No. 35 discover what's in a pond

Visitors pond-dipping in the burn at Cragside, Northumberland

It may look green and grim, but murky pond water is full of life. Scoop some out into a tub and check out what lives beneath the surface.

You'll need to find a pond for this '50 things to do before you're 11¾' activity, but once you've done that the rest is easy. Ponds may look like not a lot is going on when you're peering at the top of the water, but you'll be amazed what lives below the surface.

You'll need:

  • A white tray or plastic container ready with extra water from the pond in it already.
  • A fine net
  • Somewhere safe to stand or sit for a while
  • An adult to go with you

What did you scoop?

Green gunk? Bits of twigs? Don’t be disappointed. Look closely – you may have some tiny creatures in there. Tadpoles, pond skaters and newts all like to live in ponds. What different things can you find when you scoop near the top of the water surface and then again down deeper? Watch the ripples of the water and the droplets as you put your net in and out. Feel pond weed between your fingers and watch how the creatures you find move in different ways in the water. And if you follow our top tips below, you’ll see how the water swirls and takes the pondlife along for the ride.

Pond dipping can be a great way to explore the sights, sounds and smells of nature above the water level too. What animals can you see around the edge of the pond? What different shapes and colours can you see? You could even play pond bingo – going from three points for a pond snail, up to 50 points for an otter.

Top tips for success

  • Keep out of the hot sun (you and whatever you've found in the pond).
  • Use water the same temperature as pond water in your container or tray.
  • Scoop your net 3 times in a figure of 8 to pick up the smallest creatures and empty them into your tub or tray.
  • If you don't spot anything at first then take a closer look - pond life tends to be really tiny.
  • Remember to return anything you do find back to the pond once you've discovered what it is.
  • Oh, and most important of all... don't fall in!