What will I find if I go pond dipping in winter?

Jules Howard reveals the wonderful wildlife you can discover in a winter pond.

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What will I find if I go pond dipping in winter?

You can find plenty. Dragonfly nymphs, damselfly nymphs, a host of water beetles, water boatmen, backswimmers, water hog-lice, leeches, mayfly nymphs, caddis fly nymphs – all of these creatures overwinter in ponds, and are active and easily visible on even the coldest days.

In fact, for many aquatic invertebrates winter is an important time for growth in preparation for their crucial breeding endeavours in spring. There’s even an argument that pond food-webs become re-energised in winter, aided by the increased oxygen content (cold water retains more oxygen) and the influx of dead leaves in autumn on which detritivores flourish.

Some ponds may also contain overwintering tadpoles, a phenomenon that might be more common than we imagine. In particularly mild winters adult amphibians continue to be active too – I have seen newts hunting in the water in mid-December.

However, during colder wintry spells frogs may retreat to the depths where they sit motionless, breathing through their skins. So if you do go dipping, take care not to disturb them.

Do you have a wildlife question you’d like answered? Email your question to wildquestions@immediate.co.uk or post it to Q&A, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Immediate Media Company, 9th Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN

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