Photos: from our newt adventures
Surveys have shown that up to 50% of Gloucestershire's ponds have disappeared since 1950, depleting the newt's natural habitat. Today there are fewer than 3,000 of the original farm ponds left. During Spring 2007, 60 ponds in the county were surveyed but great crested newts were only present in 14%.
Stroud Valleys Project (SVP) is undertaking a long-term study into the state of the population of great-crested newts living in the Stonehouse pond. The launch of this study coincides with the peak courtship and egg-laying period which occurs mid-March to mid-May. During this time, adult males attract females by undertaking a complicated courtship ‘dance’ and you can go out with a torch and see if you have them in your pond. We sadly saw no crested newts but did see 9 'boy' newts and 1 'girl' newt - see below - females are less colourful on their bellies - see below
1 in 10 gardens now have a pond but natural ponds are disappearing throughout the countryside due to infilling, pollution and draining as a result of modern agricultural practices. As a result great crested newts are now a protected species as the lack of natural habitats; particularly the loss of breeding grounds is impacting on the size of the newt population in general. Indeed the police have a Wildlife Crime Officer who patrols some of the key sites at key times.On my visit to the Stonehouse site we witnessed that one newt was dying as a result of the strimming of grass there (see photo below) - I will ask to see if there is a way the Parish can change the times of strimming to have less of an impact on the newts.
The long term goal of the study is for SVP to work with local residents to look after the pond, ensuring that the newt population continues to thrive despite the housing development that’s been built around the pond in recent years. The survey involves putting out special newt-friendly traps on the Friday evening, and then returning to the pond at 7.00am the following morning to empty the traps and see what's been caught. The early start is to minimise any disturbance to the newts. We were apparently working with one of the country’s leading great-crested newt experts who lives in Stroud and is properly licensed to handle these legally protected animals.
Former Green District councillor Dr Simon Pickering, Chair of the Gloucestershire Biodiversity Partnership, is quoted in the press saying: "This is a stunning innovative project that will set new standards for great crested newt conservation in Europe by protecting and enhancing networks of ponds not just individual ponds."
This pic is of the fence - a special design to stop the newts getting out onto the main road - however there are apparently flaws with it? Anyhow it was a very enjoyable time - I learnt lots - would have been even better with an espresso machine but nevertheless a good time - look out for similar events next year.
GREAT CRESTED NEWTS