Those who clustered around the ponds had a rare treat.
These folk from the Cheshire Active Naturalists really know their stuff.
Both are professional ecologists: each with complementary expertise.
Both able to entertain and inform: each able to answer the questions showered on them by the members of the group.
How long do newts live?
Where are the frogs and toads when they are not in the pond?
What kind of bats live here?
Answers: upto 22 years (who knew?), in the woods and hedgerows, pipistrelles.
Although the ponds here were only created 2 years ago, they already support a rich variety of species. Wandering snails are a marker species and their presence shows that the environment is favourable as they have migrated into this new site. The abundance of snail eggs is also a sign of a healthy pond.
While the water around the edge of the pond felt warm to the touch (warmer than the air temperature), the absence of some pond species suggests retarded invertebrate emergence. (Blame the weather.) Perhaps you had to be an expert to be aware of this. For the rest of us there were plenty of other things to remark upon.
Rat-tailed maggot (hoverfly larvae)
Blue tailed damsel fly (female without a blue tail)
Bird shell (broken pieces on the edge of the pond): food for snails providing essential calcium for their shell. This tiny wandering snail will make use of that as it grows to maturity.
There is restricted access to the site. This enables the ecology to develop with minimal disturbance. Access to the ponds is only permitted with close supervision from the warden. Handling newts can require particular expertise and certification. The newts that were netted and examined in the trays were carefully returned to the pond.
It was fascinating to see the 3 Newt species (Palmate, Smooth , Great Crested) and be able to observe them at close quarters. The flash of orange on the underbelly of the smooth newt (male) something that few of us had seen before.
As there were plenty of newt eggs on willow herb at the edge of the pond, there’s hope for a thriving population and every sign that these ponds have provided a new habitat and increased diversity at Chadkirk.
By 8pm, in the air above the pond, a cloud of gnats: food for bats that would emerge as darkness deepened. Studying bats can wait for another meeting. As the bats ate gnats, we were in the chapel chatting and having a snack of our own.
Next month: July 5th monthly meeting will be a busy time. Organisation and planning for the Chadkirk Festival on 29th July.