Pond life.

By Graham Wellstead.

My garden, like many, contains a pond. Not a great lake, just a small formal pond about 8ft square with raised sides, the theory being we could sit on the edge and watch the fish. All the fish were born in the pond and over the past thirty years have gone up and down in terms of number. The formality is long gone with Japanese Acers along one edge and a very large Marsh Marigold, grown from seed, in one corner. Stunning in full bloom, I have produced hundreds of seedlings planted in marshy spots and along stream banks (I plant trees as well). A visiting heron has taken some of the fish, one he dropped on the patio, found too late to save, others, usually the largest, have died from lack of oxygen when we have had a prolonged thunderstorm, which sucks the oxygen out of the water. I resolved this by increasing the flow of water pumped through.

We are well served with Dragonflies in this part of Surrey. One stretch of the Basingstoke Canal is home to twenty two, of our resident twenty five species.”

Dragon Fly. She was laying eggs from the pond edge.

Identified by Paul Budgen as a Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea).

We are well served with Dragonflies in this part of Surrey. One stretch of the Basingstoke Canal is home to twenty two, of our resident twenty five species. So much so that after restoration, pleasure boating, which was why the restoration was carried out, was banned because the canal is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

and even a brave robin taking a bath standing on a lily leaf.”

I am currently worried that the pond liner is well past its guaranteed life span, mostly because it is well established and full of interesting aquatic life, so I don’t look forward to replacing it. This spring we have had visits for two species of dragonfly and several delicate Demoiselle damselflies. We used to have pond skaters, but I have not seen them for years, but water beetles abound.

Demiselle damselfly

My old Saluki, sadly gone, (she was 18, which was remarkable), would stand watching the fish, or so we thought. Her long life was attributed to the theft of the floating fish food. Although there are several watering places, including an old dog bowl with a large piece of flint, which allows the small birds a safe bathing pool, but it is not unusual to see sparrows, both house, and hedge, and even a brave robin taking a bath standing on a lily leaf.

Over the years we have had some remarkably tame robins, usually two pairs, with a strict border at the halfway point. The way to a robin’s heart is mealworms, preferably live, and although I no longer have any captive birds which eat mealworms, I always have some, especially at this time of year. Rescued baby little owls have them as part of their diet. With no rescue birds so far this season, the robins benefit. As you will see, I train them to use the falconry glove 🙂

Robin trained for falconry 🙂

One of the things I miss during this time of lockdown is the hours I spent every week exploring the estate where I taught ecology for ten years. During that time I found more than once by having one snap closed on my hand – Gin traps, left in a hedgerow many years before and still set to go off. I have recovered over a dozen, some of which, deactivated, adorn my kitchen wall, along with a pole trap. This trap was taken off the evidence table after a successful prosecution where I was giving evidence to a Magistrates Court.

This morning after some much needed, but all too little rain I found this chap – a black slug. Actually one of the good guys as it preys on other slug. This one is for John Cooper, who I once found operating on a slug many years ago, but never knew why.

Black Slug

By Graham Wellstead.

4 Thoughts

    1. Valerie, a response from Graham: ‘Just ordinary Goldfish. We used to have Ghost Carp and Koi. Koi are not good in a planted pond, they did the plants up.

      Traps – absolutely. I have decommissioned them all (filed of the little nib which holds the plate down. When you have one go off trapping your hand in a hedge, its not funny, really hurts – and no matter how long the trap is set, it still works.’


    2. Response from John Cooper re the slug: ‘As a veterinary surgeon with broad natural history interests, I have anaesthetised many species of animal over the years, ranging from mantids to monkeys. Slugs
      are relatively easy; they are placed in a shallow dish with a few millimetres of water
      (so as not to drown them) containing a water-soluble anaesthetic, such as those
      used for fish. The slug absorbs the anaesthetic through its skin and recovers when it is put back in fresh water. Incidentally, Graham’s black slug is Arion ater, originally named by Linnaeus in the 18th century. In addition to eating other slugs, as Graham correctly states, it does a
      good job devouring dog faeces!’

      There you have it.


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