Thursday, August 07, 2008

Gasp!

Great Crested Newt
I had to wait about 10 minutes before our resident Smooth Newt came up for air. When it did, it was very quick and soon dived back down out of sight.

Well, it's true that I don't really know anything about newts (amongst many things). I did wait 10 minutes, the newt did come up for air and it did dive out of sight quickly. But, it was not just a Smooth Newt; it was an M&S Newt - a Great Crested Newt!

When Great Crested (or Warty) Newts are mentioned in the media at the moment, it's usually with the words '... bane of modern developers' or 'enemy of progress'. The reason is that they're protected under UK and European laws and you can't disturb them, possess them, trade them in any way or damage their habitat. Good!

The newt was first seen on 27 July. I saw it come up and air and go down again, and it didn't really cross my mind that it could have been anything other than a bog-standard Smooth Newt. On 3 August, I got the above photo of it and it did strike me that it looked quite dark and spotty, but a couple of friends told me it was Smooth and I had no reason to think otherwise.

Then, Matt left a comment on the original version of this post so I thought I'd get it checked out. Kevin and Daniel both told me it was Great Crested and I'm still astounded. Where has it come from? Did it hitch a ride on some pond plants? I don't know for sure, but apparently they've been seen elsewhere in our village and I wonder how many others are lurking out there.

I didn't see the newt yesterday so I wondered if it had left the water and gone looking for worms. This evening, when we got back from work, I went to have a look for it again. There it was, in the water soldier, but there was another one, too! It was fascinating to watch (what was presumably) the male newt stand on his forelegs and arch his back, showing his orange belly to the female.

So sorry, but you're likely to read more of my droning on about ponds and newts here in the future.
  • 'If you are creating or managing a pond where Great Crested Newts are present, you may need a conservation licence' says the Pond Conservation website...
photos taken with Canon EOS 30D + EF 300mm f/4L IS USM