The NHBS Guide to Pond Dipping

For many naturalists, some of the most exciting encounters with wildlife as a child were around the edge of a pond, with a net in hand and a sampling tray filled with murky water. It is an excellent activity for children of all ages and is a great way to introduce them to a wide range of plants, insects and amphibians. It offers the opportunity to learn about food chains and food webs as well as discovering some of the amazing insect transformations during their lifecycles. For school groups, a pond dipping trip will satisfy many of the criteria for learning about life processes and living things, and it can also be used to provide inspiration for art, maths or English projects. Younger children will enjoy drawing or painting pictures of the creatures they find, as well as writing stories about their experiences.

Don’t forget that pond dipping isn’t just for children. For adults feeling out of touch with nature, it is an ideal way to reconnect. Ponds, pools and small lakes are also an integral part of our ecosystems and surveying the plant and animal diversity within them is an important way of assessing their health. If you are interested in volunteering as a pond surveyor, take a look at the Freshwater Habitats Trust website for more information.

What you need:

White tray – Rummage through your recycling bin for an old ice cream tub or place a sheet of white paper in the bottom of a baking tin. Our heavy-duty sampling trays come in three sizes and are sturdy enough to be carried full of water.
Net – For younger children a small aquarium net is ideal. For adults and older children, a larger pond net will allow you to reach further into the pond.
Collecting pots – Although it’s perfectly fine to observe your catch directly in the tray, individual pots, particularly those with a magnifying lid, are helpful for looking more closely at individual specimens.
•  Field guide – A guide to freshwater animals will help you to identify the species that you find in your pond. You’ll find a few of our favourites at the bottom of this post.

When and where to go:

May to August are the best months for pond dipping as this is when most creatures will be active and breeding. Any body of still water is suitable for studying, but make sure that you have permission to access the area and that the bank of the pond provides safe access to the water. Ponds with a variety of vegetation and open water are likely to support a high diversity of species.

What to do:
  1. Half fill a tray or bucket with water from the pond and set aside. Do the same with your collecting pots and/or magnifying pots (if using).
  2. Use a net to dip into the pond. Sweeping in a figure of eight will ensure that you retain the catch. Areas around the edge of the pond, especially near vegetation, tend to be the most productive. Take care not to scoop up mud from the bottom of the pond, as this will clog up your net and make it difficult to see what you have caught.
  3. Gently turn the net inside out into the tray. Once everything has settled, you should be able to view a fascinating selection of pond-dwelling creatures. A pipette can be used to transfer individual specimens to a magnifying pot for a closer look.
  4. Use a guide such as the Freshwater Name Trail or the FSC What’s in your Pond pack to identify the creatures found. For adults or older children, a more in-depth guide such as Ponds and Small Lakes or the Bloomsbury Concise Pond Wildlife Guide will cover a greater range of species.
  5. When you have finished, make sure to return all water and inhabitants to the pond. Trays, pots and nets should be rinsed and dried thoroughly before storage.

Pond dipping equipment and books:

At NHBS we stock both individual and class-sized pond dipping kits. These contain nets, trays, pots, magnifier and pipettes, as well as the excellent (and waterproof!) Freshwater Name Trail which will help you to identify the key animals found in UK ponds. Or why not choose from our top 10 list of equipment and books for pond dipping:

1. Pond Net
Made at our workshop in Devon, the Pond Net is a high quality, lightweight net with a removable bag for cleaning. The bag is made from woven 1mm mesh which is ideal for pond life. Also available in a telescopic version.

2. What’s in your Pond?
Find out the names of the insects, plants, amphibians and reptiles that you see with this wildlife pack. Features three of the FSC’s popular fold-out charts: Reptiles and Amphibians (frogs, toads, newts, slow worms, lizards and snakes), Freshwater Name Trail (classic pond dipping guide) and Commoner Water Plants (from lilypads to water mint). Also includes a card-sized magnifier.

 

3. Heavy-duty Sampling Trays
These strong white trays are ideal for pond dipping as they are robust and stable enough to be carried when full of water. Available in three sizes.

 

4. Bug Pots (Set of 10)
This set of ten Bug Pots is perfect for pond dipping, as well as general nature studies. Each pot has a 2.5x magnifying lid and a measurement grid of 5mm squares on the base. They are ideal for storing and observing specimens.

5. Field Guide to Pond and River Wildlife of Britain and Europe

The Field Guide to Pond and River Wildlife of Britain and Europe will help you to identify more than 200 species that can be found in our freshwater habitats, including marginal plants, aquatic plants, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates such as pond snails, crayfish, water spiders and dragonflies.

 

6. Economy Telescopic Pond Net
With an aluminium telescopic handle and knotless fine mesh net bag, this pond net will not harm specimens and is guaranteed not to run if holed. Not suitable for heavy-duty use.

7. Ponds and Small Lakes: Microorganisms and Freshwater Ecology

Suitable for adults and older children, this book introduces some of the less familiar and microscopic species found in ponds such as diatoms, desmids and rotifers. Along with excellent photographs, the book provides useful identification keys so that readers can identify, explore and study this microscopic world.

 

8. Pipettes
Small pipettes are extremely handy for sorting through and picking up tiny creatures found when pond dipping. They can also be used to transfer samples to microscope slides to look at the microscopic specimens found.

 

9. 125ml Collecting Pots 
These sampling containers are made from see-through rigid polystyrene and have secure screw-on lids. They are recommended for liquids and so are ideal for keeping specimens when pond dipping or rock pooling. Available either singly or in packs of 10, 30 or 100.

 

10. Bloomsbury Concise Pond Wildlife Guide

This concise guide is packed with information on more than 190 species of animal and plant that inhabit ponds, pools and small lakes in northern Europe. Among the fascinating animals featured are freshwater sponges, hydras, water bears, worms, leeches, water snails, dragonflies and damselflies, frogs and toads, bats, fish, birds, water voles and otter.

 

Creating your own pond:

During the lockdown imposed by Covid-19, the UK and many other countries have seen a rapid growth of interest in nature, especially found in gardens. It is widely considered that the best way to encourage and benefit wildlife in your garden is by adding a pond. There are many books to help in this process, such as Making Wildlife Ponds or the more complete guide called The Pond Book by Pond Conservation.

New Firmware update for the Anabat Scout Bat Detector

Titley Scientific have released a new update for the Anabat Scout Bat Detector. The firmware update (Version 1.0), is an important update that should be applied to all detectors as soon as possible.

The Version 1.0 fixes the following bugs and introduces the following changes:

  • Fixed volume adjustment bug fixed, allowing the detector to remember user-set volumes.
  • Added a trigger min event to settings window.
  • The max memo file time is now set to 10 minutes (was 10 seconds).
  • Added a warning message when clock battery gets low.
  • Disable the audio output when recording a memo; reducing and preventing interference.
  • Fixed a bug that sometimes causes log files to be created in the root directory of the SD card.

Titley Scientific are continually improving the software to add features, remove bugs and address performance issues. It is vital that you install new updates as soon as they become available to ensure your detector runs smoothly.

 

How to perform the update:

Step One – The Anabat Scout is updated by downloading the new software onto an SD card. Simply download the update file using this link (.adx file) and copy this file, in its original format, in the root directory of the SD card. Make sure the file is named scout.adx. You can use the same SD card to update multiple Scouts.

Step Two – Insert the SD card and fresh batteries into your Scout then power it on. After a short period the message: “Firmware update 1.0 available. Would you like to update now?” will appear. Press the “Yes” key (top right hand soft key) to start the update. Do not remove the batteries or power off the detector while the update is being installed. Two squares will scroll across the display while the update is being installed and then the detector will restart. The update is now complete.

Note: To check that the update was successful or that the latest firmware is already installed on the Scout go to: Menu, Other, Update and check the version is 1.0

If any further assistance or advice is required, please get in touch with our equipment team at equipment@nhbs.com.

 

 

 

NHBS Guide to Dormouse Survey Equipment

Dormice are a distinctive family of rodents, found widely across Eurasia and Africa. The Hazel Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is a native British species which resides primarily in deciduous woodland. They are protected by EU law because of their rapidly declining numbers – studies suggest they have suffered a 72% population reduction in the last 22 years. Dormice are an important bioindicator as they are particularly sensitive to habitat and population fragmentation, so their presence is an indication of habitat integrity.

To enforce legal protection and ensure the success of conservation projects, current data about the distribution of Hazel Dormice is very important. A variety of survey equipment and methods can be used by licenced dormouse handlers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Nest Boxes

Perhaps the simplest survey technique to determine dormouse presence is searching for the nest box residents. Dormouse nest boxes are largely similar to standard bird boxes, but with the entrance hole facing the tree. Nest boxes can be important conservation tools as they can boost the local dormouse population density and aid re-introduction schemes.

The Standard Dormouse Nest Box is built from FSC softwood and has a removable lid with a wire closure for monitoring. This box can also come with a perspex inner screen allowing  surveyors to check the boxes inhabitants, without the risk of escape or  injury.

The more resilient Heavy Duty Dormouse Box is made from thicker  ¾” FSC marine plywood and is ideal for long-term monitoring projects. 

Dormouse Tubes

Dormouse nest tubes are a cheap, easy and popular method of determining the presence of dormice within a habitat. They can be an effective alternative to using wooden nest boxes.

The tubes consist of a wooden tray and a nesting tube. Dormice make their nests in the tubes and it is these that are used as indicators of their presence in the habitat. Nest tubes can be set up and checked without a licence until the first evidence of dormouse activity is found. After that, only a licensed handler can check them. For attaching to a tree, Hook and Loop Strapping is a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic cable ties, as they are reusable, reducing plastic waste.

Dormouse Footprint Tunnels

The latest dormouse surveying technique uses footprint tunnels. This technique was created by Suffolk Wildlife Trust with PTES funding and has since been recommended in the CIEEM magazine In Practice in September 2018.

It is a non-invasive survey technique, which does not require a licence as the chance of disturbing dormice is very low. The 40cm tube, houses a wooden platform which contains the charcoal ink and paper on which footprints are left. Compared with nest tube surveys, footprint tunnels can reduce the survey period required and provide an indication of the presence or likely absence of dormice at a site.

Dormouse Nut Hunting

Dormice leave very characteristic marks when they eat Hazel nuts. They gnaw a round hole in the shell leaving a smooth edge with very few teeth marks, unlike mice or voles. Systematic nut searches under Hazel trees are still regarded as one of the best survey techniques, only hand lenses and a keen eye are required.

Accessories and books

Below are some accessories and books that are commonly used for dormouse surveys and monitoring:

Small Mammal Holding Bag
£3.60
Pesola Light-Line Spring Scales
From £35.00

Pesola PTS3000 Electronic Scale

£126

Heavy Duty Extra-Large Polythene Sample Bags
£0.70 per bag

Animal Handling Gloves
£5.69 5.99

LED Telescopic Inspection Mirror
£11.99 

How to Find and Identify Mammals
£11.99

Britain’s Mammals: A field guide to the mammals of Britain and Ireland
£12.99

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