Saturday, 11 July 2015

Bug hunting and pond dipping with the experts

Today we joined in with a BioBlitz taking place at the Field Studies Centre in Amersham. A BioBlotz is when a team of naturalists try to find as many types of animals and plants as they can during the day, identifying and recording them, then logging their findings on local and national wildlife databases. Anyone can join in, so we went along for some bug hunting and pond dipping with the experts.

The kids were most excited about the pond dipping so we had a go at that first.

There were lots of dragonflies and damselflies flying over the pond, including a huge blue emperor dragonfly and a blue and black broad-bodied chaser. The kids soon caught all sorts of little creatures, which they put into water-filled trays so they could examine them closer. The smooth newts were probably their favourite finds though!

 Some of their other discoveries ...

Pond snail - It had a wonderful pointy shell and its curved antennae made it
look a bit like a horned Viking helmet!

Dragonfly nymph

Greater water boatman (swimming on its back) and a mayfly nymph

The discarded skin of a damselfly nymph
We then went up to the woods and found the team of experts who were BioBlitzing that part of the site. We met up with Ryan Clark, Martin Harvey and the rest of the team. Ryan was sporting the obligatory entomologists floppy hat and waving a net around. All very inspiring stuff when your 9, although Bug Mad Girl later told me she thought he should have been wearing a white coat, as he's a scientist!

A bit of bug hunting and BMG found another newt hiding under the bark on a log.
A smooth newt and a slug
Some more finds included a speckled cricket, ladybird larvae, ladybird pupae, a toad, slugs and lots of woodlice.
Speckled cricket
Little Brother had decided he was going to record our findings, so Ryan gave him a hand and made sure he wrote down what we found, where it was, who found it and how many we found. I think we all must have helped with the spelling!

We walked back through the woods and BMG did a bit more pond dipping. She then had a go at sweep netting around the pond, where she caught a newly emerged damselfly and a sloe shieldbug.

Back through the woods
Having a go at sweep netting
Newly emerged damselfly - still needs to pump its wings up

Sloe shieldbug
It was really hot, so he kids had a drink in the shade and were just beginning to flag, when Martin brought the 'bug hoover' out. They both immediately brightened up, especially Little Brother who loves a gadget! Martin hoovered the grass and emptied the contents out into a tray. There were ants, spiders, harvestmen, beetles and another cricket. Little Brother got to put them all back in the grass, which seemed to make him happy!

Doing the hoovering!
We were even given a couple of identification sheets for freshwater and woodland invertebrates, for completing a record of our discoveries. I'm sure they're going to come in very handy!


  1. ooh I love a bit of pond dipping. This sounds like a brilliant day!