Discovering Newts in your Garden Pond

Many children have a great fascination towards small creatures found in gardens, fields or ponds such as earthworms, frogs, tadpoles and newts. As a result of my daughters interest in pond wildlife, I find myself constantly on the look out for ponds noting the various species of aquatic plants, the type of edging added to protect the pond liner and whether there are fish present. This summer, while taking our usual walk into school we noticed that the pond on the school property had been fenced off and that the surrounding garden was starting to look some what over grown. The water level of the pond had also dropped exposing the pond liner. On investigation I was informed that the The Great Crested Newt had been spotted in the pond and because they are a protected species the pond had to be fenced off to all human visitors.

I was not aware that this was law in the UK, so went home to research the different species of Newts and why the Greater Crested Newt has become a protected species.

Facts about Newts found in our garden ponds:

  1. There are three species of newts native to the UK, namely the Great Crested, the Smooth and the Palmate newt.
  2. All newts are predators and prey on insects, tadpoles, invertebrates and earthworms.
  3. Newts who successfully avoid predators can live for up to 15 years.
  4. Adult newts spend most of their existence on land and only return to water to mate and lay their eggs. They spend about four months between March and July in a pond.
  5. When on land newts shelter from sun and predators under rocks, logs, overgrown boarders, compost heaps and in dry stone walling around the garden. They become active at night or after rain to hunt for insects and earthworms.
  6. The crest of the Great Crested newt is used to attract females and stimulate them into mating. The bigger and more impressive the males breeding crest the more chance he has of attracting a mate. After the breeding season, the crest is absorbed into his body until the following spring or mating season when it is put out on display again.

Facts about the protection of Great Crested Newts:

  • Since the 1940s, populations of Great Crested Newts have declined in numbers due to the loss of their natural habitat.
  • They are a protected species n England, Wales and Scotland under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and under equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland.
  • It is an offense to intentionally kill, injure or take a Great Crested Newt
  • It is an offense to intentionally destroy or damage any breeding site or terrestrial habitat used by the newt for shelter.

I read an interesting article about a family extradited from their home as the Great Crested newt had moved in following a flood caused by a burst drainage pipe. I, therefore understand with great respect why the school closed off the property leading to their pond and surrounding garden so designed to provide the best and most suitable types of natural habitats for newts and other wildlife. The pond was fortunately constructed using a UV resistant rubber pond liner, and while no further maintenance, upkeep or topping-up of the ponds water level can be carried out, this type pond line should ‘survive’ many more years without requiring any maintenance.

In order to protect the natural habitat of our wildlife we need to teach children to look only with their eyes and to respect nature and their natural habitats. While so much of our habitat is being destroyed by human encroachment, we can help by constructing garden ponds and being less formal with our gardening.

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