If you look underneath the water even in the smallest of ponds or streams there is an entire world of wildlife just waiting to be discovered. We’ve got all you need to know in our guide to pond dipping.
Anyone can take part in pond dipping, it’s simple and doesn’t cost much at all. This popular outdoor learning activity for children can be taken part in at school and at home. It is also a great way for adults to practice mindfulness and reconnect with nature. We had lots of fun pond dipping together.
You’ll be amazed at the different types of creatures you will find. To help you get started on your pond dipping expedition we have put together a simple guide that covers all you need to know. Let’s get started!
Where to go pond dipping
If you have a garden with a pond or family/friends with one you can use that’s ideal. Don’t worry if not, there’s plenty of ponds or streams in parks or green spaces. Some parks and nature reserves will even have special pond dipping platforms.
If you’re not in a public park or green area then please make sure you’ve got permission from the owner of your chosen pond.
What you will need:
- A net, one with a long handle is ideal but not necessary.
- A tray or tub to put creatures in and observe the creatures you find. (Preferably a white one to make your creatures easier to observe.)
- A flour sieve, if you would like to investigate the mud at the bottom of the pond.
- A magnifying glass is a great way to have a closer look at creatures.
- Pens and a notepad to make notes or sketches.
- Wellies/appropriate clothing especially in colder weather!
- Your pond dipping checklist – Download the free printable here.
Products we recommend for Pond Dipping on Amazon
How to go pond dipping responsibly
Pond dipping is a fun and natural way to teach children how to safely manage and take risks as well as teaching them about the different overlooked creatures that make up a pond. It is important for children to learn the value of conserving the natural environment.
Like any activity that takes place in nature. It is so important to always be safe and ensure the safety of the pond dippers as well as the safety of the wildlife you will be handling. It’s also important to be considerate of nature and leave an area as you find it.
Pond Dipping with children
- Children must always be accompanied by an adult.
- Always wash your hands and rinse them thoroughly before and after pond dipping
- If you are taking children pond dipping then make sure that they are always kneeling or lying flat on their stomachs when reaching into the water with a net.
- Ensure children are cautious around the water and that they don’t lean too far over.
- Never enter the water if you drop something as the pond may be deeper than it looks.
- Pond water contains bacteria, so make sure any cuts are covered by watertight plasters.
More tips for responsible pond dipping
- So that you don’t transfer diseases or bacteria you cannot move animals between ponds.
- Wear waterproof gloves and try to avoid touching any of the creatures with your hands. Use plastic spoons to transfer creatures and avoid any tool that would harm them.
- Don’t leave predators in the containers for too long and where possible try to separate carnivores out so that they don’t try to eat your other catches.
- Return everything you catch when you have finished identifying them. Hold the container just under the surface of the water and slowly remove making sure all the creatures have been returned.
- Thoroughly clean all tools after pond dipping. Make sure there are definitely no creatures or pondweed in your collecting pots or nets.
Pond dipping step by step
When your ready to start pond dipping make sure that you approach the pond slowly and as quietly as you can. The smallest noises and vibrations can be picked up by the pond’s wildlife even before you even reach the water. Before you start dipping have a good look at the pond closely and try to spot pond skaters or even whirligig beetles. This will give you a moment to see what it is you may catch, how it moves and where it hides.
Fill your tray tubs with water from the pond, ready to place your catches in and observe them.
You’re ready to start dipping! It’s time to move your net through open water with the whole of the net bag under the surface. Swirl your net through the water and try to make a figure of eight as you do it. Different creatures prefer different depths of the pond so make sure you sweep from the surface to towards the bottom.
Move away from the edge of the pond but be careful as it can get slippery! Empty your catch into the container filled with pond water. As the water settles you’ll be able to see the creatures moving around. Record and find out what animals you have caught then repeat the process.
When you’re finished slowly and carefully pour the content of your tray back into the pond then give your container and net a gentle rinse. If you’re planning to use your net in a different pond, soak it in fresh, hot water to avoid transferring diseases from pond to pond.
What have you found?
Counting the legs of any creepy crawlies you find is a way to help you to identify them. Leeches and bright red bloodworms don’t have any legs of course. Water beetles, backswimmers and pond skaters all have six legs; water spiders and water mites have eight legs, and water lice have 6 pairs of legs.
Books to further learning
Books are a great way to get children excited to go pond dipping or furthering their learning after a pond dipping session.
Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner
This lovely book focuses on the rich, interconnected ecosystem of a mountain pond. As parent and child launch a canoe from the muddy shore and paddle through water lilies, they see frogs jump and painted turtles slide off logs, disappearing beneath the murky water. What’s happening down there? Under the pond, leeches lurk, crayfish scuttle under rocks, nymphs build intricate shells, and microscopic animals break down fallen leaves to recharge the water with nutrients. Over the pond, fuzzy cattails sway in the breeze, and a pair of loons swim by, laughing in the dappled sunlight. An author’s note discusses not only the different organisms featured but also the truly remarkable balance of this wetland ecosystem, the way plants and animals create a chemical balance that sustains the lives of the pond.
- Hardcover Book
- Messner, Kate (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 48 Pages - 03/07/2017 (Publication Date) - Chronicle Books (Publisher)
Ponds and small lakes: Microorganisms and freshwater ecology Brian Moss
Ponds and small lakes support an extremely rich biodiversity of fascinating organisms. Many people have tried pond-dipping and encountered a few unfamiliar creatures, such as dragonfly nymphs and caddisfly larvae. However, there is a far richer world of microscopic organisms, such as diatoms, desmids and rotifers, which is revealed in this book. Anyone with access to a microscope can open up this hidden dimension. Identification keys are provided so that readers can identify, explore and study this microscopic world. There are also many suggestions of ways in which readers can then make original contributions to our knowledge and understanding of pond ecology.
The book not only explores the fascinating world of the creatures within ponds and their interactions but also explains the many ways in which ponds are important in human affairs. Ponds are being lost around the world, but they are a key part of a system that maintains our climate. In the face of climate change, it has never been more important to understand the ecology of ponds.
- Brian Moss (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 226 Pages - 03/01/2017 (Publication Date) - Pelagic Publishing (Publisher)
Download our free pond dipping printable
Hopefully, we’ve given you some helpful tips to plan a pond dipping adventure. Don’t forget to let us know in the comments the creatures you discover.