Sunday, 13 March 2016

Post 396 - Got Cracking News - Great Crested Newt!

Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)
Hey everyone, post 396 today and I'm writing about my first amphibian encounter of the year. Two things are amazing about this. First, it was in my garden and secondly it was a Great Crested Newt!

Now I've found newts in my garden before. When Dad's clearing up stuff in the garden or moving plant pots there's often a Common Newt lurking underneath so he's pretty careful when gardening. I wrote about one I re-homed with him back on Day 13 of my blog. It's nice looking back at old posts, like I did with lichens recently, and even nicer when I've come across a new species to tell you about.

Our garden is small, semi wild and has a nice mix of plants, shrubs and trees. There is a tiny pond with a waterfall. Underneath this Dad used a lot of stony material of different sizes, this left lots of space for things to crawl in and hibernate. The pond gets very full of dead leaves and plants though as a tree hangs over it. So I don't think the newts live in our pond. I've only ever seen a bit of frog spawn in it once. All our neighbours have ponds, all sorts of different sizes too so it seems we have a nice area for amphibians. I have seen frogs and toads in the garden too.

Finding the Great Crested Newt though was very special. I was just on my way to my Nana's house for a piano lesson when I spotted it strolling through the garden. I showed Dad and we looked closely to be sure. It's much darker and bumpier than the usual newts we find and we could make out its crest. I've done my research and I'm pretty certain it is one. Here's some of what I found out about them:

Showing his silver lined tail and you can just see the crest

  • They are Britain's largest and most endangered newt. They can be up to 16cm long.
  • You can find them, if you're lucky, in most of Britain, apart from Devon and Cornwall and some parts of Wales and Scotland.
  • It's not just Britain that you will find them though, they are also found in Northern and Central Europe as far as the Ural mountains.
  • Their diet is made up mainly of aquatic invertebrates but they will tackle large prey such as smooth newts and large dragonflies!
  • Sadly though they are not that common and have suffered a severe decline in the last 50 years.
  • One of the reasons for their decline is the loss of their habitat. The ponds they use for breeding in the past have been filled in for agriculture or for house building.
  • I read that around 100 years ago there were probably about 1,000,000 ponds in our country side, now there are only around 478,000.
  • Because of this decline they are protected. Great crested newts are a European protected species. The newt, their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law. 
He had a nice stroll through the garden -  I love his little orange finger-tips!
  • They get their name from the crest that the males grow during the breeding season. They also develop the silver line on their tails. Mine seems to fit the bill of being a male! The crests are much more impressive in the water.
  • You can't see it on mine but their bellies have an orange and black spotted pattern on them.
  • In their breeding ponds males will do an elaborate display for the females. 
  • Eggs are laid in March-April individually on leaves of aquatic plants which are folded around the egg to protect them.
  • The newt tadpoles grow differently to frogs and toads as they grow their front legs first!
  • They take about 18 weeks to develop from egg to juvenile.
And then headed into a little hidey hole.
  • They like ponds which dry up from time to time. This is because these ponds won't have fish in and the young newts, called efts, won't get eaten by them!
  • Adults newts will hang round in ponds eating frog and toad tadpoles though!
  • They feed up in the Autumn ready for Winter. They like to hide out in piles of rocks or sticks. They don't hibernate and will emerge when it's mild to forage.
So, I hope that's a nice bit of background to these fabulous creatures. You can find lots more information at:



  1. Wow, what an amazing find!! Such a cool creature as well. Your garden really must be a haven :)

    1. Thanks Ashley. It's quite small our garden but we have neighbours with ponds and countryside all around us. Have some great things visiting us though :-)