What a difference a sunny day makes! It felt so good to get a bit of sunshine yesterday, and even nicer to have a weekend day of warm sunshine. What a huge treat after the cold grey rain of the last few weeks. It’s given me a chance to spend some time pond-gazing, and I found some rather exciting things going on.
At the deep end of the pond the water is completely covered with vegetation; starwort fills the area and water mint, bog bean and irises push up through it. The starwort provides great cover for all the nymphs and pond critters, although the tadpoles mainly prefer the open water towards the shallow end, and nibbling the remaining blanket weed. Yesterday I realised that there was a lot of movement occurring just under the surface of the starwort, and when I looked closely I saw that there were dozens of dragonfly nymphs there. They’d crawled up to the surface and were clustered in groups. To see so many of them together was really odd; there’s something slightly sinister about them slowly clambering over each other, jostling for postition in a big nymph pile! Several of them were actually pushing themselves out of the water, so I’m guessing that they’re preparing themselves to emerge and undergo metamorphosis. I’m surprised to see them all together like that though; maybe they’re getting in some sunbathing to absorb as much heat and energy from the sun as possible, since they disappeared below the surface again yesterday afternoon once the pond was in shade. They were back in postion again this morning; I counted at least thirty in a small area.
Another notable thing was that these nymphs are, I think, those of the broad bodied chaser dragonfly, Libellula depressa. The nymphs characteristically cover themselves with debris, appearing very fuzzy. That’s how they’ve always looked before, but yesterday I realised they all look very shiny and tidy – no debris to be seen. Either the tadpoles have nibbled it all off (they seem to like doing this; clearly they enjoy living very dangerously!) or, more likely, they have had their final moult before they emerge. This would fit with the very clearly defined wing buds you can see on their backs. Either that, or these are a different species and I’ve managed not to notice many dozens of them lurking in the depths! I don’t think so though.
There’s plenty of other insect life in there too. There are lots of miniscule backswimmers now, and far fewer adults. I took a picture of one that had crawled out of the water; it’s odd to see the top of one when all you usually see is its underside as it rows through the water looking for prey.
There are eight or so frogs in the pond at the moment and I love watching them – they’re so comical and full of character. There’s enormous variability in the colouring of the common frog, as some of these pictures show. There’s a beautiful fully grown one with very blonde colouring who is shown here genorously giving a pond snail a piggy back, and then later on an excursion across the lawn. She’s very beautiful. At the other end of the colour spectrum there’s a little dark coloured frog who has no discernable markings at all and none of the golden eye colouring either – it’s hard to believe they’re the same species.