How to help the newts in your pond

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The development lifecycle of Newts in your pond:

Newts in the pond in Spring:

Smooth Newts:

  • Smooth Newts return to the pond as mating adults when 3 years old and are brown & about 3" long.
  • These newts can be identified as Smooth newts not Palmate newts as their back feet are not webbed.
  • They are looking for still, neutral to slightly alkaline water
  • Ideally a pond with no fish
  • Clear water space to perform their mating routine which generally occurs at dawn and dusk.

Males:

  • When ready for mating he can be distinguished by bright orange markings on both tail and underbelly.
  • Males try to attract a female with his bright tummy and by waving his brightly edged tail to waft his glandular secretions (pheromones) to her.
  • She should then swim and follow him.
  • When she touches his tail with her nose he releases his spermatophore so she will swim over it and it will stick to her underbelly.

Females:

  • Look duller/paler in colour and plumper on the hips in Spring as she has a bellyful of eggs waiting to be fertilized.
  • She can store the sperm of more than one male in her body for a few days until she fertilizes the eggs just before laying.

Great Crested Newts:

  • Great crested newts are black in colour and larger than Smooth or Palmate newts - about 5-6" long.
  • The male has a silver stripe the length of his tail when he is of mating age and a very pronounced crest when swimming in the water.
  • It is against the law to handle, disturb or disrupt the pond or habitat area associated with Great Crested Newts as these newts are under threat. (Image above courtesy of Jim Grundy).
  • The Great Crested Newt is Fully Protected in law under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (Regs) & Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000.
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and/or Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) can be created where great crested newts are found.
  • This means legal restrictions on managing a pond and its plants and the land around these pond sites to save the specific habitat these newts require.

 

Best rafting plants for the Newts in your pond to lay eggs:

Any species of female newt will lay her eggs between March and June (approx) in the leaves of rafting plants of  <p>Suitable for shelf depth 13-15cm(5-6”) or waterlogged mud </p> so these are the best pond plants to encourage any newts to breed in your pond.

Photos below show a female newt laying her eggs & folding them in a leaf for safety.

  • The female newt finds a suitable leaf and lays her eggs. She folds the leaf over each egg with her back feet. (Photos above taken by Waterside Nursery 14 April 2016).
  • She lays, wraps each egg individually in a folded leaf and secures it by sealing the fold with a secretion for safety from predators.

Photos show the folded leaves of Myosotis scorpioides (Myosotis palustris) used by a female newt and a closeup of the egg inside the folded leaf.

  • One female will lay several eggs a day over many weeks of a season and can lay between 150 - 300 eggs in a season. They will take between 10-20 days to hatch dependent on temperature (but only 1% of eggs laid will reach adulthood).

Newts in Summer:

  • Newt larvae or tadpoles develop from the eggs and swim in the pond hiding in the oxygenating weed using their gills to breathe and feeding on aquatic insects.
  • They have no legs at this stage and as each batch of eggs develops you can see a range of sizes of newt larvae within one pond - image shows they range from 1cm to 3cm.
  • In June when they have grown and developed legs they begin to leave the water as efts to look for food in the surrounding undergrowth.
  • You need to supply an area of plants next to the pond for this foraging and for protection from predators such as blackbirds that are quick to pick on the young newts as they emerge from the water if they have nowhere to hide.

Newts in Winter:

Smooth Newts have a dull brown skin as camouflage to overwinter in log piles, compost heaps or under sheds. They find frost free and safe places from predators like cats or birds.

  • Make sure you make plenty of safe areas of Winter protection for them near your pond.
  • They do not hibernate but stay dormant. In a spell of warmer weather - above  5C at night they may emerge and look for food - earthworms, slugs or insects.
  • They are nocturnal and will begin to travel to their ponds for breeding as it warms at night but find shelter again if it turns cold.

See below - best pond plants for newts in your pond to lay eggs on:

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