On Sunday our Young Naturalists joined us for a watery session, discovering the life lurking at Blashford in the pond and the Dockens Water.
We began the day though with a rummage through the moth trap, a task greatly enjoyed by the group last year so it was great to have the opportunity again now the weather has warmed up and there are more moths on the wing.
Emptying the moth trap
We only had five different species to identify so our task didn’t take too long, but there were plenty of moths in the trap: 25 Hebrew character, ten Common quaker, five Small quaker, 6 Clouded drab and one very smart Lunar marbled brown:
Lunar marbled brown
After carefully putting the moths back in the trap to be released at the end of the day, we spent the rest of the morning having a closer look at the life lurking in the Education Centre pond.
The pond has certainly sprung to life with the warmer weather and after a lot of dipping, it was time to take a closer look at our catch.
Having a closer look at some of our smallest finds
We were lucky enough to catch a number of newts, both adults and newt tadpoles, known as efts. The efts breathe through external feathery gills located just behind their heads, which really make them look like miniature dragons!
Adult newt with eft by Talia Felstead
Male smooth newt, with its frilly crest extending from its head to the tip of its tail
Careful newt handling, with very wet hands!
We also caught a number of cased caddisfly larvae. Cased caddisfly are probably my favourite of all the pond (and river!) creatures as they construct the most amazing cases to live in, providing themselves with excellent camouflage. They use whatever materials they have available to them in the pond or river, which could be sand, tiny stones, segments cut from weed or other water plants, old snail shells, seed pods, the list is endless! They really are the ultimate swimming stick:
Two cased caddisfly larvae by Talia Felstead, these two have used plant material to create their cases
Another cased caddis, this one has used older pieces of plant matter and old seed pods
We also caught a number of water stick insects:
Water stick insect
Finally, after exhausting the pond we headed down to the river in search of other aquatic life, including fish. We had to search a little harder, as the invertebrates in the river along with many of the fish will hide in amongst and under stones and rocks on the river bed to avoid being picked up by the current and taken downstream. We did though manage to catch a number of bullhead and brook lamprey:
Bullhead by Talia Felstead
Brook lamprey by Talia Felstead
The brook lamprey are often confused with small eels, but instead of having jaws they have a sucker disc with their mouth in the centre. Now is definitely the time of year to look for them as they spend most of their time buried in the sand or silt on the river bed, emerging in spring to spawn and dying soon after.
If you look closely in shallower stretches of the Dockens Water when passing, you might be lucky enough to spot some!