A Garden Waterhole

Wildlife Kate

Providing water in the garden is as essential as offering food. Your birds will use it for bathing as well as drinking and, if you are really lucky, maybe you will get mammals such as hedgehogs visiting. One of the first things I did, when moving to my property some 20 years ago, was to put in a pond. Not everyone has the space for a pond and, in fact, something much smaller and simpler can offer both a home for small animals and a place for drinking and bathing.

Wildlife KateOne of my most favourite projects is using an old tyre to build a water hole. The only other things you need are a small piece of waterproof material and some soil and some natural bits and pieces to decorate the area. I have built three of these now, one of which was filmed for BBC Countryfile Diaries with Paul Martin. It is a simple project that can be done in just a few hours.

You can pick up old tyres from any garage.. they have to pay to dispose of them, so they are more than happy to let you have them. I then chose a location that is fairly open, to allow the birds a good view all around. I don’t want predators sneaking up on them and they feel safer if they have a clear view of their surroundings.

Lay the tyre on the ground and level it by popping some wood or stones underneath. Then, fill the inside of the tyre with soil, packing it into the inside of the tyre until it is just 10cm or so from the top of the tyre. You can shape the soil then, to form the shape you want your waterhole to be. Try to slope the edges as much as you can. You can now lay your waterproof material over the top of the tyre. Cut it leaving enough to stretch right over the top of the tyre.

Fill the hollow you have created with water so that the waterproof material sinks to the bottom of your hollow and now you can start building up the edges. You can use a mixture of soils, logs, branches or rocks….

I then plant up the surrounding area, to make it look as natural as possible and, within a few weeks, it will start to look like it has always been there!

I had bird visiting within a few days and, once I had installed the camera, I was amazed at how well it was used, especially over the dry summer periods. Even now, as we move into Autumn, this area is used throughout the day and I have recorded many different species visiting.

There are many different ways of offering water, from just putting a saucer or upturned dustbin lid, to buying a commercially produced bird baths. Many people offer food to birds, but often forget about a water source, which is just as important. Birds need water both to drink and to bathe. Bathing helps to keep feathers in good condition. It can help to loosen and remove dirt and the water can make feathers easier to preen. Keeping plumage in good condition is especially important in the winter as they will insulate the birds against the cold temperatures .

I rather liked this CJ Wildlife ‘Maggiore’ plastic bird bath from CJWildlife as I liked its natural look. Before incorporating it into my tyre waterhole set-up, I placed it in a different part of the garden and used a Bushnell trail cam to record the visitors. Again, it was very well received and I had numerous species visiting within just a few hours of me putting it out!

Whatever the time of the year, this provision of water is essential in the garden… and it can provide another great place to watch and photograph your local wildlife! Just remember to keep the water clean and fresh and to keep it ice-free in the winter.