Listen in pop-out player

Brett Westwood is joined by naturalist Phil Gates in a garden near Bristol and with the help of recordings by wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson and Tom Lawrence, they offer a practical and entertaining guide to the wildlife which you're most likely to see and hear in a garden pond. Garden ponds are arguably the most diverse of all garden wildlife habitats, and Brett and Phil begin by watching pond skaters (the wolves of the pond) and whirligig beetles on the surface of the water. "They remind me of bumper cars at the fair" says Phil as whirligig beetles whizz about over the elastic surface film. These beetles are able to look down and up at the same time. Imagine if we could this! "What goes on in a Whirligig beetle's brain I just can't contemplate" laughs Phil. Surprisingly, below the surface, life is anything but quiet as water boatmen communicate with one another by stridulation - producing a remarkably loud tapping sound. There are also backswimmers (so called because they swim upside down), which can be identified explains Phil as "the ones that bite really painfully" so best left alone! Further below the surface, you might frogs (their loud purring courtship calls announcing their return to the pond after hibernation and the arrival of spring), and the terrors of the deep; the dragonfly nymphs. These are fearsome predatory larvae with needle-sharp pincer-like jaws, "jet propelled" and feed on tadpoles. These larvae are transformed into the beautiful flying adults, which are not uncommon; species like the Southern Hawker Dragonfly readily colonise small garden ponds and "they'll come and check you out. They're very curious insects, they hover round your head and come and look at you." Don't be alarmed they are completely harmless despite their old names such as 'Horse stinger' and 'Devil's darning needle'!

PRODUCER: Sarah Blunt.

Available now

15 minutes

Last on

Tue 15 Jul 2014 13:45

Phil Gates' Blog

More information and photographs of the species discussed in the series by our contributor Phil Gates is available on Phil's Blog

Download the Programme for Free

Episodes are available to listen again and download for free at the Best of Natural History Radio Podcast webpage

Tweet of the Day

Tweet of the Day

British birds through their songs and calls. 265 programmes of 90 seconds, over a year.

Related Links

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss