Last night Alex and I braved the darkness to peer into the depths of the various pools and ponds around Sutton Ecology Center. Armed with some huge, ominous looking survey flashlights we strode into the mild evening, hoping to find and blind (joking!) as many newts as possible. Any toads, frogs and other beasties would be a nice bonus.
After a larva was found last year, we were really looking to find Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) – arguably the ‘point’ of undertaking these surveys.
The Great Crested Newt (referred to by those in the know as GCN) is protected by law as it is under threat by, and has greatly declined due to, habitat destruction
We started, lamps blazing, in the small pond to the east of the allotments. Despite only being a meter or so square, and not having much by way of subaquatic vegetation, we found 9 or 10 smooth or common newts (Triturus vulgaris), apparently quite happy floating about in the otherwise seemingly barren pool.
Next up were the two small raised ponds to the south of the main pond. Strangely, in the first we found no newts at all, despite what looked like perfect conditions. A pair of common toads (Bufo bufo) were something to look at, at least, although lack of spawn or tadpoles suggested that they weren’t a breeding pair. Hopefully our by now slightly dimmer mood lighting will have done something to encourage a bit of Bufo rumpy-pumpy.
The second small pond held a bit more life, with another common toad and 5 or so more common newts hiding in the shadows of the foliage. A damselfly larva also made an appearance, thrashing wildly through the water towards the lamp light (probably not the best idea when you’re in a pond full of potential predators). We left our damsel in distress to whatever grisly end may have befallen it…
Onto the main act of the show and our lamps were unfortunately already beginning to cough and splutter a bit. We started with the small pool by the pond shed and counted a bumper 16 common newts, some flashing their vibrant orange bellies as we scanned through the depths, the males showing off their wavy crests that they grow during the breeding season. We also spotted a couple of large freshwater leeches stretching themselves out of the water onto dry land – behaviour I was previously unaware of!
Unfortunately, by the time we got to the main pond, the torches were really suffering. We managed to spot another 10 or so smooth newts by the pond dipping platform before our lamps flickered and spluttered and died. Switching to a far less effective LED torch we managed to pick up a couple more ‘maybes’ on our way around the perimeter, but ultimately couldn’t properly survey the main pond.
Despite that disappointment, it was an interesting way to spend an evening, and something I can’t wait to repeat. Assuming we can source some more reliable torches, stay tuned for a (hopefully more successful!) Newt Survey log #2 in the near future!
Thanks for reading,