Recently we were walking through Decathlon, a large sports store, when I spotted a display in the central aisle with a load of nets in it. That reminded me that I had been meaning to have a go at pond dipping for absolutely ages. It actually said on the display that the nets were for children to use in order to learn about aquatic life, whether in ponds or rock pools. I got all excited and my OH turned to me and said in a scathing voice, "How old are you?". "Twelve" I replied, poking my tongue out when he wasn't looking. I bought the net. :-)
And so I had a go yesterday. Luckily we have an old shallow cat litter tray that is perfect for putting the things caught in the net into as it's a pale cream colour. I'd had a read on a website about pond dipping, and the best places around a pond to do so (amongst pond plants, under overhanging vegetation and around the sticks and bits that cover the bottom of the pond).
I was a bit disapppointed as I'd hoped to find some caddis fly larvae and all sorts of large and interesting things. However I found that what I collected, and the pond water I'd already put in the bowl, was actually teeming in tiny aquatic life. We have a large pond fed by a stream which contains quite a number of fish, and it's never covered in any duck weed or blanket weed, so I reckon it's pretty healthy. There must be plenty there for the fish to eat as they reproduce every year and I have seen caddis flies and mayflies and I think most of the damselflies here reproduce and lay in the pond. However amongst the dragonflies I see here I've only seen Common Darters actually mating and ovipositing in the pond.
I'd come across this website http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/habitats/pond/identifying-creatures-pond/ which gives beginner info about pond dipping and photos of all the creatures you may find which aids IDing.
Water Boatman - the kind that swim on their backs. This is an excerpt from the above website about different kinds of Water Boatmen:
"To make life simpler, many biologists now call greater water boatmen ‘backswimmers’ because this is the most obvious difference between the two groups, and saves confusion. Lesser water boatmen swim on their fronts, and greater water boatmen – backswimmers – swim on their backs. Added to this the tiny Lesser Backswimmer Plea leachii is smaller than virtually all other ‘lesser’ water boatmen. Lesser Water Boatmen, which all look rather like each other, are technically members of just one family of animals, the Corixidae. The backswimmers comprise two families in Britain, the Notonectidae and, for the Lesser Backswimmers, the Pleidae."
A really small damselfly larva.
Much larger damselfly larva.
Tiny red wormy thing.
Blurred photo of a pond skater of some sort - they were quite tiny and moved about a lot.
These specks were tiny creatures moving around - no idea what they are! But I then discovered slightly bigger creatures amongst them - enlarged photo below this one.
Can you see, top middle and centre middle, there are two creatures larger than the tiny specks? I've no idea what they are and I only saw them when looking at my photo!
As well as the above there were tiny black 'fleas' - like flea beetles which jumped about onto the edge of the container and leaped when I put my finger near them. So I'm guessing some kind of aquatic flea (which was also too hard to photograph!).
All in all a fun experiment and I will certainly have another bash in other areas of the pond and at different times of the year, to see what else I might find. I'd urge you to find your inner kid and have a go!