Messing about on the River, 2016

Our dipping was carried out by a small but gallant band who ignored the morning clouds but were ultimately deterred by an afternoon shower. With fewer hands, and less time, our haul was a little lighter than when we have previously dipped in better weather:

[2015: Rained off]

I was greeted by damselflies, the beautiful and banded demoiselles which I’ve learned to call Calopteryx virgo and Calopteryx splendens. Peering into the shallows, I spotted a small flotilla of whirligig beetles (Gyrinus natator).

When we settled with our nets and bowls, a Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) came to inspect us early on and made occasional supervisory visits through the day.

The youngsters yearned mostly for fish: sticklebacks and minnows in the shallows, bullheads and stone loach among the stones, and a large minnow with unusual colouring — I usually look for a stripe on a minnow,
but this was evenly coloured in woodland tones. A cry went up, ‘we’ve found an eel!’ — but closer inspection showed the specimen to be a pale slug… Yet later on, a baby eel did turn up.

Among the invertebrate finds were the larvae of mayflies and stoneflies; maggots and bloodworms and other fly larvae; gammarid shrimps all sizes.

I didn’t spend any time on the banks looking for bugs, but several made an unscheduled stop in the river, doubtless knocked from the bushes. One of the first finds was a caddis fly — male? — with huge antennae, and later in the day we found two of the larvae, trundling around in their cases of stones. We rescued a scarlet weevil, a metallic blue leaf beetle and a metallic green leaf beetle so full of eggs that her wingcases would no longer fit. I noticed we were passed by some white butterflies and a giant queen bumble bee. Baddest terrestrial beast of the day was a good-sized juvenile bug which looked like a trainee assassin, coloured in straw and moss, with a curved beak like a scimitar.


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