Sunday, 3 July 2016

July 3rd Strumpshaw Fen

Pond dipping at the new pond
There was a family event at Strumpshaw today. It involved pond dipping at two of our ponds. As water scorpions are still high on my 40 challenge list, what better opportunity for me to tick it off. And so, I have decided to help out. Surely, with an army of willing children with nets at two ponds, there was no way for me to fail now, right?

Within the last couple of years, the staff of Strumpshaw had created a new pond for dipping near the entrance of the meadow trail. It has been left untouched until now so that life could establish itself in and around it. Today we christen it by plunging the first nets into it for the very first time. What we could haul out is anyone's guess. The children were happy to find out for us and they were finding all sorts of great things. It is amazing how quickly an ecosystem can establish itself as they found water boatmen, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, even stickleback fish!

Water Boatmen, Dragonfly Nymph, Stickleback and Pond Snails

Diving Beetle Larva
Then suddenly, the children hauled up something that baffled my colleagues. They thought it was a large dragonfly nymph that looked even more monstrous and it had a water boatman clutched between its deadly fangs. My colleagues had no idea what it was. For me, however, I took one glance at it and I knew what it was. This was the larvae of one of our larger species of diving beetle, most likely of the great silver diving beetle. Despite being a monster in size already, this was still just a baby. Its adult form, when fully developed, can be as big as the palm of my hand! The children weren't finished yet and they were hauling up several more of these monsters. Someone ended up sticking them in the display tank with all the other highlight findings where we can show passers-by what we had found. Big mistake! They ended up eating nearly everything in the tank! They were relentless hunters!

Pond dipping at the old pond
At the other pond, which we've been using for many years, there were no monstrous beetle larvae, but there was an adult newt, several baby ones (called efts) and the usual other things. Oh, and there was a rather friendly duck there, too. Sadly, as with the new pond, no one could find a water scorpion. I don't understand why that is, but it is rather frustrating that, even with plenty of children pond dipping, I still can't tick one off. They shouldn't be this difficult to find, so something must have effected them on the reserve in some way. I have learned from my colleagues that only a handful have been caught so far this year. What has happened to Strumpshaw's water scorpions?


Diving Beetle Larva (of a smaller species)
Caddisfly Larva
Smooth Newt
Newt Eft

Honey Bee
I have also been looking out for my other two insect targets today. The brambles by the new pond seemed a great place to see hornets and common blue butterflies as it was buzzing with life. Meadow browns, ringlets, large skippers, a painted lady, sawflies, hoverflies, crickets and a number of species of bees and bumblebees were all attracted to the rich nectar provided by the bramble flowers, but neither of my targets showed up. I walked along Sandy Wall, but could only find lizards. As the event came to an end and everything was being cleared up, I met up with everyone at the office and guess what? I saw a hornet briefly on the roof of the building! No photo of it though, so it is still on my list, but at least I know where the best place to find them is now.

Large Skipper
White-tailed Bumblebee
Speckled Bush-cricket
Meadow Brown
Painted Lady
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Jay eating a biscuit that someone dropped
Common Lizard

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