Dragons in your garden

Last night we went to a talk on Dragons In Your Garden given by the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group (or KRAG. I really wish they had named themselves Kent Reptile and Amphibian People).  I was unaware that there are only 6 native amphibians (three newts, two frogs, one toad) and 6 native reptiles (three lizards, three snakes) and this is because after the last ice age, when they all will have all been killed off, only six species made it back across the bridge from continental Europe, before the land bridge was cut off by rising sea level from the melting ice. There are many more species in Europe that didn’t make it across in time.

Anyway, that was all very interesting. Enthused by all this information, we went and looked in the pond in the dark with torches. And we were so pleased that we did. By day, we are seeing sunbathing tadpoles on the mud at the bottom and whirligig beetles madly making crazy circles on the surface of the water.

But by night we were completely delighted to see the pond thronging with life – there were three newts in the pond. We presume these to be smooth newts but we would need to try to catch one and get a closer look at it to tell for sure. It was dark and I didn’t have my camera anyway and so none of these photos are mine:

Smooth newt

The nearest pond to this one must be at least 150m away and so these newts must have been speculatively wandering really large distances overground to have found our pond in just a year.

We also saw a large number of large dangerous looking dragonfly larvae:

southern hawker
Southern Hawker nymph

They looked very much like this southern hawker nymph – and we certainly had these dragonflies last year – but again we will need to try to hoick one out to identify it properly. And if these dragonfly larvae looked dangerous then the Great Diving Beetles that were also swimming around were the stuff of nightmares. They were terrifyingly enormous and fast. I don’t fancy the chances of those tadpoles reaching froghood.

Great diving beetle

A couple of years ago we went on a Pond Dipping For Grown-ups evening organised by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxon Wildlife Trust which we thoroughly enjoyed. . It looks like this year we will now be doing that sort of thing here which is very exciting.


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