Thursday, 17 March 2011

A night on the Newt

After a failed attempt last week at my first experience of a local newt and amphibian count due to the horrendous weather conditions, I was contacted by Mr DM who asked if I was free to join him on Wednesday evening for the count at my local Wetland site and seeing that the weather was clear I jumped at the oppurtunity.

On meeting up with Mr DM at the local Wetland site, it was nice not to be greated by hoards of uncontrollable dogs and their owners (I know I harp on about this but it really ruins my time out).  Heading down to the first pond after a brief catch up we realised it was incredibly quiet with no Frog or Toad calls from the ponds and we may of possibly got there a little to early (8pm start next time?).  First sighting was a Caterpillar or Larvae which I am currently trying to ID and will then post up if of any interest.  On a near circuit of the first pond I heard a slight splash and shone my torch to the ponds edge to see the first Common Frog of the evening, only a young one but still nice to see at least one.

Common Frog - Blackpool 16/03/2011
Still no newts as of yet but alot of Frog spawn.  Onto the second pond and it wasn't to long until we caught glimpse of our first newt, a Smooth Newt also known as a Common Newt.  This being my first attempt at a newt count in the evening, I now realised why Mr DM was giving me pointers on where to look as my god are they difficult to spot!!! Trying to work out what is a Newt or what is a dead leaf is not easy I can tell you.  At least four Newts in pond 2 and then onto the next pond.  While Mr DM explained what sort of plants Newts like to lay their eggs on and how to notice if the plant I am looking at has been used we noticed alot of movement just to the edge of pond 3, to which we then noticed at least 3 Smooth Newts together, Mr DM tried his up most to gather one up but each dove down without a chance of locating again... slippery buggers I can tell you that.  While on the far side of pond 3 we started to notice alot of Newts, mostly females but a few males aswell and this time Mr DM was successful in getting hold of a Smooth Newt to get a closer ID.

Female Smooth Newt - Blackpool 16/03/2011
Mr DM started showing me how to tell this was a female Smooth Newt, smaller than males and during the breeding season the males develop a wavy crest to the tail.  Therefore with the above this one was definitely a female, due to no crested tail plus dark spotting or speckling on the throat as you can see below.

Female Smooth Newt - Blackpool 16/03/2011
Mr DM then placed the Smooth Newt down on the back of his clipboard to get a closer shot and size comparison and then back into the pond in the exact location we located her.

Female Smooth Newt - Blackpool 16/03/2011
While heading round the last part of pond 3 we started to hear more vocal Frogs and then Mr DM clamped his eyes on a Common Toad.  No pic from me as I could not focus in the dark and even with torch light it was difficult but Mr DM was able to get a decent shot which you can find over on Fylde Amphibian and Reptile Group when added later today or tomorrow.

No Great Crested Newts tonight but hopefully next time I head out I will finally see one for the first time since I was in Senior School!!  A great evening, not to cold but hard work on the old back bending down and scouring around the edges of ponds but around 10-15 Smooth Newts and I was happy.

Also please be aware Great Crested Newts are protected under the UK and European legislation and it is illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb, harm or kill Great Crested Newts.  The maximum fine on conviction of offences is currently £5000, therefore beware and do not panic Mr DM is licensed for the count and identification we did this evening.


  1. Interesting stuff Neil.

    Good luck in your pursuit of a Great Crested Newt, like you I've not seen one since I was at school, which, in my case, was a good few decades ago :-(

    If you & Dave M hook up with any I wouldn't mind joining you for a shufties.


  2. No worries Cliff - lots of opportunities in next few weeks along the North Blackpool Pond Trail...we'll will keep you in the loop.