On a balmy evening in July members of the Horndean Biodiversity Group and the Horndean Parish Council Countryside Team met with Francesca Dunn from Freshwater Habitats to survey the waters of the ponds at Hazleton Common and understand the proper way to find out what is lurking in our local ponds.
We met at Morrisons and crossed the beautiful wildflower verges of Dell Piece East to the footpath running alongside the A(3)M and made our way into Hazleton Common and to the ponds. There Francesca explained how to divide the pond into difference zones and habitats in order to get maximum species.
We began in the largest pond and Francesca demonstrated her net technique, sweeping from side to side before bringing the net out and emptying it into a shallow tray already prepared with pond water. What a catch!
In her first sweep of the pond, we had smooth newts, several species of larva including dragonfly, caddis and mayfly and lots of tiny wiggly things that we had to consult our crib sheet to identify.
We also had two spiders carrying their young in a ball under their bodies who were not pleased to be out of the pond, or in close proximity with each other and we had to separate them on one occasion. We then had a go with the net ourselves but our various techniques needed some practice.
We then looked at the PondNet recording forms that are very simple to follow with good illustrations to help differentiate between types of larva and other wigglies. They are easy to fill out on line or in paper copy and once submitted are invaluable to Freshwater Habitats by providing key information that can be used to better understand and protect pond wildlife communities in general, but also may include some rarities.
The survey sheets could demonstrate both the reasons for changes, and importantly, to identify which actions will be most effective to protect species and stem any declines.
As the light was fading we made our way back admiring the beautiful sunset across the common with thoughts of what might be in our own and neighbouring ponds. The necessary equipment, such as nets, trays and identification sheets can be loaned from the Countryside Team.
If you want further information or would like to join any of our surveying projects please email us. Enthusiasm, not expertise required.
Our thanks go to Sophie Trice for organizing this training session.