Warnham Local Nature Reserve excursion
Saturday 18th August 2018
This was the tenth Quekett excursion to Warnham Local Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Horsham, West Sussex, hosted by the Friends of Warnham Local Nature Reserve, and this year organised by Neil Henry and Graham Matthews. The weather stayed dry but cloudy all day, so there were no problems with going out to collect specimens. As in previous years, we were able to set up our equipment in the Visitor Centre next to the café.
The Centre has live millipedes and stick insects on display, and is breeding harvest mice for a re-introduction programme.
Microscopists in the Visitor Centre
The Reserve includes a stream that runs from the adjacent golf course through three dipping ponds (with wooden platforms for easy access) and a new scrape into the mill pond, as well as areas of marshland, woodland and grassland. Collecting is not normally allowed in the Reserve, but Neil had arranged permission for us to collect small quantities from the areas that are open to the public.
As a result of the long spell of hot, dry weather there were not many flowers left in the meadow that leads to the dipping ponds, one pond was almost dry and the scrape was completely dry. However, we still managed to find plenty of specimens in the dipping ponds to keep us busy all day.
Pond in the gold course
Mary Morris pond dipping
Graham Matthews pond dipping
Graham Matthews with his plankton net
Specimens to take back to the Visitor Centre
Dried-up dipping pond with horsetails (Equisetum sp.)
Water mint (Mentha aquatica)
Hoverfly on common chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Back in the Visitor Centre, we set about extracting specimens, examining them under our microscopes, photographing them and trying to identify them.
Graham Matthews brought his Wild M8 stereomicroscope and his trinocular Leitz Dialux with DIC, a Canon EOS 500D camera and a laptop running DSLR Remote Pro. He used a modified Vivitar electronic flash for lighting, varying the output to obtain correct exposure. The camera is connected via a Tominon 50 mm f/4.5 enlarging lens and a Zeiss Kpl 8× eyepiece, an afocal arrangement. We knew when Graham was taking photos for stacking because we could see the flash firing at intervals of around a second.
Graham’s sample from the dipping ponds
Scapholeberis mucronata (O. F. Müller), 16× objective [by Graham Matthews]
Cladoceran ephippium (resting egg), 16× objective, stack of 23 images [by Graham Matthews]
Phacus sp., 40× objective, stack of 22 images [by Graham Matthews]
Closterium sp., 25× objective [by Graham Matthews]
Bdelloid rotifer, Rotaria sp., (?) 40× objective, DIC [by Graham Matthews]
Keratella serrulata (Ehrenberg) (?) 40× objective, DIC [by Graham Matthews]
Dennis Fullwood brought his trinocular Olympus SZ4045 stereomicroscope and his trinocular Nikon Labophot compound with phase contrast. He used them to examine material from the dipping ponds as well as insects from the Reserve. Dennis also collected ants for next year’s Practical Microscopy Weekend at Flatford Mill.
Mary Morris used her trusty Watson stereomicroscope to examine material that she collected from the dipping ponds, and used her collection of keys and reference books to identify specimens.
Mary’s sample from the dipping ponds
Pat Morris was there too, and he used his Nikon digital SLR to photograph some of Mary’s specimens.
Small mayfly nymph [by Pat Morris]
Neil Henry has followed the example of several other members and bought a telescopic golf-ball retriever to hold a small jar. He used it to good effect from inside the Heron Hide and came back with a sample containing lots of duckweed and some interesting specimens, including a colony of Carchesium sp. (peritrich ciliate). Neil used his PZO monocular microscope with the eyepiece replaced by a YW5.0M USB camera connected to a laptop running ToupView software.
Neil’s sample from the mill pond
Joan Bingley came with a small stereomicroscope from Brunel, complete with a dark-ground adapter, and some keys and reference books
Richard Symonds is one of the Friends and a newcomer to microscopy. His first microscope is a Prior school microscope to which Graham has added a mechanical stage and variable lighting. Richard used an Olympus OM-D E-M10II mirrorless digital camera with 14–42 mm zoom lens and a home-made adapter that slides over the eyepiece tube.
Vicente Franch Meneu and César Bustos are not members but had seen the excursion posted on the Amateur Microscopy Group on Facebook and asked if they could come along. Graham provided them with a trinocular Zeiss Standard and a Prior school microscope (with added LED lighting and mechanical stage). Their specimens included Spirulina sp. (cyanobacteria).
Vicente Franch Meneu (left) and César Bustos
Our thanks to the Friends of Warnham Local Nature Reserve for allowing us to collect specimens and to use the Visitor Centre, and to Neil Henry and Graham Matthews for organising the excursion.
Report and photographs by Alan Wood, except where indicated