Weeks of hot dry weather with only two brief showers bringing relief from the drought. I found myself drawn to water – green gloopy ponds to be precise. I visited a friend’s garden where I found a khaki pond, the surface like mildewed glass.
On the water, dozens of small whirligig beetles, black and shiny, each with a headlight reflection, skimmed around in circles, glancing off each other like dodgem cars. They have compound eyes divided into two halves so they can see above and below the water.
Pond skaters balanced on tiptoe making tiny dents in the filmy surface of the pond and displaying elegant choreography as they gracefully moved in groups towards drowning insects. Just beneath the surface, small newts, limbs spread in the warm water, looked like miniature crocodiles. Water boatmen skulled about beneath the surface.
Then I took my two small grandchildren pond dipping at RSPB Radipole in Weymouth. Armed with nets and a plastic tray we leaned precariously over an inlet of water shaded by reeds. The surface was covered with a confetti of tiny bright green leaves. Dipping our nets below this we came up with a stickleback which we decanted into our tray where it swam about among a soup of small wriggly pollywogs. We identified a case-less caddisfly lava and found a tiny water snail.
In my sister’s garden, wiry turquoise damselflies flashed around the pond. We dipped and brought up some tiny newt-poles with frilly gills. Water lilies prompted a haiku –
porcelain petals –
a fragrant teacup floating
white on dark water