Derek – Thursday 23 August

A sunny, warm day in the garden. This morning, we had rain which has invigorated the garden. It is a pleasure to come in after its gasping state through much of the summer.

The wild flower bed is a mass of thistles with brushes of thistledown but here and there are a few white bladder campion, which I am surprised to see as it is late in the year for flowering.

The pond is higher, and I spot some daphnia. They are tiny, the size of a full stop (.), but observable as they are found in groups of 50 or more. The last couple of weeks I hadn’t seen any at all. Daphnia are used by environmentalists to quantify pollution in rivers and lakes. A somewhat drastic test; you add daphnia to a fixed quantity of the water you are testing, wait, and then count the survivors. If they all survive, the water is clean, if they all die it is heavily polluted, and all points between. That there are only a few daphnia in our pond, I put down to two factors. The pond was close to drying out early in the month; that concentrated the chemicals in the pond, which is not good for pond life. At its lowest, we added tap water, the only water we had, which gave us lots of filamentous algae from the nitrates. This algae is like long pale green hair which we pull out in tresses. Tap water is detrimental to much pond fauna, and should only be used in emergencies. A drought counts as one, but is hopefully over, with temperatures back to normal and the pond is recovering. I see a couple of water boatmen which had also disappeared over the last weeks. Animal life makes a comeback.

We are intrigued by a brownish insect in the pond. It has been noted for a few weeks. We take one out with the water tongs. They have half globes of transparent plastic at the end, designed for examining such specimens. The insect is a little less than a centimetre long, has six legs, a large head, a defined abdomen and thorax. The body is hairy, and has no wings. Is it a nymph or an adult? We search a pond book but have no luck and put it back in the water where it scuttles off. I name it, temporarily, Incognita earlhamensis. Or Unknown of Earlham.

It’s a short lived naming as I track it down online at home. No longer unknown, it is the nymph of the broad bodied chaser dragon fly (Libellula depressa), the adults of which we have seen flying around the pond earlier in the summer.

The large pot, near the container entrance, has a flowering plant. It is hibiscus, a shrub, though this one is still garden flower sized. The white flowers are reminiscent of hollyhocks. Solidago (golden rod) with its dangles of yellow flowers are to be found in a raised bed in the centre of the garden. The deep purple lychnis, related to the campion above, go on and on. By the side fence, near the buddleia, pink sweet peas are another late bloomer.

There are white butterflies around the buddleia. I listen for birdsong, but hear little. The drought has been bad for bird life.

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