Exciting news from the newt survey done on 5th May 2011.

The latest survey of newts and other amphibians was done on the evening of 5th May 2011 and the morning of 6th May, under the expert supervision of Nicky Butler who is licenced to handle Great Crested Newts. Please remember that only licence holders should set traps or handle Great Crested Newts.
 The initial search is always a "torching survey", using high-powered torches to try to spot newts in the ponds, ditches and water troughs around the site. Once again we spotted more Palmate and Smooth newts in the water troughs than in the ponds, plus the usual collection of frogs and toads. However, there have not previously been reports of Palmate Newts on other sites in the Darlington area, so this makes it a 4 amphibian site and the Tees Valley criteria for designation of Local Wildlife Sites includes one for any site with 4 native amphibian species. So the allotment site is now well and truly "on the wildlife map".

Nicky then led a small group (Jean Atkinson and Paul Richmond) on a "torching" of the two ponds adjoining Black Path, and we were lucky enough to find  male Great Crested Newts in the pond closest to our site. Nicky (because she holds the approriate licence to handle Great Crested Newts) caught two of them and here are the photographs to prove it. You can just about see the whitish flash (or orange if it is a female) along the lower part of the tail, which is a very distinctive feature if you only manage a quick glimpse of one as it swims away from you. 


Bottle traps were then set in the the site and Black Path ponds and left overnight. Unfortunately we didn't catch any Great Crested Newts, but one of the traps in the old pond in the north-east corner of our site came up trumps in terms of the number of newts captured.

Yes, that really is 12 newts (all males) from one trap (the design of which Nicky has been improving, and it seems to have been more effective than the original design). So it looks like that pond may be a better habitat than we thought.

Nicky managed to get some quite good photographs which show the difference between male Palmate Newts (they have very pronounced dark wbbed rear feet) and male Smooth Newts. The photographs also give and indication of the smallness (about 10 cms long) of these newts compared to the size of the Great Crested newts (about 14 cms long, and a lot sturdier all round).


The final survey will probably be in late May or early June, and we will probably do some habitat improvement work in the pond area during the autumn.

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