I used to work with a teacher who referred to most of his pupils as ‘pond life’. I would have to disagree with him, for the simple reason that pond life is fascinating. Let’s take a minute to think about what you might see at a pond. Dragonflies and damselflies, full of colour, dance in the air. Frogs and toads lurk in the reeds. Tadpoles swim in hoards munching luminous green scum. You might, although I am yet to, see a Kingfisher. There is nothing simple about life at the pond.
Today we visited Heathfield Ecology Centre. I had been there once before with a class of children and had the best time. The groundskeeper, I wish I could remember his name, is a real character, who seems to spend most of his time fishing newts out of his pond to show off to visitors. I had been lucky enough to spend half an hour in his classroom (shed) with my class while he showed us skulls and nests he’d found over the years. So, you can imagine my delight when we found him perched next to the pond on our arrival, with a tub full of newts and dragonfly nymphs.
His tales of pond life were virtually unchanged from those I heard two years previous, so I slid away, leaving my wife to entertain him, while I searched, hopefully, for a great crested newt. As much as I love looking at newts in an ice cream tub, I’d rather find one for myself in an actual pond. It didn’t take long to spot one, then they were everywhere. Pregnant palmates and smooths swam around blowing bubbles at the surface. I thought for a moment I had found my great crested, but a quick google told me it was a male smooth in his breeding regalia (wavy crest). Newts are brilliant to watch. I’d never seen so many all in one place. I have to admit, I was no longer that impressed with the collection in the ice cream tub!
I must have spent half an hour watching newts, while Hayley gazed longingly at horses, in the next field, through my binoculars. Having had my fill of newts, we started to walk away, then Hayley spotted a damselfly, so you can add on another half an hour of me staring at them.
I love the variations of damselflies. Red with red eyes, red with yellow eyes, blue with blue eyes, white with grey eyes… the combinations seem endless. Perhaps when said colleague referred to his pupils as pond life, he was being complimentary after all? Pond life is very cool indeed.
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Here’s a stickleback that didn’t really seem to fit into the blog.