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GARDENING : Wildlife Will Migrate to a Clean, Protected Back-Yard Watering Hole

March 26, 1994|From Associated Press

Build a back-yard water hole and you might see a screech owl bathing at midnight, baby robins taking their first baths and perhaps as many as 100 kinds of songbirds drinking and bathing regularly.

Not only do such ponds bring excitement to your back-yard, but they also can add to the value of your property.

Among the basics for a successful back-yard water hole are:

Moving water. It makes a sound that has a magnetic attraction for wildlife. By designing a pool with multiple tiers, so that water is pumped to the highest level and allowed to flow down, the pool will be attractive to wildlife.

Clean water. Pools and ponds tend to turn green or brown with algae, especially in warm weather. Design the pool with a drain so that the water can be easily changed.

Placement. Locate the pool close enough to the house, preferably near a window, so that it can be enjoyed from inside throughout the year. Don't worry about spooking the wild things--they will adjust.

Natural cover. Like water, cover is essential to wildlife's survival. Plant the far side of your water hole with trees and shrubs that will give visitors an escape, should they be attacked.

Aquatic plants and fish. A pool stocked with plants and fish becomes an aquatic community and will attract a wider range of wildlife.

Designs for wildlife water holes range from the simple to the sublime, and among them are the following favorites:

Birdbath. The simplest, least expensive and quickest to set up is the ceramic or plastic birdbath on a pedestal, available from lawn and garden centers. They may also sell a kind of "pool rock" that holds water.

Not only do these birdbaths work, but they are attractive in a back-yard setting. Their disadvantage is the lack of water movement, requiring frequent water changes.

Dripping bucket. By hanging a bucket with a hole in the bottom from a tree or post, and filling it several times a day with a hose, water can be dripped into a pot, a garbage-can lid or large bowl below that will be attractive to wildlife. A hose also can direct a stream or spray of water over rocks to form a pool.

In-ground pond. Any size, from many acres to a few square feet of water, can be made simply by digging a hole, lining it with polyethylene plastic and filling it with water. Attractive edgings, such as rocks, gravel and shrubs, will enhance the beauty of the pool, while aquatic plants will add color, beauty and natural cover for fish and other wildlife.

Above-ground pool. This is the most challenging of pond designs, but may also be the most attractive to both people and wildlife. Designed with mortar and stones, an above-ground pool may include spillways or cascades that send water to lower levels, where a pump forces it back to the top. Water pumps, available from lawn and garden centers, move water with an attractive sound.

The movement also aerates the water, making it more healthful for fish, plants and other wildlife.

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