I had to laugh at this recent scene when I arrived to carry out a pond survey in Ayrshire and found it full of Belted Galloway cattle! writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).
Belties are a bit bigger than the life forms I was hoping to find in the water.
Thankfully, they left quietly as I approached laden with nets, trays and all the paraphernalia for a messy hour or two of guddling about.
The pond miserably failed its first test for clarity, unless you spell it clarty! Some of the mud samples I dredged out were pure fresh green cow poo.
I must admit things were looking unpromising, but you’ve got to go through the motions in such cases!
Added to the effects of regular cattle insurgence, was the fact that this pond drains into the sea via a pipe under a coast road on to the shore.
This means that high spring tides sometimes send salt water up the pipe to contaminate the pond.
For this reason there were none of the larvae and nymphs typical of clean freshwater such as mayfly, damselfly or dragonfly aquatic stages.
Though I was finding pondlife it was mainly highly mobile fly – in species like water beetles, water boatmen, midge larvae, and pond skaters.
There were freshwater shrimp but those are tough wee creatures very tolerant of brackish conditions.
Interestingly there were also mud shrimps, an estuarine creature.
Things weren’t looking too hopeful. Imagine my surprise therefore to see a fish fry in the net!
It was a stickleback, but again those can tolerate fairly saline conditions.
Then the real surprise, another fish fry, a sand goby, a fish of low tide pools on sandy shores. Two fish species were certainly more than the pond promised.
It just goes to show, Nature will always fill any niche.