Basingstoke Canal excursion

Saturday 22nd July 2017

The forecast of a wet afternoon did not deter a good crowd of Quekett members, spouses and guests from visiting Brookwood Memorial Hall for a day collecting from and alongside the Surrey stretch of the Basingstoke Canal, a Site of Special Scientific Interest that we visit each year.

We quickly unpacked our microscopes, cameras, computers, nets, jars, trays, keys and books so that we could go collecting before the rain started, but the showers started immediately and we dashed back into the Hall for our umbrellas and waterproofs. Properly equipped, we set off to walk along the path beside the canal from Sheets Heath Bridge to the start of the Deepcut flight of locks just past Pirbright Bridge, looking for interesting specimens in and near the canal. Dennis Fullwood stayed behind to guard our equipment.

John Tolliday and Mary Morris collectingJohn Tolliday and Mary Morris collecting near Sheets Heath Bridge

Tony Pattinson examining his catchTony Pattinson examining his catch

Paul Smith collecting oozePaul Smith collecting ooze from the lock gate, with a telescopic golf-ball retriever holding a small bottle

Paul’s collecting method looks much safer than Maurice Moss’s exploits in 2005:

Maurice Moss on the lock gatesMaurice Moss on the lock gates in 2005

Irma Irsara examining her catchIrma Irsara examining her catch

There was lots of interesting material in the Canal, but probably because of the weather we didn’t see any butterflies or dragonflies, although we did see a few damselflies. At the bottom of the lock gates, we spotted two signal crayfish, and in a patch of horsetail we spotted a colourful shield bug.

Signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus)Signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) at base of lock gate

Acanthosoma haemorrhoidaleHawthorn shield bug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale) on horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

Safely back in the Hall we dried off, warmed up with tea and coffee, and got down to the serious business of examining, photographing and identifying our specimens. There was some serious kit in use, including two microscopes with differential interference contrast, and we took several photomicrographs of the specimens we found.

Quekett members with their microscopesQuekett members with their microscopes

We didn’t spend all our time looking down microscopes; this was a Quekett meeting and so there was plenty of interesting gossip. Conversations included why all microscopists should have a lathe and a milling machine, adding electronic flash to a microscope, using a single LED for both continuous light and flash, the relative merits of lidocaine and soluble aspirin for slowing down active specimens, the problems that diatom mounters will face when restrictions on sulfuric acid are introduced, and the relative merits of direct projection, eyepiece projection and afocal coupling for photomicrography.

Dennis Fullwood brought his trinocular Olympus SZ4045 stereomicroscope and his trinocular Nikon Labophot compound with phase contrast. Dennis set out yellow pan traps in the garden of the hall soon after he arrived, and collected them about 6 hours later to examine the insects. He tried a new technique, pouring the water from the trap onto a piece of fine nylon mesh (50 µm) and then examining the mesh under his stereomicroscope. This technique avoids handling tiny insects, but it was a bit awkward to move the damp mesh on the stage plate. Dennis has since used an embroidery hoop to hold the mesh taut and clear of the stage plate, and this works very well. The mesh came from eBay (W: 1m * L:1m 5m 10m Nylon Filtration 300 mesh 48μm Water Oil Filter Cloth).

Dennis FullwoodDennis Fullwood

Graham Matthews brought his trinocular Leitz Dialux (equipped for DIC) and Canon EOS 500D camera and used them with DSLR Remote Pro and Helicon Focus on his laptop computer. Graham uses an unusual afocal arrangement with a Zeiss Kpl 8× eyepiece and a Tominon 50 mm f/4.5 enlarging lens. He has converted the Dialux to use LED and flash illumination, with both sources available via a fibre-optic dual gooseneck.

Graham Matthews and Anne AlgarGraham Matthews and Anne Algar

Graham’s specimens included Spirogyra, Scapholebris mucronata, Cryptomonas, Saccamoeba, Phacus, rotifers (Cephalodella, Encentrum, Euchlanis, Gastropus), heliozoans (Actinophrys, Actinosphaerium), Vorticella and caddis larvae with cases made of tiny pieces of leaves. See some of Graham’s photomicrographs.

Graham’s wife (Noi) came too, and spent most of the day on Chinese-style painting with a surprisingly large brush. The photo below shows Noi working on a painting of a chrysanthemum.

Noi Matthews painting a chrysanthemumNoi Matthews painting a chrysanthemum

Irma Irsara came with us for the walk along the canal, and then went off on her own, collecting in the woods and fields. She came back with mosses, ferns, leaves, fungi and flowers, as well as material from the canal.

Some of Irma Irsara’s specimensSome of Irma’s specimens

John Tolliday usually brings some light-weight equipment, but today he brought his trinocular Olympus BHS (equipped for DIC) and Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera and used them with free Canon software (EOS Utility and Digital Photo Professional) on his laptop. The Olympus camera adapter was designed for eyepiece projection with an OM 35mm camera, but a full-frame Canon digital SLR is an ideal substitute, parfocal, with a good field of view and no vignetting. John has converted the rear lamphouse of his BHS so that it uses an LED and also houses the xenon tube from a flashgun. John used a huge foam-filled case to transport his microscope. John also brought his trinocular stereomicroscope with LED gooseneck and ring-light.

John TollidayJohn Tolliday

John’s specimens included copepods and mites. See some of John’s photomicrographs.

EOS Utility on John Tolliday’s laptopEOS Utility on John’s laptop

Mary Morris used her Watson stereomicroscope to examine the material that she collected from the canal. She brought some appropriate nets for collecting, and a good collection of keys for identifying specimens.

Mary MorrisMary Morris

Maurice Moss used his Vickers stereomicroscope to examine a range of specimens, and took photographs with his Nikon Coolpix 4500 attached to an NCP-995A photo relay lens, an afocal arrangement. Maurice’s specimens included some bright green lichens on twigs, and a coral fungus with a tiny millipede that kept hiding from the light. Judy Moss came too, and made notes on the plants that she observed beside the canal.

Maurice Moss and Judy MossMaurice Moss and Judy Moss

Neil Henry used his Bresser Biolux AL with its eyepiece camera connected to a laptop computer to examine specimens from the Canal. The software problems that have plagued Neil have been solved by re-installing Windows and then re-installing all of his programs. Neil’s specimens included Euglena spp. and a young whirlpool ramshorn snail (Planorbis vortex (L.)) with its shell still transparent.

Neil HenryNeil Henry

Paul Smith brought a microscope that we haven’t seen before, his Olympus BX41 with the U-SWETTR superwide, erect-image, tilting, trinocular head and swing-out and dark-ground condensers. On top of the head, Paul used his Canon EOS M mirrorless camera on U-TV1X and U-CMAD3 adapters, with the image fed to a television for focusing and composing. This combination produces some vignetting. Paul’s specimens included amoebae, diatoms, desmids, a gastrotrich, heliozoans, Phacus and Vorticella. See some of Paul’s photomicrographs.

Chris Algar and Paul SmithChris Algar (left) and Paul Smith

Steven Ettlinger brought his trinocular Motic BA310 with C-mount adapter and Panasonic DMC-G5 mirrorless camera, a combination that avoids vignetting. One of the first things he spotted was a tardigrade (water bear); Irma and Thanya hadn’t seen one before and were fascinated.

Irma Irsara, Steven Ettlinger and Thanya NirantasookIrma Irsara, Steven Ettlinger and Thanya Nirantasook

Steven managed to record a couple of videos, one of a bdelloid rotifer and the other of a tardigrade.

Bdelloid rotifer [by Steven Ettlinger]
Click the arrow at bottom left to watch the video (1 minutes 18 seconds), click the symbol to the left of “vimeo” for full screen

Tardigrade [by Steven Ettlinger]
Click the arrow at bottom left to watch the video (43 seconds), click the symbol to the left of “vimeo” for full screen

Tony Pattinson used his PZO stereomicroscope to sort material from the canal and find specimens suitable for a closer look under his trinocular Olympus CHT, which he has modified to use LED illumination. Tony uses an afocal arrangement with a 5 MP ToupCam fitted with a 12.5 mm Cosmicar lens above an eyepiece, and he captured, stacked and stitched images using ToupView on his laptop.

Tony PattinsonTony Pattinson

Tony’s specimens included Asellus aquaticus, Chaetophora sp., Hydra oligactis, Pentatax sp., Sida crystallina and Zygnema sp. See some of Tony’s photomicrographs.

Tony Pattinson’s ToupCam cameraTony’s ToupCam camera

Alan Wood and Thanya Nirantasook brought their trinocular Olympus CHS microscope, fitted with a Canon EOS 600D when Alan wasn’t using it to take photographs for this report. Alan used the same camera adapter as John Tolliday. Focusing works well using a 5× magnified live view on the tilt and swivel rear screen.

Canon EOS 600D on Olympus CH-2Alan’s EOS 600D camera on Olympus CH-2 trinocular microscope

Joan Bingley, Avis Davis and Fleur White paid brief visits.

Report and photographs by Alan Wood

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Here are some of the specimens that we found:

Copepod with eggsCopepod with eggs [by John Tolliday]

Scapholebris mucronataScapholebris mucronata (O. F. Müller), 16× objective [by Graham Matthews]

Sida crystallinaSida crystallina (O. F. Müller), 4× objective [by Tony Pattinson]

Water miteWater mite [by John Tolliday]

Water mite (Pentatax sp.)Water mite (Pentatax sp.), 10× objective [by Tony Pattinson]

Water louse (Asellus aquaticus (L.))Water louse (Asellus aquaticus (L.)), 4× objective [by Tony Pattinson]

Hydra oligactisBrown hydra (Hydra oligactis Pallas), 4× objective [by Tony Pattinson]

Rotifer (Euchlanis sp.)Rotifer (Euchlanis sp.), DIC, 40× objective [by Graham Matthews]

GastrotrichGastrotrich [by Paul Smith]

Saccamoeba sp.Saccamoeba sp., DIC, 25× objective [by Graham Matthews]

Actinophrys sp.Heliozoan (Actinophrys sp.), DIC, 40× objective [by Graham Matthews]

HeliozoanHeliozoan [by Paul Smith]

VorticellaVorticella [by Paul Smith]

Filamentous alga (Zygnema sp.) bright fieldFilamentous alga (Zygnema sp.) bright field, 60× objective [by Tony Pattinson]

Filamentous alga (Zygnema sp.) phase contrastFilamentous alga (Zygnema sp.) phase contrast, 40× objective [by Tony Pattinson]

Nuclei of filamentous alga (Spirogyra sp.)Nuclei of filamentous alga (Spirogyra sp.), 25× objective [by Graham Matthews]

Green alga (Chaetophora sp.) bright fieldGreen alga (Chaetophora sp.) bright field, 20× objective [by Tony Pattinson]

Green alga (Chaetophora sp.) dark-groundGreen alga (Chaetophora sp.) dark-ground, 10× objective [by Tony Pattinson]

Desmid (Closterium sp.)Desmid (Closterium sp.) [by Paul Smith]

DiatomsDiatoms [by Paul Smith]

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