Friday, 27 March 2015

Great Crested Newts After Dark

This isn't actually a Cambridge Post- somehow I managed to accrue a couple of days' worth of Interesting Activities to share before we even made it to the Fens, so I am Posting Them In Logical Order for the sake of recording neatness :o)

A few night's ago I went into the Forest after dark to look for Great Crested Newts. The Wildlife-Savvy among you will know that these little amphibs have maximum protection under European and UK law- it is illegal to search for them, disturb them, move them, pick them up etc etc without a licence, and their presence on development sites can cause mega delays and disruptions and sky-rocketing costs involving the putting up of long lengths of exclusion fences to protect them and their habitat.

In the UK they are not particularly scarce- their protection status seems to originate in the fact that there aren't all that many of them across the rest of Europe.

Anyhoo, we had two members of staff with us who had the necessary licenses and so a group of us met up just before dusk in the forest to do an egg search in some calcareous ponds that formed there on the back of the marl industry, and then to wait till night had well and truly fallen before we searched for the newts themselves in earnest, them being mainly nocturnal and all.

I had never seen a GCN before and was amazed at how enormous they are in comparison to the Smooth and Palmates which are our other native newts here in the UK.

MONSTER NEWT!




 
The crest pops up when mating season is here (a bit of classy showing off for the ladies). They also eat the smaller newts, although not, thankfully, on this particular night :o)

I'm jumping slightly ahead of myself, because before dark fell and we saw the newties, we found what we were looking for- GCN eggs. These are the two small white dots on the leaf in the third pic down. GCNs lay their eggs on submerged leaves and then fold the end of the leaf over the egg to protect it. Needless to say you can't search for GCN eggs without holding a licence either. The silvery-grey egg in the fifth pic is a Palmate newt egg.





 
Once night fell we found an enormous number of all three UK native newts in all the ponds we were looking at, as well as toads, dragonfly nymphs and caddis fly larva. It's another world there in the woods after dark....

Caddis Fly Larva- the insect is inside this elaborately constructed tower of interwoven sticks

Mr Toad floating serenely in the water

Because we had licence holders with us, we were able to net some of the GCNs and turn them over (carefully) to show off their amazing firey tummies. Gorgeous, aren't they?
 
 


And then one eagle-eyed student spotted a female GCN ovipositing (laying her eggs) in her pond...


By then it was pitch black and (typically) my head torch decided to give up the ghost, so I contented myself taking atmospheric shots of everyone else staring into the ponds....






It was a fab evening, and in fact I am off this Sunday to do a proper training course and get myself a GCN licence :o)

Tomorrow, I have a post to show you about the Shoresearch course I did before Cambs and all the amazing sea creatures we found on one of the lowest tides of the year, and them after the Cambs posts (which are coming soon I promise) I've got the results of yesterday's water vole survey to show you....

Hope you're all well. I am off to have a read of what you've all been doing.

CT x

 

33 comments:

  1. I assumed that GCN were incredibly rare and hardly ever seen because of their protection, so it is interesting to see these ones. I hope that your licence getting goes well! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think they are not seen all that often, mainly because they are nocturnal and good at hiding. Fantastic things xx

      Delete
  2. What a wonderful experience a nd some fab pictures too ! We used to have newts in our pond and those GC newts look huge compared with them. Sarah x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are ginormous, and rather fabulous as a result xx

      Delete
  3. Fascinating, and lovely to see their tummies, I had no idea they were like that. Good luck getting your licence. CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are great, aren't they? Such a vibrant splash of colour xx

      Delete
  4. Hooray! Someone else who gets excited at newty things!
    We go nuts for salamanders here.
    Jane x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am fascinated with them, especially as they're not something you see every day :o)

      Delete
  5. I've only seen GCN in books, so this is a treat - the eggs, wrapped in a leaf, so the group uncurled the leaf to see them (hope they were curled back up again). You're so good for me - I've just been and read up about these newts - when the eggs hatch and then develop and metamorphose into young newts they're called efts - what a lovely name. I feel all newty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can't fold the leaf back over the egg once it's been unwrapped, which is why you need a licence to search for them- so you have the training to recognise the signs without needing to unfold the leaf. This one was opened to show the students as part of the licence training, but it is all carefully managed and dependent on the number of newts thought to be present and breeding at the site.
      Eft is a wonderful word for a baby newt isn't it? They are dear little things with fan-like structures around their ears.

      Delete
    2. Ah, ok thankyou, I understand. I also read that only 50% of the eggs are viable due to genetic defect, do you know why this is - I'm trying to find out, fascinating to learn more about them.

      Delete
    3. I suspect it is down to small gene pools. They are reasonably mobile as a species but they, as everything else, have suffered population declines over the last 50 years and this inevitably has a knock-on effect to the availability of breeding females in a habitat.

      Delete
  6. A very interesting post with great phptgraphs. I hope you get your creditation. Have a wonderful weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Margaret- lots of interesting wildlife-related things happening here at present :o)

      Delete
  7. That's brilliant CT, what a great experience for you. I hope your training course goes to plan & you get your GCN licence, best of luck my dear x

    ReplyDelete
  8. Het CT,
    You get to do the best things EVER.
    Leanne xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do feel very lucky :o) Seaside creatures coming up in next post...saw loads of amazing things on the shoresearch course day, many of which I expect you'll already know xx

      Delete
  9. I had no idea they were so big compared to the others-what great things you have been up to and a brilliant idea to get a licence-have fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was amazed at their size too. Having a great wildlife time at the moment, and summer is teetering around the corner too bringing all the inverts with it :o)

      Delete
  10. Very rewarding and interesting. Loved the photos and now once again, due to your incredible posts, I am learning and enjoying the experience. I would have loved to have you teaching me in College. Take care kiddo and keep em coming. BOL on your course and GCN License. Lilly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lilly, that's a lovely thing to say (although, if I were to teach you I think we would end up spending much of our time laughing together!). x

      Delete
  11. A really interesting post CT with some great photos :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. These are fascinating creatures so I loved this post. My Dad was a bit of an enthusiast so some of my strongest childhood memories are spent with him keeping an eye out for a glimpse of a newt. We were never successful! Sadly, in the 1980's that particular habitat had been allowed to deteriorate, however now great work has been done to restore it - I wonder if the newts have come back! Thanks so much for your words of encouragement on my blog CT, I really appreciate them. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's worth taking a torch and looking around ponds after dark at this time of year- they're all more active after dark.

      Re the running, I'm v happy to encourage you whenever you need a lift- it's easy to stop if you're feeling tired/ have had a long day etc, but I have found that having even a ten minute run really refreshes me and I feel so much better for it. You'll start to see the benefits on all kinds of levels within a couple of weeks xx

      Delete
  13. I remember going to a friends house when I was a kid, there was a pond there with lots of Newts in, the first time I'd ever seen one. At home I don't think I ever saw them at all. Last year I found a common Newt under a stone at the park, couldn't get over how small they are, no wounder they get missed. Might be worth dragging hubby to the park in the dark ( not on a promise :) !!) but to look for Newts.
    Love your posts as they are full of information. Glad you hand a good time.
    Amanda xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I first saw newts as a child at home too- never forgotten how amazing they were and waited about 30 years to see my next one! Definitely worth dragging hubby out round the park after dark- perhaps a promise might encourage him!! :o) xx

      Delete
  14. Great post, nice newt photos.

    Ian
    http://my-wildlife-pond-project.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Ian,

    Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed the newts. CT :o)

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x