The Big Pond Dip

Thursday 30 May 2013, 13:22

Springwatch Guest Blog Springwatch Guest Blog

Guest blogger: Jeremy Biggs, director of Pond Conservation

It may be a cool and damp spring, but my garden pond is looking splendid. Full of underwater plants, there’s a dense mix of submerged mosses and stoneworts, a sure sign of clean water. So the pond is looking promising for animal life: what can we find with the pond net? I already know there will be plenty of frog tadpoles – at least 50 females spawned in our 2m diameter pond.

So, first dip – as well as the taddies, hundreds and hundred of pond snails. Mostly marsh snails, a few wandering snails, and four kinds of ram's-horn, including the tightly coiled contorted and whirlpool ram's-horn snails. Then fairly quickly I find flatworms, the spidery larvae of the common darter dragonfly, the zippy larvae of the pond olive mayfly.

Mayfly larva - Cloeon dipterum Mayfly larva - Cloeon dipterum, copyright Pond Conservation
After 5 or 10 minutes I've got a pretty good idea of the commonest creatures in the pond. Now I'm taking a bit of time to find the true variety. In another five minutes I find the first cased caddis: they should be present in every good pond. There are quite a few different water beetles too, including a nice find for the garden: a screech beetle.

Water beetle - Agabusbipustulatus Water beetle - Agabusbipustulatus, copyright Pond Conservation
But the best and biggest comes last and it’s taken 20 minutes to find: the 4 cm long larva of an emperor dragonfly. For those who like to keep score I've got to 42 out of 68 on the Big Pond Dip. The animals are telling me my pond is in good shape.

Wigglies - Chironomid Wigglies - Chironomid, copyright Pond Conservation
See what's living in your pond and take part in the Big Pond Dip 2013.

Comments

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    Comment number 1.

    Nice article on Pond Dipping but was worried that no safety warnings were mentioned to children, especially as its Half Term

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    Comment number 2.

    I have just dug a garden pond. Now full of water and plants added. Will it naturally fill with wildlife and bugs or do I have to buy them in? Not keeping any fish. Would prefer it to evolve naturally but willing to give a helping hand.

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    Comment number 3.

    My granddaughters pond dipping in my very small garden pond this morning collected 15 newts (all now safely back in the pond) Would this number of newts be the reason there were no baby frogs? We had a lot of frogspawn but sadly quite a lot of it was frozen during the winter.

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    Comment number 4.

    as a child years ago now it was come place to go newting in our local brickyard it was a huge pond which had crested and smooth newts in it. its nice seeing the kids out in nature like we used to do

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    Comment number 5.

    I've got a plastic tray pond like on your show but mine is in my garden and mine is for frogs.

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    Comment number 6.

    Can you please tell me how to make a frog home.

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    Comment number 7.

    This spring has been very difficult for the frogs in my pond, they seemed to have awoken early, then got caught up in the cold icy spell we had during February and March. I have since found dead frogs in my flower beds and at least 7 dead at the bottom of the pond. It seemed that they entered the pond for spawning, then when they tried to leave, their temperatures dropped and they either drowned or dried up from the cold winds. I have a healthy stock of plump tadpoles and the newts seem unaffected, but why did I lose so many frogs this year? Yesterday I found a very under weight frog just sitting on a pond plant, I covered it with some pond weed to prevent it from drying out, today it is still alive, but I have to keep splashing it with water to keep it's skin moist. I have never seen such a thin frog, it seems lacking in energy, starved. Why have so many frogs died this year? I live in Wiltshire.

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    Comment number 8.

    can any1 tell me why i had clear frogspawn with no eggs , last year none at all and i put it down to bad spring, year b4 counted 26 frogs only 7 this yr but newts fine and other wildlife

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    Comment number 9.

    Hiya Don, I have heard of this happening a lot in the area I live. Clear frog spawn has been reported on our local news. I'm guessing the males were just not present when the female laid.

    Newts seem unaffected in my pond too.....however I have noticed that once upon a time I had a glutten of snails, these seem to be empty shells, something else is eating them, and I have noticed a lack of insects. The cold spring has brought the frogs out of hibernation at irregular times and then they have been unable to find sufficient food. My skinny frog I reported in my last blog, is still alive, but looking a little plumper.....I suspect frog is now munching on a few of those plump tadpoles I had.

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    Comment number 10.

    Ryan, I made a frog hotel...toad house from sunken pipes. I covered the area with logs and chip bark and planted some ground cover plants to look nice from my point of view and to give shade and cover to the frogs/toads. The toads preferred just to bury themselves under the logs.

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    Comment number 11.

    Revenge of the tadpoles. Alas I awoke this morning to my skinny frog in the water, looking forward surrounded by nibbling tadpoles. Poor frog had died over night and so tadpoles were doing their best to help recycle him. Sorry, frog was just gazing at me so I buried it in the garden to fertilise the plants. Poor frog.

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    Comment number 12.

    I put my pond in just over 12 months ago, its about 6'x3' and about 18" at its deepest, I used the best liner on offer.
    I wanted it as a wildlife pond only and have a few marginal plants and a few oxygenating plants in there. I also installed a small solar pump with fountain.
    I have suddenly in the past week started to have hundreds, if not thousands of mosquito/midge larvae and not sure what I should do with them.
    I am lucky enough to have about half a dozen tadpoles that are doing well and a mass of pond snails. I assume this means the water quality is not too bad.....or am I wrong? I had been told that I may need to change the liner and start again because of the larvae.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

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    Comment number 13.

    We made our pond from an air raid shelter. We have had it for 2 years, and acquired newts, tadpoles, water boatmen, backswimmers, orb spiders on bulrushes and we ahve got hoverflies

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    Comment number 14.

    To Nick: when I first filled my newly dug pond, it was colonised within a couple of hours by a newt! The rest of the wildlife followed at their leisure but it didn't take that long: weeks rather than months - the word gets around! Beware when buying aquatic plants; I have a long-term problem with Duckweed and can only assume this came in with a batch of oxygenating ones I bought in. On the whole it is better to leave the pond to its own devices, I think but will stand corrected if anyone has any tips on this. Good Luck with it.

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    Comment number 15.

    This is the first time in about three years we have had frog spawn; there haven't been the usual number of frogs around to provide it. I have no idea why this is and can only guess that it had something to do with the previous severe winters as the pond seemed to be OK and I was very careful when melting holes in the ice (with reference to one of my many pond books!) so that creatures could breathe/escape, etc. Happily, it seems the situation has righted itself with frog heads popping up out of the water, and a lot of tadpoles.Now to tackle that Duckweed again...

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    Comment number 16.

    I can't find the link to post a new topic on your blog page, so I've posted this on ducks in our garden. This is related to your nesting duck and is an exception to the story that drakes take no part in raising the family after mating.

    Picture of duck with ducklings hatched in our garden and swimming in our pond.
    1. Duck obviously mated with a domestic drake and a mallard drake - 13 ducklings, 6 little yellow jobs, 7 stripy jobs.
    2. Same duck, now faithful to one drake in the following year, swimming with all mallard ducklings. Drake swimming with them, a proud father.

    www.flickr.com/photos/97441964@N03/
    Originally posted at 11:43AM, 13 June 2013 PDT (permalink | reply | edit)

 

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