A haven for wildlife

The reservoir is home to a wide variety of wildlife. It is one of the only freshwater lakes in Plymouth and visited regularly by kingfishers, mallard and muscovy ducks, herons and rare dragonflies. 

In 1976, Plymouth Polytechnic (now Plymouth University) acquired the use of the reservoir as a fish-holding facility. Before this date the water was regularly cleaned and drained. A thousand 50mm common carp were originally kept in the reservoir in floating cages, to be used for study and experimental purposes. However the cages were damaged by vandals and the carp released into the reservoir. In 1978, five large adult carp were also introduced. The fish survived, bred and grew to an enormous size. It was later discovered that there were three types of carp present, although it was not known how the Crucian and Mirror Carp, arrived.

Subsequent studies have shown that the reservoir maintains a balanced ecosystem of fish, invertebrates, diatoms, algae and bacteria. The reservoir fountains were switched off in the 1980s due to a Legionnaire's Disease scare, although the source was never proven. 

There is now an interesting and varied selection of birds visiting the reservoir. Wild mallards have tried to raise families here for several years and a tame Muscovy duck used to provide amusement for passers-by on North Hill. Kingfishers, a heron and cormorants are to be seen and the reservoir is also visited by Southern Hawker dragonflies which are believed to be rare. During summer evenings, bats can be seen swooping over the water in search of food. 

We’d like to keep part of the reservoir ‘wild’ so that wildlife will continue to flourish there.

Heron (Ardeidae)
Large wading bird with long legs, bill and neck. Head is often adorned with elongated plumes. Commonest call is a harsh "kraaank" with raucous, caried vocabulary at rest, including a castanet-like billsnapping. Flight is slow and majestic. Nests in trees and in reed beds. Feeds in shallow fresh or coastal water or in marshes. 900mm.
Large Hawker Dragonfly (Cordulegasteridae)
Various types. Widely distributed, especially in upland areas. Flies strongly at low levels along clear, silty streams.

Grey heron bird public domain image

Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)
This duck is a grazer and is much like a goose. Drakes can be very large (4.5-5.5kg) but the duck is quite small (2.25-2.75kg). Markings are clearly defined, usually black and white with a glossy black and purple upperpart.

Muscovy Duck by Maggie_94 on Flickr

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Commonest and most widespread of all the European ducks. Male has a dark green head and white neck-ring, purple/brown breast and pale grey back. Female is usually camouflaged brown. The familiar "quack" as a single call is an alarm or distress call and several quacks strung together in a "decrescendo" is used in pairing.

Anas platyrhynchos swimming mallard public domain picture

Kingfisher (Alcedinidae)
Medium-sized birds with short legs, long stout bills and brightly coloured plumage. Habit of perching upright. Hole nesters, found in lowland fresh water. Dives either from a perch or whilst hovering. Has a looud penetrating "chee" call and, rarely, a whistling trill. 165mm.
Common Kingfisher. Photo by Tarique Sani.

Text abridged and amended from Crocker, J., 2006 Drake's Place Reservoir & Gardens: A brief history Greenbank Community Association, Plymouth