Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pond mud snail

With a record of the infrequent pond mud snail (Omphiscola glabra) from nearby Brynmawr I tried my luck with a search of the myriad of ponds in and around the Canada Tips area of Blaenavon. Arriving at a pull-in to the west of Keepers Pond I was instantly confronted by several tame sheep anxious to see if I had a spare cheese sandwich or something else edible. The wind was brisk and had an edge that said winter is on its way. The good thing about this location is that its not far to the first aquatic point of investigation, a shallow yet extensive habitat dominated by common spike rush and lesser spearwort with a linear tract of open water that's clearly the product of four wheel drive activity. Ten minutes or so sweeping through the murky water produced no molluscs at all the best finds centred on a single palmate newt and many greater water boatman.

A lone meadow pipit called as I transversed the hillocks of coal and sandstone spoil to the next watering hole. This pond was deeper nestling at the foot of several towering tips providing enough shelter and warmth for a common darter to alight on the stony track. To my surprise a man walked by with a dog on a lead, my greeting was met with silence. Maybe he was nervous and surprised to encounter another person in the heart of Blaenavon's former industrial landscape on a midweek afternoon. Otherwise he was hard of hearing. Whatever the reason he was soon out of sight and I commenced with my objective of finding the elusive pond mud snail. Despite a prolonged effort and another couple of palmate newt later I draw another blank and moved onto a find the next pond.

This one has featured in this blog before as an example of how off road driving is inadvertently keeping small water bodies from succeeding to vegetation dominated marshland. This was a much more fruitful site, not because there were any pond mud snail here either, but for an increase in species variety. An example of the large black ground beetle Carabus problematicus was found drowned and a late black darter dragonfly repeatedly alighted. There were at least two species of pondweed (Potamogeton spp). This group of plants is notoriously difficult to identify to species level. To compound the identification dilemmas I dragged up just one mollusc not the target species but one of the pea mussels (Pisidium spp.) that are also a touch tricky to sort out.

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