It was a sad day yesterday; a newt was murdered.
Of course, the good news is that the newts are even around – as their habitat has been destroyed so much over the last few years. We have a large pond (around 10M x 3M and 3M deep at its deepest point) that has no fish and has both steep sides and a more gradual slopes at either end. Around it are around ten trees and up one bank there’s a mess of brambles. It attacks ducks, moorhens and has both common and great crested newts. (The moorhens particular like the brambles, hiding in there each time someone comes close).
We have wood piles a short distance away, a small wooded area, both long and short grass and the area is away from the house and road/drive, allowing the population to live without too much human bother. The pond itself has no stream to/from it, though it takes water from most of the garden and run-off from the road. The level of the pond varies throughout the year, it was common ten years ago or so for it to overflow onto the surrounding grass during the winter, but each of the last three winters, the level has been lower than the last and in the height of summer it dries up altogether.
When we moved into the house, I researched local fish and had around £200 worth delivered, hoping that they would thrive. About two days later the local heron saw them and had a £100 breakfast two days in a row and that was the end of the fish. Little did we know, this was good news for the newts, as the fish would probably have eaten the newt eggs or young.
The local council used to send someone around every few months to count them with a torch in the evening, though what happened to the data I have no idea, he comes no longer. Still, the newts don’t seem to mind whether they are counted or not and are clearly still living there. A few years ago, when a nearby set of buildings were being rebuilt, newts were found by the builders – after consulting with the authorities, they had to set up a newt-proof fence around the site and each newt found inside was brought over to our pond in a bucket by one of the workers and re-housed with us (re-ponded?)
So all was well, they lived without fish predators, no-one counted them but they didn’t mind and on occasions when I found them in the greenhouse or hiding in pots or wood, I’d just leave them alone. Sadly though, yesterday their number was reduced by one. As a friend came to the back door, she managed to tread on the head of one of them, so the population has reduced by one – let’s hope that this year they manage to reproduce and make up for the loss of Uncle Nicholas, the newt with the roaming instinct that in the end, did him no good.
P.S. Let’s also hope for a lot of rain in the next few weeks to fill the pond to the level that keeps it wet during the summer.