Young Naturalists in search of dragons

There were seven Young Naturalists for our end of April meeting, including one new member, Fletcher.  The theme this month was pond and river life, but first, as usual, we checked the overnight moth trap.  Despite a cold night, we did find a few moths in the trap, the best being a pair of Brindled Beauty, as well as a Sharp-angled Peacock. 

We headed to the pond for the rest of the morning, and our target was to find some dragonfly larvae, which we wanted to try and identify to species.  The pond produced loads of fine creatures, including five Smooth Newts (of whom three were males, showing very flashy crested tails). 

Male Smooth Newt

There was also a massive Great Diving Beetle, and lots of Water Hoglouse, Damselfly larvae and Whirligig Beetles, and we were delighted to catch a total of eight Dragonfly larvae.  We all agreed that they were all the same species, but it was difficult to know exactly which from our reference book, as several seemed quite similar.  On the day, we guessed that they might be Downy Emerald, but having done a little more research online, I think they were possibly Common Darter, with long, spidery legs, and a thick body, covered in fine hairs.

Dragonfly larva – possibly Common Darter

Over lunch, Fletcher had the opportunity to try out his macro photography skills, with a few close-up pictures of butterflies, including this nectaring Peacock.

Peacock butterfly, pictured by Fletcher

More of Fletcher’s photos can be seen on his Instagram:

Rosie and Lucas pond-dipping

While we were at the pond, a visitor reported that there was a hornet flying around in one of the bird hides, so we went to have a look.  Fortunately, by the time we arrived, the hornet had made its way out, so we headed to the river.

In the Dockens Water

It is always good just to walk down the river in welly boots, and feel the flow of the stream around you, but we all wanted to see what we could catch.  We were soon using nets and kick sampling to have a look at the river creatures, including several fish.  We caught two Bullhead, and several small fry which looked like young Brown Trout, as well as Minnows.  We also found some spectacular Cased Caddis Fly larvae, a Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly larva, and more dragonfly larvae, this time Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

Cased Caddisfly larva
Golden-ringed Dragonfly larva

After releasing the fish and the other creatures back into the river, and washing up the equipment, we still had time to head down to Ivy South hide, where we watched a Mute Swan chase off a Canada Goose.  On the way to Ivy South we had great views of a Kingfisher on the Ivy Silt Pond, which hovered and dived for a fish while we watched.

We’ll be doing more birdwatching next month, and also looking for reptiles. For more details, and to book onto next month:


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