Wildlife

Here are some examples of the wildlife you may find in and around the freshwater habitats of the Thame Catchment.

 

Reptiles and Amphibians

Below are the reptiles and amphibians that are associated with water that can be found throughout the Thame catchment. Most are common and widespread although some are declining at a national level.

Common Frog

Common Frog by Richard Bartz

Common Frogs are widespread throughout the catchment and are actually not as common as before due to habitat degradation.

Fun fact: Common Frogs can breath through their skin

Common Toad

Common Toad by Patrick Connolly

Another amphibian that is widespread in our catchment.

Fun fact: Common Toads produce a toxin from a pair of glands on their back which makes them distasteful to would-be predators

Smooth Newt

Smooth Newt by John Beniston

Along with common frogs you are most likely to see these in your gardens.

Fun fact: All UK newt species lay individual eggs which are then wrapped in leaves of aquatic plants using their back feet.

Great Crested Newt

Great Crested Newt (male) by Rainer Theuer

Although widespread, Great Crested Newts have disappeared from many sites across Europe making them now strictly protected by law.

Fun Fact: Great Crested Newts are the largest of our UK newts and can grow up to 15cm

Grass Snake

Grass Snake by Charles Sharp

The grass snake is Britain’s longest snake. They are widespread throughout the Thame catchment using its many ponds, streams and river to hunt for invertebrates.

Fun fact: If stressed Grass Snakes produce a foul smelling excretion to deter any predators

Birds

Lots of birds can be seen in the variety of habitats of the Thame Valley. Below are some wetland birds that you are likely to see.

The Trust are creating scrapes (areas of low lying land which hold water longer throughout the year to provide feeding grounds for wading birds) to improve habitat for wading birds.

Starting in the autumn of 2015, birds have been surveyed through the RTCT bird surveying programme. RTCT volunteers carry out both wetland and farmland bird surveys throughout the entire Thame catchment.

To find out more  and how to get involved click here.

Lapwing

Photo by Doug Kennedy

Lapwing are an unmistakable black and white wading bird that can been seen in huge flocks; particularly in the floodplain of the lower Thame around the M40.

Fun fact: Lapwing are also known as the peewit which is an imitation of their breeding calls.

Snipe

Snipe by Marek Szczepanek

Snipe are a well camouflaged medium sized wading bird. Although they have undergone a decline nationally they appear to be doing well in the wet grasslands surrounding the river Thame.

Fun fact: During courtship the male Common Snipe circles high then dives fast which produces a distinctive sound as the air flows over specially modified tail feathers. 

Little Egret

Little Egret by Henry Manisty

Little Egrets are a species of small heron which you can see fishing in the river Thame often.

Fun fact: They are recent colonists of the UK and only began breeding here in the early 90s.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron by Doug Kennedy

A tall, often solitary bird, the Grey Heron is one of the UK’s most familiar birds. You can see them along the length of the River Thame, standing stick still like the one above waiting for fish to come their way.

Fun Fact: Despite their size, they are surprisingly light, weighing on average only half as much as a greylag goose.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher by Marek Szczepanek

Kingfishers, with their blue flash are unmistakable. They can be found throughout the different freshwater habitats throughout the catchment and favour slow moving water, so the sluggish river Thame is perfect!

Fun Fact: They close their eyes as they dive into the water, so they are fishing blind! They bob their heads before diving to accurately judge the depth of the fish.

Moorhen

Moorhen by Doug Kennedy

Probably one of the most common water birds you will see in the Thame catchment this bird is not fussy and will live in just about every freshwater habitat you can think of!

Fun Fact: Moorhens are also known as swamp chickens

Mammals

Otter

Otter by Henry Manisty

Otters were extinct across much of lowland England in the 1960s and 1970s due to pesticide poisoning. We are happy to report they are on the return and we have a healthy population throughout the Thame catchment. Look out for our trail camera videos!

Fun Fact: Otters are very illusive creatures and their presence can normally only be confirmed by the presence of their faeces!

Bats

Daubentons Bat by Paul Van Hoof

Although not strictly aquatic bats do have an affinity with water. They use rivers and streams as highways when travelling and ponds, lakes and rivers are also very important hunting grounds.

Fun Fact: Daubentons bats regularly hunt insects near water bodies. They often use their large tail membranes to scoop insects off the surface of the water.

Dragonflies and Damselflies

These groups are a firm favourite of peoples as they truly are the essence of summer. Many different species can be seen fluttering and darting around the water bodies of the Thame catchment. Below are some of the more common species you may see.

Despite their popularity of half of Britain’s dragonfly and damselfly species have declined since 1970. But there is something you can do to help, create your own garden pond!

Common Blue Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly by Doug Kennedy

Blue damselflies are difficult to ID (need to look at stripes on thorax) but in the Thame catchment they are likely to be an Azure or a Common Blue.

Fun Fact: Females lay their eggs underwater. When finished they often get trapped in the surface meniscus and if this happens the males often attempt rescue.

Azure Damselfly

Azure Damselfly by Doug Kennedy

Blue damselflies are difficult to ID (need to look at stripes on thorax) but in the Thame catchment they are likely to be an Azure or a Common Blue.

Fun Fact: The average lifespan of an adult is 5.5 days

Four Spotted Chaser

Four Spotted Chaser by Hugh Venables

This dragonfly is very territorial and its flight is rapid. You will find this dragonfly throughout the ponds, ditches and slow flowing streams.

Fun Fact: Successful territory holders are usually the most agile rather than larger individuals.

Banded Demoiselle

Banded Demoiselle by Doug Kennedy

Banded Demoiselles are the most common damselfly in the Thame catchment as the slow flowing river Thame is perfect habitat for them. In the summer months its not uncommon to see them in their thousands.

Fun Fact: If you see a female (metallic green rather than blue) at the bankside she is ready to lay her eggs

Common Darter

Common Darter by Doug Kennedy

A small restless dragonfly which is common throughout England in all water body types.

Fun Fact: The Common Darter can remain active in temperatures below 12 degrees which is much lower than most dragonflies.

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly by Doug Kennedy

This damselfly is often the first you will see in spring. Mainly a pond and ditch loving species and can be seen around these water bodies throughout the catchment.

Fun Fact: The larvae of the red damselfly are territorial which is unusual for dragonflies and damselflies.

Common Hawker Dragonfly

Common Hawker by Doug Kennedy

This is a large dragonfly with a fast and powerful flight. This species occurs throughout much of the UK with higher numbers in the North and Scotland.

Fun Fact: Larval development can take as long as 4 years! 

Blue Tailed Damselfly

Blue Tailed Damselfly

This species has a range of colour forms which are determined both by age and genetics. This damselfly is common throughout the catchment and particularly likes new ponds.

Fun Fact: Life cycles of this damselfly vary throughout the country e.g. in Southern England only a year is needed but in the Outer Hebrides the life cycle takes two years.

Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad Bodied Chaser

A medium sized dragonfly with a bright blue abdomen (females are yellow). You can find them around open ponds.

Fun Fact: larvae can survive in ponds which dry for a short time.

Other Invertebrates

Mayflies

Mayfly by Tim Longstaff

Adult mayflies can be seen in huge numbers in the summer months along the River Thame and its tributaries.

Fun Fact: Some species of mayfly can live up to 2 years as nymphs under the water and only a few days as adults to mate.

Caddisflies

Caddisfly larvae

Adult caddisflies of sedge flies look very similar to moths but they have hairs on their wings instead of scales. You can find larval  caddisflies in ponds, streams and rivers throughout the year.

Fun Fact: Some species of caddisfly excrete silk to bind bed particles such as gravel, sticks and vegetation together to make their larval case. Watch out for walking sticks!

 

Water bugs

Water Scorpian

You can find a range of water bug (or true bugs) in our freshwaters including waterboatman, pond skaters and the water scorpion above.

Fun Fact: Water Scorpions breath through a specialised breathing tube on their behind!

Water Beetles

Great Diving Beetle by Bernard Dupont

There are around 350 species of water beetle found in the UK, so a very difficult group to identify. In the Thame catchment some of the more common bettles you may find are whirligig beetles and diving beetles.

Fun fact: Great Diving Beetles can grow up to 4cm!

Freshwater Shrimp

Freshwater Shrimp

Our native freshwater shrimp is gammarus and can be found in their thousands in some ponds and streams in the catchment.

Fun Fact: They are detritivores and are an important found source for a number of freshwater species.

White Clawed Crayfish

White Clawed Crayfish by David Gerke

White Clawed Crayfish is the UK’s only native crayfish which is now endangered due to the invasion of the American Signal Crayfish. There are some records of White Clawed Crayfish in the far reaches of the catchment.

Fun Fact: The white-clawed crayfish have large pincers that are coloured cream or orangey-white on their underside which give it its name.

Freshwater Mussels

Swan Mussel

You can find a number of species of freshwater mussel around the catchment including a few species of swan and duck mussels and pea mussels; which are tiny and are generally found in ponds.

Fun fact: The larvae of the swan and pearl mussel release sticky strings behind them to help them attach to a fish. When/ if they get attached to a fish the larva becomes an external parasite on the fish and feeds off of its blood.

Freshwater snails

Ramshorn snail

There are about 40 different kinds of water snails in Britain, varying in size when fully grown from the tiny Nautilus Ram’s-horn – just 2 or 3 mm across – to the Great Pond Snail which grows up to 4 cm.

Fun Fact: Pond snails can crawl on the underside of the waters surface using a mucus band.

 

 

Plants

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife is found in all kinds of wet habitats, such as reedbeds, fens, marshes and riverbanks and can be found in abundance around the catchment. It grows up to 1.5m and can grow in dense stands with masses of purple flowers between June and August.

Fun Fact: Purple Loosestrife is an invasive species in the USA.

Arrow Head

Arrow Head

A plant with distinctive arrow shaped leaves that likes slow flowing water and can be seen along much of the river, especially around Aylesbury. It blooms from June – September when it produces small white flowers.

Fun Fact: Can be found from Australia to Japan and all throughout Europe

Lesser Spearwort

Lesser Spearwort

Names for its spear like leaves, Lesser Spearwort is a common wetland plant and can be found in a variety of freshwater habitats.

Fun Fact: The sap of the Lesser Spearwort is bitter and acid and, if touched, will easily cause blisters.

Yellow Flag Iris

Yellow Flag Iris

One of the better known wetland plants which can be found throughout all waterbodies in the catchment.

Fun Fact: it can grow up to a meter and a half in height.

Flowering Rush

Flowering Rush by Christian Fltcher

Found in most wetland habitats this pretty rush flowers in July – august.

Fun Fact: Flowering Rush is actually not a member of the rush family, but has a family all to itself!

Water Lilies

Water Lilies

Both the White and Yellow Water Lilies can be seen around the catchment in the ponds and main river (as it is slow flowing).

Fun Fact: The White Water Lily is Britain’s largest flower.

Fools Watercress

Fools water cress by Augustin Roche

A sprawling plant which can be found in ditches and streams throughout the catchment. It is fast growing and rapidly becomes over grown.

Fun Fact: Fools watercress is also known as water celery

Water Forget Me Not

Water forget me not

Common and widespreat throughout the UK, the water-forget-me-not can be found in most wetland habitats throughout the catchment.

Water Mint

Water Mint by Andreas Eichler

Water Mint is easily identified by its aromatic leaves. Its flowers are lilac/pink. Common throughout the UK.