I could have been under the water, amongst the slime of green algae and the carnivorous creatures hanging motionless in the water, I was living the life of a pond, nose pressed up to the cold glass.
We were inside the living building of the Ardnamurchan Natural History Visitor Centre exploring the information boards and collections of natural objects. The building had a soundscape of the long gone wolf howl, it made my skin tingle and raised the excitement. The rafters play host to the pine marten and they’re often seen from the “one way window”. No pine marten whilst we looked, by a grey wagtail bobbed on the burn. Stuffed animal specimens demonstrate the size of the species, red deer, hedgehog, fox, badger and golden eagle.
Best of all though was the pond! My excitement really bubbled over when I realised you could see the hidden depths of the pond through glass. I’ve always loved pond life and spent hours by the pond I badgered my Dad to create. What a different world beneath the surface of the water. This was brilliant. Tiny snails dotted the glass wall of the pond outside and I could see their foot if I looked closely, it was like a little snail nursery. Caddis fly larvae laboriously pulled themselves along the pond bottom, top heavy with camouflage materials and tadpoles bumped their noses against the glass. Small beetles whizzed up and down with their air bubble beaming like a light in the murk. A newt hung in the weed almost motionless – how incredible to be able to watch this secretive creature at home under the surface. When I peeked above the surface pond skaters slid effortlessly, waiting to feel the vibrations of drowning, dying, creatures.
The beast that stole the show was menacing and decidedly carnivorous. They hung in the water, unmoving yet dangerous. I watched with my nose squeezed up against the glass as one gnawed on a lifeless tadpole. These creatures were master predators of the pond. Immersing myself into the life the freshwater habitat I could really understand the dynamics and marvel at the species living in it. These monster tadpole eaters would become great-diving beetles – the beetle I had stared into my pond for hours hoping to spot as an enthralled child. The larvae were just as brilliant, despite now only being an enthralled adult. I was a child again for a wee while, with a cold nose and straining eyes, peering into the life of a humble garden pond.