View from The Wildlife Patch
It’s hard to believe that the year is nearly halfway over. I am still waiting for the spring rains to bring the Patch into life. Of the wild plant mixtures sown, some seeds have germinated but many are still awaiting the right conditions before raising their little green heads. This is a bit disappointing but not a disaster by any means. These are wild plant seeds and adapted to survival in adverse conditions. They will come up sooner or later, sometimes after laying dormant for years.
The pond now has its full compliment of plants and is looking good. Tadpoles are growing and the Smooth Newts are eating tadpoles and laying eggs which will duly develop into “Newtpoles” which are like frog tadpoles but a bit slimmer with external gills. My Wife Pauline, and I were there today removing blanket weed which is a type of algae. It is surprising how many invertebrates are in the pond already. Many like the Great pond snails and Water hog lice – a close relative of Woodlice – and others will have been introduced with the plants. Some insects including several Water Beetle species, Pond Skaters and Water Boatmen have flown in attracted by the sight and smell of the pond.
Whilst we were there, Dragonflies and Damselflies were landing on the water plants. These lovely insects must surely be familiar to everyone. Dragonflies are the large, often huge and colourful four winged insects that sometimes visit gardens, especially if there is garden pond around. Damselflies include the smaller, often brilliant coloured insects that look a bit like bits of blue of green straw floating on air around water margins. There are also larger, often blue bodied damselflies that often have a black band on their wings. These latter are often in abundance on the River Nene in the height of summer. It’s safe to say that Damselflies rest with their wings along the back in parallel with the body, whereas Dragonflies rest with their wings sticking out, often at a right angle to the body also Dragonflies are usually larger.
Both groups are carnivorous in all active stages of development. Dragonflies patrol a “beat” catching insects on the wing whilst damselflies mostly catch smaller prey by sitting on a fixed object and rising to catch small flies etc. All lay eggs in water or on plants above water. I remember watching one of the banded Damselfly species at an old stone quarry in South Warwickshire. They flew joined in pairs. Both would land on a rush sticking out of maybe 4 feet of water. We could watch the female in the crystal water, as she descended the rush stem to it’s base, then deposit an egg there whilst the male waited, sometimes flying a short distance before returning to collect the female as she reached the surface to repeat the process on another stem. Maybe we will eventually see this in our pond. All have highly predatory larvae that develop underwater often taking years according to the species. Some Damselflies were seen last year laying on plants in the area where the pool now sits. Maybe they had a premonition.
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