The life aquatic
By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jun 4 2017 10:00AM
Hunting for aquatic mini-beasts is one of the best ways to learn about the diversity of our freshwater pond life.
From the smallest garden pond to largest lakes, any established body of water will be teaming with fascination organisms. Although you certainly don't have to attend an organised event at a nature reserve or wetland centre, they will usually have a specially-constructed dipping platform, to enable safe access to the pond, as well as pre-printed identification sheets for you to tick off. Any entry fee you have to pay will go towards their conservation efforts.
You will need:
• A net
• A light coloured bucket or tray
• A magnifying glass
• An identification book
Start by half filling your tray or bucket with pond water. Now start your dipping. Using a figure of eight action sweep your net though the water. You'll find most life at the edges of the pond and near plants but try to avoid scooping up too much mud and silt. After a couple of sweeps, gently turn your net inside out, into the tray or bucket. Wait for a few minutes to let any silt settle then take your magnifying glass and see what you can identify. Look out for:
• Nymphs like mayfly, damselfly and caddis fly.
• Crustacea like freshwater shrimp.
• Molluscs like pond snails and freshwater mussels.
• Insects like water boatmen and water scorpions.
• Vertebrates like toads, tadpoles, frogs and newts.
Make sure you take time to look around the pond as well, particularly for bird life including ducks, and if you are really lucky, the electric blue of a darting kingfisher.
Beware - even at centres designed with children in mind the water can be deep.
Kneel by the pond when you’re dipping and don’t lean over too far.
If you have cuts and grazes cover them with a plaster. (Weil’s disease is an unpleasant infection that you can get from getting water in contact with open cuts.)
Wash your hands thoroughly after dipping.
Did you know…? Mayfly were named because they "hatch" from the river in late May or early June. "Duffers Fortnight" supposedly affords novice fly fishermen the best opportunity to catch a trout - the fish feed voraciously on the mayfly as they emerge in huge clouds to mate, lay their eggs and die in a single day.