Spring has arrived! At this is the time of year individual great crested newts undertake epic feats of endurance (500m is a long way to crawl for a newt!) and migrate through surrounding terrestrial habitat to assemble in the ponds where they were born. Most adults will be in the ponds during the spring and into the early summer – wooing, mating and laying eggs. The rest of the year they live on land – sheltering in stone walls, woodlands, hedgerows scrub and rough grassland in the landscape surrounding their pond. The great crested newt is a European Protected Species due to its conservation status as the most threatened newt in Western Europe. With patchy but wide distribution across Britain it remains a species of concern due to threats such as continued loss of ponds and terrestrial habitat, habitat fragmentation and deterioration of ponds through neglect or introduction of fish.
Developers are often required to consider potential newt use of their site, where suitable breeding ponds occur within 500m. Great crested newt use of a terrestrial habitat is inferred by survey of nearby breeding ponds, when newts are assembled. To determine presence-absence, four pond visits are undertaken by a licenced ecologist, spread through mid-March to mid-June, to set traps and survey by torchlight. If great crested newts are present, a further two visits are required, to establish a population estimate. Advances in technology means that water sampling and subsequent profiling for Great Crested Newt DNA in the water (e-DNA sampling) can now be used instead of presence-absence visits, where appropriate. A useful tool where large numbers of water bodies require survey, and potentially allowing some ponds to be ruled out from return survey visits.
Wild Service is currently booking in newt surveys for this season. If you’d like to discuss your survey requirements, we’d be happy to help.
*photo by Phillip Precey