Posted by: lensweb | July 10, 2018

Would you like to go Pond Dipping with LENS?

July 9 Monday Pond Dipping at Manor Farm LNR

Meet 7pm Car park Manor Farm, High Road, Toton, NG9 6EL Approx 1 mile

Leader Marion Bryce and Alan Heath.


It was another fine evening as we gathered everyone together at the mound of the ancient Toton Manor House where detailed notice boards illustrate the results of the 2014 archaeological dig on the site which located the structural remains and proved the location of the Manor House; investigated structural remains belonging to a mill near the basketball court; traced dry water courses relating to past water management systems and land division, including probable mill leats or races; And plotted the remains of a medieval ridge and furrow field system (for details see Toton Unearthed). This pretty much confirmed what everyone knew anyway as older people remember the old Manor Farm House which was knocked down in 1952.

We continued our walk past the site of the old mill, contrasting the closely mown grass of the park with the long grass and scrub of Toton Fields Local Nature Reserve. A large hazel bush and an oak tree grew in an open area but we didn’t see any of the purple hairstreaks rumoured to be on site. By the River Erewash the path was well cleared but either side we were hemmed in by blackthorn and blackberry carelessly strewn with white bryony but with no views of the river. At the bridge we paused to look towards Toton Sidings but we didn’t see the little egret today. Walking along the ridged, recently declared although ancient footpath between Portland Road Toton and Cleveland Avenue Long Eaton we admired the standing deadwood of some old black poplars which had been lopped by Western Power for daring to grow so near the overhead wires.

Tramping over the green bridge over the River Erewash overflow we could see great yellowcress, great willowherb and reed canary grass flowering in the water. We were now in Derbyshire and had come to meet our local pond dipping expert, Alan Heath, at Manor Farm Local Nature Reserve.

Finding safe passage from the thistle and nettle lined path we pushed through bone dry and crackling tall tufted hair grass, meadow foxtail and timothy grass. Naturally regenerated water plants had grown in the scrape, reedmace (Typha latifolia) is choking the shallow pond which has a collar of soft rush with some compact and some hard rush. Water plantain was competing with the reedmace to fill the scrape which was dug by the Environment Agency to hold back flood water in 2016, but also to increase biodiversity in the nature reserve. The trilaterally symmetric white flowers of the water plantain which had been feeding hoverflies, bees and butterflies all day had closed for the evening. A few ringlets were still flying, then, to our amazement, Adrian found a mummified pygmy shrew. Which is a very small mammal with a markedly pointed snout. The current heatwave must have curtailed foraging opportunities for the tiny mammal which feeds on insects, arachnids and woodlice as the hard ground is impossible to burrow through.


We set up the pond dipping equipment at the deeper pond, with a table and 2 chairs. The mesh nets were distributed and we set to our pond sampling with gusto. Dark brown diving beetles plunged to the sticky mud through a bubble bursting algal bloom. Skating across the surface of the water were numerous pond skaters in various stages of development and backswimmers energetically rowed under the surface film, one lesser water boatman was caught. Three white collection trays were filled with water and soon we had a haul of many toad and frog tadpoles. The lighter brown frog tadpoles glistening with gold dust. Many toadlets and froglets were hopping around at the water’s edge. The newt efts take a lot longer to complete their life cycle and they still had a frill of external gills. They. There was a strange spotty bladder snail which distinctively had a left handed helical shell.

Various teeny transparent larvae were identified as phantom midges using Clegg’s Guide to Pond and Streams (BNA) and  and also PS Croft’s AIDGAP book on aquatic invertebrates. The one, very small leech, looked like the invasive species Barbronia weberi. This is a successful coloniser possibly introduced by the aquarium trade and was first recorded in the UK in 1986. It co-exists with native species of leech and feeds predominantly on aquatic worms and fly larvae swallowing them completely. Impresssively large and fearsome, several dragonfly larvae looked ready to emerge from the pond. I don’t know who caught the water stick insect but it was hugely, the star of the show. It really is a very large bug and looks scarey with a long possible stinger of a tail, but this is just a breathing siphon like a snorkel, watch out for the other end!


At nine thirty we packed up shop and made our way along the unofficial bridle path back to Nottingham Road opposite  the Riding School, and followed the path back over two further bridges. It was still bright and light so no chance of bats today but we leaned over the bridge to think of the many otters which have passed under on their way to the River Trent. 

Marion Bryce 9 July 2018


Lissotriton vulgaris Smooth Newt amphibian
Bufo bufo Common Toad amphibian
Rana temporaria Common Frog amphibian
Iris pseudacorus Yellow Iris flowering plant
Juncus articulatus Jointed Rush flowering plant
Carex hirta Hairy Sedge flowering plant
Juncus inflexus Hard Rush flowering plant
Juncus effusus Soft-rush flowering plant
Sparganium erectum Branched Bur-reed flowering plant
Typha latifolia Bulrush flowering plant
Alisma plantago-aquatica Water-plantain flowering plant
Sialis Indet. Alder Fly insect – alderfly (Megaloptera)
Polygonia c-album Comma insect – butterfly
Libellula depressa Broad-bodied Chaser insect – dragonfly (Odonata)
Baetis poss Olive insect – mayfly (Ephemeroptera)
Gerris (Gerris) lacustris Common Pondskater insect – true bug (Hemiptera)
Ranatra (Ranatra) linearis Water Stick Insect insect – true bug (Hemiptera)
Colymbetes fuscus poss Diving Beetle insect-Beetle
Chironomid larva Non-biting Midge insect-Fly
Sialis larva Alder fly insect-Fly
Chaeoborus larva Phantom midge insect-Fly
Erpobdellid poss Barbronia stagnalis or weberi Leech Leech
Physa ‘acuta’ Bladder snail mollusc
Pirata piraticus Pirate Wolf Spider spider (Araneae)
Sorex minutus Eurasian Pygmy Shrew terrestrial mammal



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