Friday, 26 August 2011

Keeping an even Keel

The Safari had the nets in freshwater last night when a community group came down for a pond dipping session. Before they arrived we had another quick look at the sea but only saw a single Gannet trying to get out of the path of a huge rainstorm heading coastwards – looked like we were about to get a soaking.
What would the 3-spined Sticklebacks left for us to find? During the pre-dip demo we showed how to fill the trays with water and inadvertently managed to catch the only Red Water Mite of the session.
It first appeared that there was not a lot other than snails in the pond. As usual the three common snails were quick to find their way in to the trays, Keeled Ramshorn,

Wandering Snail and Greater Pond Snail being the three. Then, as the children began to tire of these and the fish, they started to look more closely at their nets and out came numerous front-swimming Water Boatmen, Coxia sp. Two speedy Whirligig Beetles successfully evaded capture, probably by flying away as they seemed to vanish into thin air after being chased by several nets.
A damselfly nymph was found clinging to a piece of vegetation, probably a Blue Tailed Damselfly but this evening no-one caught the (only?) Common Darter dragonfly nymph.
Eventually a (the?) Common Ramshorn Snail was brought to the surface and the race was on to find something else a little more ‘out of the ordinary. One child broke the bank with this year’s only back-swimming Water Boatman, Notonecta sp. These can give a bit of a nip with that big strong and very pointy proboscis. For some reason they haven’t colonised until now, usually they are fairly numerous.

A pale leech came up towards the end of the evening, iSpotted as an Erpobdella sp.

Think the last Gardening Club the youngsters attend before they go to college might well be a total trawl of the Sticklebacks from the pond to allow the invertebrates a chance to multiply and others to colonise.
This morning Patch 1 was very quiet but a little excitement came in the form of the juvenile Peregrine sitting round the back of the tower. When we were in the park we heard some Peregrine commotion going on but could see through the trees. Getting back underneath the tower the youngster was now sitting right at the top when the male swooped round doing two circuits before joining her, coming right over our head abut two house-heights above us – magical.
The drive in to work gave us a Wheatear on the grass around the base of the cenotaph whist waiting for the light to change – never seen one there before!
The sea on Patch 2 was well up the wall and other than a dozen or so fishing Sandwich Terns nothing was doing. Later, at lunchtime, they were still at it and we witnessed a bit of pair-bonding feeding with (presumably) a male carrying a Pipefish (?) to a waiting female sat on the water which she then took and ate.
In the distance we spotted the trawler Isadale and then back in the office discovered we could track it’s movements with this world-wide shipping site
Looks like she’s fishing commercially rather than doing fishery survey work, hope the skipper is steering well clear of our dolphins.
With no cetaceans to be seen the only mammals were two Grey Seals, one well to the south the other well to the north.
Where to next? Ooohhh a long holiday weekend to look forward to with some safari’s further afield planned, hopefully to include something with keeled scales.
In the meantime let us know what’s trawling through your outback.

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