Kingfisher nesting bank at Hatchlands Park

A kingfisher fishing from its perch

One of our most recognisable birds with their beautiful colours and a high-pitched, urgent call, Kingfishers hold a special significance on still and slow waters all around the country. They’ve been seen at Hatchlands Park hunting around Sheepwash Pond for many years but, due to the lack of suitable nesting habitat, they haven’t yet made it their home. This year we’re building a kingfisher nesting bank as part of our pond restoration project which we hope will encourage them onto the pond permanently.

It’s always a thrill to see that familiar flash of blue and orange shooting through the air close to the water’s surface or hovering, suspended in mid-air, whilst searching for a meal. This year, using money generously donated by the West Surrey Centre (one of our local National Trust Associations), we hope to encourage more of these colourful birds to the banks of the pond here at Hatchlands.

Pond problems

Sheepwash Pond is our largest expanse of water and is a valuable habitat resource. As well as being used by the local community as a fishing pond and a peaceful picnic spot for our visitors, it’s home to a number of fish including wild carp, bream, roach, perch and pike, 15 species of dragonfly and damselfly, birds, wildfowl, bats and other aquatic invertebrates. 

The banks of this picturesque pond have recently suffered from serious erosion which has caused the silt levels in the water to increase. Some areas of the pond can become quite shallow and, in the summer months, oxygen levels can fall very low due to a build-up of blanket weed and algae as well as Norfolk reed which thrives in shallow water. We’ve fenced the pond and so the problem has slowed, but we needed to seek a long-term solution.

Sheepwash Pond at Hatchlands Park
Sheepwash Pond at Hatchlands Park
Sheepwash Pond at Hatchlands Park

The restoration project

We want a pond which can continue to be enjoyed by everyone but, at the same time, will benefit the flora and fauna that live there. We also wanted a small, non-commercial pond for local people to fish in. 

To achieve this, the banks will be reinstated using silt dredged from the pond. This will create new fishing spots, increase the number of fish and raise the summer water levels. To the east of the pond, hidden away amongst the reeds, we’re excavating a new wildlife pond to be sectioned off by a micromesh net; a barrier to prevent fish from entering but allowing zooplankton through. This will act as a filter, improving the water quality and giving invertebrates and amphibians a new predator-free habitat.  

Nesting bank

With so much work going on around the pond we decided that we could do more to help serve the population of kingfishers that we regularly see in the park. Currently, the banks of our pond are too low but, once reinstated, they’ll be at the right height to provide a good habitat – around 1.5 metres above the water level. 

A kingfisher hunting whilst hovering
A kingfisher hunting whilst hovering
A kingfisher hunting whilst hovering

Kingfishers are cavity nesters, with most species nesting in holes that they dig into earth banks on the sides of ponds, streams and rivers. We’re giving them a head start by creating pre-built tunnels and tubes with boxes at the end, so that they can find a cosy spot without having to dig out the bank themselves. We’ll also be providing branches just outside of their nests, the perfect environment for them to fish.

Whilst the more secluded location of the bank will mean that they won’t be disturbed by humans or dogs, when kingfishers start to use the new nests and perches, there should be some excellent viewing opportunities from the opposite bank.

We hope that this work will not only secure this resource for future generations but also provide a new habitat for those blazing streaks of electric blue skimming above the water.