COLUMN: The beasts that lurk in our ponds

Going for a dip In front of our very noses, terrible monsters lurk. Armed with sophisticated weaponry, they stalk their unsuspecting prey. Scenes from a sci-fi horror? No, just day-to- day life in your local pond or ditch.

When was the last time you took a net to see what you could catch in a pond? It really is great fun and one of our most popular activities for families here at Frampton Marsh. Kids really get into it, as you are never quite sure what the next sweep of the net will bring up.

One of the most fearsome e creatures to find is a dragonfly nymph. Like many insects, dragonflies have several life stages. The young version lives in ponds and is a superb hunter there. It is aided by two novel adaptations. Firstly, it is jet propelled. It can blow a jet of water out of its tail, giving it a remarkable turn of speed. And secondly, it has spring-loaded jaws which shoot forward some distance to chop down on its prey. Shrimps, tadpoles and other smaller pond dwellers have no chance if this mini-monster gets close.

But there are lots of creatures to discover. Pond skaters, who use their light weight and water- repelling hairs to actually move about on top of the water without getting wet. They are joined by whirligig beetles, whizzing about in little circles. Under the surface are diving beetles, swimming through the weeds before coming up for more air. Sticklebacks gather in warm water, whilst everyone loves to catch a newt. They lurk in the weeds, looking like miniature dragons.

If you don’t have your own pond to sip in, you can always pop down to Frampton Marsh to dip in ours.

If you do so, we suggest you borrow our nets. There are various diseases (especially a nasty one killing frogs) that can be spread by nets.

l Dr Chris Andrews is Visitor Experience Manager for RSPB Frampton Marsh

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