Hunting & Hunted


Common Frog (Rana temporaria) – Life in the garden pond can be quite a challenge. As featured in a previous post, I watched damselflies hunting flies, snatching them out of the air. Now, as newly emerging damselfies are leaving the water where they have been as larvae for the past year or so, I have seen the frogs leaping out the water in a bid to hunt them for food. There are around 3 or 4 frogs in the pond, as well as all the tadpoles. As if the frogs were not enough, I was but a couple of feet away from a little bird, a Dunnock, as it snatched a freshly emerged damselfy off its perch within the pond. Yet there were dameslflies mating on the margins, coupling to ensure another future generation. Triumph and tragedy in its own little ecosystem.


Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

© Peter Hillman ♦ 7th May 2020 ♦ Rear garden, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Growing Bigger


Common Frog (Rana temporaria) – I can’t believe what a frenzy of activity is going on in the garden pond at the moment. It is teeming with tadpoles and all of them are scraping algae from the rocks, so much so some of them are virtually picked clean. They have grown so much bigger, too. Double-click images to enlarge.


Common Frog Rana temporaria tadpole

Common Frog Rana temporaria tadpole

© Peter Hillman ♦ 24th April 2020 ♦ Rear garden, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Frogs Are Coming


Common Frog (Rana temporaria) – This is an early stage tadpole, and I appear to have zillions of these teeming in my small garden pond at the moment. Note the branch-like appendages either side of the head … these are external gills, which as the tadpole develops will become wrapped in a pocket of skin to become internal. Amazing to think that this little fellow, if all goes well, will become a frog! Double-click for a closer peek.


Common Frog Rana temporaria early stage tadpole

Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 16th March 2020
Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire


End of Season Flowers

Water Mint Mentha aquatica

The Water Mint (Mentha aquatica) has gone mad again this year, spreading its roots and sprouting throughout the garden pond. Yet its sweet sugary goodness attracts many insects, so it is always good in that respect. This is one of the last blooms which I wanted to try and capture before they all disappeared with the advance of autumn.

September 2019 © Pete Hillman.

Getting Bigger

Common Frog Rana temporaria

I have noticed how big the young frogs are now growing in the garden pond. I spied four of them amongst the Water Mint and pond weed poking their heads out the water.

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Feel free to click the images to enlarge and click again to get even closer …


© Pete Hillman August 2019

Around The Garden Pond

Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata) – Over the last three years since my garden pond’s inception it has attacted some interesting and beautiful forms of wildlife. Growing Water Mint attracts these attractively coloured little micro moths. The adult moths lay ther eggs on the plants and the hatching caterpillars feed on the leaves.

Mint Moth Pyrausta aurata

Rear garden, May 2019. Nikon D7200 © Peter Hillman.

Frogs Partying In The Night Pool

Common Frog Rana temporaria

The other night I caught a couple of frogs in and around the garden pond. With temperatures in the high twenties amd touching thirty who can blame them? 🙂

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


Common Frog Rana temporaria, , July 2018, rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Let’s Have Some Marmalade!

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

By pure coincidence as I was photographing the garden pond for the previous blog to my joy I had this delightful little visitor alight on the Yellow Flag Iris.

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

It is called the Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus, and I had to do quite the balancing act, getting my socks wet more than once, to get these photos as it had landed on the Iris which is growing in the pond.

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

At first it appeared to be feeding or drinking water droplets from the flower, but it was also giving its back legs a good washing.

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

Whatever it was doing it certainly brightened up this rainy, grey leaden day for me 🙂

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


May 2018, garden pond, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman Sigma 18-300mm with AML72-01 achromatic macro lens and Sigma 105mm macro lens. Yep, it even gave me time to change lenses between shots.

Garden Pond After 2 Years

Garden Pond

As requested by my blogging friend Vicki (who has a lovely blog called ‘Living With nature’), here are some pics of the garden pond as it has grown and established itself over the past two years. No sun today so very grey and overcast when I took these photos. It’s only very small, but it does attract wildlife. Birds will come and drink or bathe in the water. Hoverflies, damselflies and water beetles have bred in the pond. Frogs and toads visit regular. And the Pfeiffer’s Amber Snail (Oxyloma elegans) has taken up permanent residence there.

Oh, and can you spot the Marmalade? A hoverfly that is? 🙂 I will feature the Marmalade Hoverfly in my next blog.

Garden Pond

Yellow Flag Iris Iris pseudacorus

May 2018, garden pond, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman Sigma 18-300mm.

Spring In The Garden Pond

Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris

Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris, April 2018, rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman

A Breath of Mint

Water Mint Mentha aquatica

Double click to get closer.

Water Mint Mentha aquatica, August 2017, garden pond, Staffordshire, England.

Ischnura elegans II

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans


Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans), rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. July 2017

Propelled

culicine larva

Before I began to write this I thought, shall I just leave folk guessing what this is? Maybe I will, or … we will see …

It is taken from quite an unusal angle, and I suppose it looks like some kind of unusual golden screw with spikes or hairs radiating outwards. Yet it is a living organism. You cannot see any eyes because they are out of shot, which doesn’t really help much, does it?

There are quite a number of these organisms swimming in my garden pond at the moment forming one of the basis of its ecosystem.

Okay, it is a culicine larva, otherwise known as gnat or mosquito larva. I believe they feed on the algae in the pond. They hang from the surface of the water at an odd angle and breathe oxygen through a tube near the tip of the abdomen. They are amongst the very first creatures to colonise a pond, and they provide food for other life forms to thrive.


Rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. July 2017.

Permanent Residence II

Pfeiffer's Amber Snail Oxyloma elegans

One is a start, two is a couple, and three is a party. Pfeiffer’s Amber Snail (Oxyloma elegans).


Rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Making Hearts

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula mating

There is still a lot of activity around the garden pond, as can be seen in the above image.


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) mating, rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Gone Full Cycle

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula mating

From the female I observed last June laying eggs in my garden pond, to the hatched larvae which lived beneath the still water, to their emergence in spring as adults, and now they have gone a full cycle. Here we have a mating pair of  the Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), ensuring the perpetuation of the species.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula mating

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula mating

 


Garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Over Still Waters

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

After emerging from my garden pond the damselflies appeared to have gone off to greener pastures. But they appear to be returning back home, and here is one waiting for small flies to come by to snap out of the air to eat as food, resting on an iris leaf stretched across still waters.


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Emergence

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Out in the garden today, and with blue skies and wall to wall sunshine is was time take the first photos of May. I sat by my pond, and within a couple of minutes I noticed a small damselfly resting on my Yellow Iris growing in the pond. It was in an awkward position to photo, so I thought I might risk coaxing it with my finger into a new position. It actually gripped the end of my finger and allowed me to place it elsewhere. It was very small, and when it flew it flew weakly and didn’t fly very far.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Then as I took a few snaps of it, I noticed a few others on bushes and plants near the pond. They were all the same species, the Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), and appeared to be tenerals, newly emerged. Most of them seemed quite happy to just hang around in the sun as can be seen from this series of images.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Knowing I had Large Red Damselfly nymphs in my garden pond I did wonder whether these had developed from here, but they had only been there for a year, which might just be long enough, I guess.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Please click on the images for larger, mored detailed views.


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) tenerals, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

Nighttime Pond Activities

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) early nymph

I have just popped out to the garden pond to see if there was any nightlife there, maybe a frog or a newt. No, not tonight. But to my utter surprise there was 30 to 40 or more of these Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) larvae on rocks beneath the water apparently feeding on algae. I have seen one or two during the day, but now realise these are very much nocturnal feeders, and didn’t realise how many there were in there. The image of the nymph above was taken last year, so they have grown since then.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) female laying eggs

I think it all goes back to last year  when I spotted this female Large Red Damselfly laying eggs at the bottom of my Water Mint. Apparently they can lay up to 350 eggs at a time!

Flowering Pond

Garden Pond

I finally got around to changing my macro lens for my wide-angle. No big deal really, but I so love my macro. Anyway, it has been such a lovely spring day today with wall to wall sunshine, and for the first time this year it has been warm enough to chill (sounds like a contradiction) by the pond and enjoy the world as it passes slowly and serenely. Sometimes it is the simple things in life, which are totally free, which give one the most pleasure.

Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris

The Marsh Marigold is just pure joy with the light filtering through its golden-yellow petals. When I planted it in the shallows last year I did not know whether it would survive let alone flower. Growing water plants is new to me, and there is always some trepidation when attempting something new, but I guess they do all the hard work, the plants, as I all I do is just remove the dead and tidy up a little around them. So with multiple blooms on the Marsh Marigold I have been quite happy with the results so far.

Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris

Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris

 

First Garden Pond Flower Opens

Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris

The first pond flower of the season has opened up in my garden. One of my favourite water plants, the Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), which I planted last year, shows off a bright yellow bloom. Hopefully a good nectar source for insects. My pond is only small, as can be seen in the image below, but I am amazed how much wildlife it has attracted. It will be 1 year old at the end of April.

Garden Pond

 

Garden Pond – After The First Winter

Garden Pond

I created a small nature pond in my back garden towards the end of April last year, and after a good start, I wondered how it would fair through its first winter.

Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris

Most of the aquatic plants had died down, and the tiny underwater invertebrates had apparently gone to sleep. The only thing that appeared to have stayed awake and active was the Blanket Weed, stringy green algae which has filled out the pond. Now the warmer weather has arrived I have carefully removed some of this weed as I don’t want it to completely overrun the pond.

I am pleased to see the Marsh Marigold is budding and raising itself out of the water as can be seen in the above image, and below the Water Mint has spread and is coming into leaf.

The water has remained pretty clear, and I have seen some damselfly larvae sunning themselves on the rocks below the water’s surface. After resetting some larger rocks on the ponds perimeter, and clearing out some pond debris, I am pleased there is still life in it, and I will look forward to see how it progresses through the spring as the temperatures rise. Ducky, also appears to be quite pleased, too 🙂

Garden Pond

Nature As An Artist

Frozen Pond

Please click on images for full definition.

This is a small rectangle of my garden pond which has frozen over again. The textures, the palette, and the forms and patterns in this one small section make for a painting done by Nature herself.

Photograph taken January 2017, rear garden pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2017. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens.

Toad In A Dustpan

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) toadlet

This toadlet had been hiding in a corner of the front garden under a drift of leaves after the rains and winds we have had lately. Unfortunately he was rudely disturbed for he was so small and well camouflaged he was not spotted until he was hopping in the dustpan.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) toadlet

Although he appeared a little put out by the incident, fortunately he seemed unaffected by the mishap and was released on rocks on the edge of my garden pond. He duly found himself in the water and swam for cover beneath some overhanging vegetation.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) toadlet

Photograph of Common Toad (Bufo bufo) toadlet, taken August 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens.

Lesser Water Boatman

Corixa punctata

Lesser Water Boatman (Corixa punctata)Back in June I found one of my first invertebrates in my garden pond which I had built in April. It was the nymph of the above adult Lesser Water Boatman. I am pleased to have noticed how it has grown into adulthood, and that there are at least two of them swimming around in my pond. The only way to reasonably photograph them is to catch them and place them in a white crock dish, which I finally did today, and that is quite a task in itself. I much prefer to photograph specimens in their natural environment, but some things are virtually impossible to do so. I always release them back safely.

Lesser Water Boatman (Corixa punctata)

Please see my previous post to learn more about the Water Boatman (Corixa punctata.

Photographs of Lesser Water Boatman (Corixa punctata), taken August 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Water Mint

Mentha aquatica

Water Mint (Mentha aquatica)

Not long after making my garden pond earlier this year I planted Water Mint on the margin. It is a strong-smelling mint with large flowerheads comprising of two-lipped lilac-pink petals and crimson sepals. The stems are reddish and hairy with leaves which are oval and coarsely toothed, and often have a reddish tinge. The flowers can grow  up to 6mm long, and the plant up to 1m tall.

It flowers July to September. In the wild it is found at the edge of ponds, pools, ditches and lakes, often growing in the water. It is also marshes, swamps, and similar freshwater habitats. A native species, widespread and common throughout.

The flowers are a good source of nectar for insects, and the leaves a good food source for caterpillars. The plant also has various medicinal properties and culinary uses.

Photograph of Water Mint (Mentha aquatica) taken August 2016, rear garden pond , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

More of The Great Diving Beetle Larva

Today whilst checking the garden pond I noticed how these Great Diving Beetle (Dytiscus Marginalis) larvae are growing bigger, and one was feeding off another. I managed to scoop one out to get some photos before releasing back into the pond. These are helping to keep the gnat larvae numbers down.

Photographs  taken of Great Diving Beetle (Dytiscus Marginalis) larva in August 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Large Red Damselfy Nymph

This morning when I went to have a look at my garden pond under an overcast sky, peering close at the submerged rocks and stones I noticed a few of these early stage damselfy nymps.

My mind went back to June when I saw a Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) female laying eggs at the base of my Water Mint. I consulted one of my many books to see if it was the larva of this damselfly, and I believe it is.

These are just a little smaller than a common garden ant, and can be quite a challenge to photo, especially on an overcast day and submerged in pond water, so I removed one specimen and placed it in a crock dish to have more control over the conditions. It was released back into the water unharmed after it had completed its photo shoot.

I could have to wait for up to 3 years for the larvae to develop into mature flying adult damselflies.

Photographs  taken of Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) early stage nymph in August 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

In The Night Pool #2

I have been in the garden on and off during the week in the dark hours to see what comes out under the cloak of night, and here they are again, two Common Toads (Bufo bufo).

One was on a garden step, and the other was swimming in the pool.

Visit Common Toad (Bufo bufo) to learn more about these wonderful amphibians.

In The Night Pool

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

Finally, I have vertebrate activity in my garden pond. And more than I could have wished for!

I went out after dark tonight to see if I could spot anything going on in or near the pond, and then I saw a toad swimming in the pond towards me. And then, lo and behold, I saw another which appeared to be feeding at the base of my Water Mint.

So from May when I first built the pond, and when it started with a bloom of green algae, then teemed with gnat larvae, and after more invertebrate activity, the ecosystem has evolved and attracted its first vertebrates as I know of.

I am so delighted to have been witness to nature colonising  new territory in the form of this small garden pond, and I hope that if these toads are a pair, that maybe there will be baby toads on the way.

Visit Common Toad (Bufo bufo) to learn more about these wonderful amphibians.

Pond Life

This is life from the garden pond, and some of the life forms that have appeared there since I built it back in May of this year.

I only have a small back garden, so the pond had to be small, but I managed to plant some marginal plants and some underwater oxygenating plants to try to help keep it balanced and healthy.

The first to appear were the Culicine mosquito larvae, a few at first and then the waters began to teem with them. They appeared to be feeding on algae which had soon taken hold on the rocks and stones. I generally find the larvae hanging from the surface of the water at an angle as they breathe air through a tube near the tip of the abdomen.

The mosquito larvae attracted predacious beetle larvae like the Great Diving Beetle (Dytiscus Marginalis) as seen below. I photographed this in the shallows as it fed on a mosquito larva. It is in an eraly stage of development.

The mosquito larvae soon changed into pupae in readiness for the adult flies, completing the insect cycle, which in warm weather, and from egg to adult, can take just two weeks. These pupae do not feed, but move rapidly through the water in jerking motions to avoid predation.

I saw tiny silvery beetles crawling over the flat stones in the shallows. I believe this is a Laccobius species, which are mainly scavengers.

There were insect in the air also, damselflies and hoverflies circled and landed to investigate this new waterhole. The hoverfly below is called the Sun Fly (Helophilus pendulus), and has become a regular visitor.

Rat-tailed maggots appeared in the water, larvae of a fly similar to the above, with long tales which helps them breath underwater. They feed on decaying matter.

A water boatman nymph, coloured like amber, was seen swimming beneath the surface of the water. It is called the Lesser Water Boatman (Corixa punctata).

I feel very lucky and privileged to have witnessed life take a hold in the garden pond, and will look forward to the coming days, months and years to see what else I may discover.

A Regular Visitor

Since I have built my garden wildlife pond this colourful fly has become a regular visitor.

It is called the Sun Fly (Helophilus pendulus), and sometimes more than one visits at a time, buzzing around quite noisily, alighting on stones and vegetation by the pond. They buzz around each other, maybe male and female in a courtship dance? or maybe they are two males battling for territory?

Whatever they are doing, they are fascinating to observe.

Photographs taken May and June 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire.

Another Damsel Pays A Visit

The afternoons seem to be the time the damselflies like to visit my garden pond and hang around a little. Yesterday a red one visited, and today a blue one, or rather a light greenish-blue one. This one was another female called the Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans).

Photographs taken June 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire.

Red Damselfy Drops By

This afternoon I happen to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. As I am on holiday this week, I was relaxing by my garden pond when I saw a Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) alight on a nearby plant. I grabbed my camera and got one shot off when it lifted off and dropped to the base of my Water Mint growing in the pond. To my surprise it looked like it was laying eggs at the base of the stem. It was there for a short while, then it shifted position to another stem to do the same thing.

Photographs  taken of Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)  in June 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Lesser Water Boatman nymph

Corixa punctata

I built my garden pond this April in the hope I could attract more wildlife to my garden. It has amazed me how in a relatively short space of time life has took hold there and has flourished. Below is a bug, not a beetle, but a bug which is also known as the ‘Common Water Boatman’. I have seen it a few times diving beneath the water of my small garden pond, and finally, today, I have managed to get a few photographs of it. I discovered it is not an adult, but a nymph, and was surprised by its green glasslike appearance. I hope it will stick around so I can see it grow up.

This boatman swims the right way up, instead of upside down on its back like similar species do. The middle and hindlegs are about the same length. The upper body surface is flattened without a central keel, and the underside is pale. Body length 12 to 14mm.

It feeds mainly on plant debris from the bottom of ponds, but also algae and diatoms. They use their hair-fringed front legs to filter through the water. It can fly, and whilst under water it carries bubbles of water under its wings.

It is active all year round, and found in still and slow-moving water like ponds and lakes. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken June 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire.

Rat-tailed Maggot

 Eristalis tenax

I beleive this is the larva of the Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax), which I found swimming in my garden pond this morning. It was very hard to photo for it constantly kept moving around. It swims by whipping its long tail through the water, and it also uses this tail as a siphon which can extend to about 5cm long acting as a snorkel to breathe under water whilst feeding on decaying organic material. It also has stubby legs to grip rocks and soil below the water or out of the water.

It lives in still or stagnant water like ponds and ditches, and when fully grown it leaves the water to find a sheltered, drier habitat to pupate. The pupae are reddish-brown in colour and retains the long tail which makes it resemble a small rodent.

Photographs taken June 2016, garden pond, Staffordshire.