level.

We then packed the soil back in around the edge...

Using a range of natural branches, I added these to start to break up the end of the container, to help create a natural look. I did not want to be able to see any of the plastic edge in the camera scene.

We then collected some bits of rock and brick to create different levels within the pool and to concentrate any activity toward the centre of the container, ready for the camera filming. The different levels are important; Firstly, any small animal falling in needs a way to clamber out. Different levels create varying depths of water, attracting different species. A small bird, such as a blue tit or a robin will only want a few cm of water to bathe in. A larger bird likes a deeper option.

Next, we collected some moss and plants from around the site and planted these to create as natural a look as possible..

Denis added the water, so we could start to check the levels and see how the scene looked from the camera angle.

A few teaks and fiddling and I was finally pleased with the effect. It looked natural and as if it had been there for a while. Old pieces of wood provided perches to land and spaces to hide. An open area to one side means that birds feel safe as they have a good view of any approaching predators.

Finally, the Birdsy camera was put into position and focused on the centre of the pool.

We headed back to the office to check everything looked ok on the camera, via our Birdsy app and on the browser. We wondered how long it would be before the wildlife discovered it and started taking advantage. We didn't have to wait long.

Within a day, the jays were taking a look...

The pheasants were also around in the area.....

At night, we realised why the kestrels and owls in the area always look so healthy... there are a lot of mice around. This one took an unplanned dip!

Of course, lots of small mammals attract larger predators. We were thrilled to capture a clip of this little owl very nearly catching one of the wood mice.

We could have never dreamed that we would capture such a special visitor and within just a few days of creating this space. The waterhole is on the bank below our kestrel box, so we had hoped that the kestrel may take advantage, but this stunning female arrived after just a few days and spent almost 4 minutes there, bathing.

You can see how the different depths were used as she arrived in the shallow end and then took advantage of the deeper area. Wow! What an incredible bonus for Denis and I so early in our filming of this area. We were both thrilled and very excited that our new space was proving to be just want toe wildlife wanted!

We hope that some of the other owls will also visit here in the future and we will be monitoring it closely and I will be live streaming it on my website.

Enjoy this wonderful clip, an excerpt of which has been very well received on my social media platforms!


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