The world-within-a-world of Culbin’s pools and ponds

Any walk through Culbin is a multi-sensory experience.  You might spot brightly-coloured flowers, hear birdsong or glimpse a squirrel in the treetops, maybe even see an otter swimming down one of the drainage ditches.  But it’s also worth simply sitting for a while beside one of Culbin’s many tranquil pools and ponds and just watching the theatre of natural life as it unfolds there.  
The ponds and pools here offer a glimpse of a complex world with its own natural balance.  These pools, largely man-made (some where gravel has been extracted) hold rainfall and water overflowing from small lochs nearby.  This channelling of water allows all life here to survive.

Mammals and birds come to drink here.  At dusk, bats fly overhead gorging on the insect life.  Waterbeetles and other pond ‘minibeasts’ – caddis, water boatmen, pond skaters, mosquito larvae – thrive here, providing meals for larger insects and amphibians such as frogs and newts, even the rare Great Crested Newt, like a miniature aquatic dragon.

In late Spring, thousands of froglets (laid as frog-spawn, becoming tadpoles) leave the ponds – the ground turns brown with them! - and sufficient numbers avoid becoming a meal for another animal in the food chain to grow, breed, and begin the cycle again.

Dragonflies and damselflies

Many flying insects also breed here in summer – look out for the brilliant common blue damselfly, the highland darter and the yellow-ringed dragonfly.  Some of these beautiful insects lay their eggs underwater, new life hatching from pupae attached to reeds and other vegetation in the pond.  Sometimes you can see these empty cases still attached to the reeds.  

Dragonflies and damselflies can be very aggressive and territorial, with males using massive amounts of energy to chase away rivals and secure females.  As a result of this, on a warm and sunny day in late Spring or Summer, the air over Culbin’s ponds and pools can be alive with sparring and mating dragonflies.  And like all flying insects, these dragonflies and damselflies play their part in the survival of Culbin’s plantlife through pollination.

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