Freshwater wildlife

July 18th 2020

David Beeson

As much as many of us enjoy seeing and recording wildlife we need to engage others – especially young people. Big Butterfly Count and RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch are following that approach although the oldies tend to dominate. I do not believe the results are taken really seriously as the sampling is not regulated. Yet, I’m not knocking them as they do encourage involvement.

Some of my grandchildren descended this weekend from London and aquatic ecology was on my agenda.

The garage was set out as a laboratory and a professional water net had been purchased.

Initially my small pond was sampled: some dragonfly nymphs, two types of snails and myriads of waterflea-type organisms. Not a great catch, but we only had a minimal volume to search through – which did keep interest for long enough.

Upper reaches of the River Anton
Old cressbeds

Phase two was a local chalk stream, shallow enough that fun could be had and safety was not an issue. Kick samples of the gravel bed and amongst weed was well received.

What’s that?

And back home for sorting.

This time the catch was more divergent: bullhead fish, a miniature minnow, plenty of caddisfly larvae, may and stonefly nymphs, wonderfully interesting planarians, a few fly larvae and water beetles. A chance to view an alga (Spirogyra) and to see its cells was lovely addition.

I was lucky. The children were enthusiastic and absorbed plenty of new information and observed the diversity of life.


If you have never encountered planarians, do investigate them. Their mouth is mid-way along the body and is both mouth and anus … no through gut. If you cut the head in half it grows two heads, with the world record 64 heads on one planarian. Cut in half and the head section grows a new tail and the tail a head … and much more.

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See: – Rocky Mountains, USA and Index.

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