Of Wetland and Water

Monday, July 16th 2018

On a day when a couple of hours rain was most welcome, the topic of the blog just had to do with water and things living in this habitat.  This morning, Anne Carter of the Freshwater Habitats Trust ran a training session on how to identify two of the rarities found at Foxglove, the Pond Mud Snail (Omphiscola glabra) and Pillwort (Pilularia globulifera).  These are both found among the older ponds on the Wetland, although the more obeservant visitors may also have seen them in the Field Centre's Activity Room.

The training included ways of identifying the snails by size, ratio of opening to shell length and whether the opening was on the left or right of the shell when viewed from underneath.  Pillwort may look like grass species but there are a number of clues to help identify it.  As a fern it spreads through rhizomes and also has a distinctive “shepherd's crook” at the tip of the stem as it unfurls.

Having seen the methods of identification on the slide presentation, it was time for a very brief visit to the Wetland to see if we could find any Pillwort.  Going via the Wetland Hide meant that we could let the two visitors in there know that we would be walking across the area.  Going out to the Wetland, we came upon a number of Great Crested Newts (Triturus cristatus) under the metal sheet.

It wasn't the first time I was on the Wetland today as I'd gone to check the flow into the first pond and chanced upon three very small Mallard chicks rushing to hide while their mother was doing her best to appear part of the floating vegetation with her head down so that her eyes were only just above the water.

Having found two very small patches of Pillwort, which lead to discussion about the best way to manage the ponds to help it develop and spread, we returned to the Field Centre to finish off.  Later on, while checking the path around the Lake, a small movement almost underfoot revealed another of the reserve's amphibian species, although this one was not so easy to identify due to still being very small and moving off very quickly, so unfortunately the image is a little blurred.  This looks like a newly metamorphosed Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) but it moved away too quickly for me to be sure.

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