We’ve had a few years of relative drought in the South-East of the UK, followed by the wettest April since records began (1910).
My heavy clay soil keeps the water and for the last few weeks (even though it hasn’t rained much), my feet have squelched through the lawn (as it would in previous years around january and February).
For that reason, it has been impossible to mow near to the pond (as the mower created tracks in the soil and could have got bogged down altogether) until this weekend.
Meanwhile, the pond keeps getting deeper as the level rises – showing how the water takes a few days or even a couple of weeks to drain into the pond itself. Here’s a photo of the pond level at the moment, you can compare it to the previous photo, showing the depth increasing over the last two months.
We’ve all been reading about the drought, well I need to read the articles to the moorhens and I’d love to, but there’s not here.
Every previous year, the moorhens share their time between our pond and the others in the area – its great to watch them and their babies running in a line or group between the ponds – happily they tend to keep ahead of the cats, though sadly there was one year when they lost them all in a couple of days. They tend to live happily together with the wild ducks that also come to our garden, both feeding in the same area of the lawn. They are territorial though, especially when breeding and I haven’t seen more than a pair at once on the pond itself.
They run away from danger pretty fast on those little legs and when in the pond, they scramble up the edge of the pond and hide underneath the brambles for cover (though stupidly they keep calling out to each other as they are hiding, they’d be useless at hide and seek and it doesn’t seem terribly smart). So, normally the pond at this time of year is about a metre higher than it is now and most of the brambles are covered, now as you can see there’s a gap between the top of the pond and the bottom of the brambles and the side is pretty steep – any moorhen frightened by a predator (or man) on the pond isn’t going to be able to make it to safety.
Happily though, the moorhens don’t need to read articles about the drought or my bog, as they haven’t been to the garden for the last few weeks and hopefully have found somewhere safer to nest and stay. Its a shame as I love seeing them and another indication of the difficulties of survival with changing weather patterns. Keep well moorhens and hopefully we’ll get some rain next winter and you’ll be back.
England is known for rain – mainly by people outside the UK who have a view, perhaps reinforced by stereotype, that it rains all the time.
However, in reality, rain isn’t that common and there are areas that in some recent years have had less rain than areas of gthe world defined as deserts. The garden has a pond, that a decade ago would never dry up and in the winter would flood across the grass even to some of the apple trees. But in recent years it has dried out completely in Summer and currently is around 2M or 6 feet lower than you would normal see in January. It is difficult to tell from the photo, but this picture should have water levels much higher going right over the grass at the back of the picture, and the grass island (with the statue on it) would in previous years be completely covered.
Where's all the water?
Having read a lot of articles about lack of rainfall and seen our pond, I thought I’d look at the published statistics and see if we can work out some trends. Now the garden is on a cusp, is it in the South-East or Midlands or East Anglia? It is tricky to know, but the weather we get is often as described as “in the East …” So I thought I’d download the East Anglia data from 1910 onwards from the Met Office web site and take a look.
Last year (2011), the rain in Eastern England was recorded as being 453mm, the least since records began in 1910, and that after two years of below-average rainfall, so it is all true. The number of days where more than 1mm of rain fell was less than 90, so often not really enough to fill the aquifers, water the trees or fill up the pond, as small amounts of rain evaporate and don’t get deep into the ground.