Abbotswood Nature Reserve
The Newt Next Door
Introduction – What are great crested newts?
There are three different species of newts found within the UK; smooth, palmate and the infamous great crested newt. The great crested newt is the largest of these native species, growing up to 15cm long. The males develop a large jagged crest during the breeding season, running along their back with another crest on their tail, giving them their name of ‘great crested’ newt. They have dark, warty skin and a distinctive orange belly with black spots. Their numbers have been in decline across Europe, mainly due to loss, fragmentation and degradation of both pond and terrestrial habitats, pollution and introduction of non-native predators such as gold fish. This species therefore require ongoing conservation efforts to prevent further decline in their population.
As an EU protected species, the great crested newt is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it illegal to kill, injure or capture great crested newts, or to deliberately disturb them or damage breeding sites and places of shelter.
For more information on the legal protection of great crested newts, see the ‘Great Crested Newt Conservation Handbook’ available at https://www.froglife.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/GCN-Conservation-Handbook_compressed.pdf .
Newts at Abbotswood
The Nature Reserve was set aside primarily as habitat for the breeding population of great crested newts located on site. It has also been designated as a SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation) for this reason.
Activities which could be detrimental to great crested newts include:
- The introduction of fish to breeding ponds, which is illegal under the above legislation.
- Dogs causing disturbance, or even directly killing newts, both on land and in their breeding ponds.
- Mismanagement of valuable habitats
- Pollution of waterbodies used by newts for breeding
Some of the management you may see around Abbotswood is to enhance habitats for great crested newts, which includes:
- Grass cutting – once a year to prevent it becoming too overgrown and to encourage a diversity of grass and wildflower species.
- Scrub management – Good foraging and sheltering habitat, but needs controlling to prevent it overtaking valuable grassland habitat.
- Coppicing – enhance wetland areas by cutting the trees at ground level. This is to prevent over-shading of pond vegetation.
- Creating log piles – perfect place for hibernating newts, known as a hibernacula.
- Fish removal – fish introduced to ponds feed on the newt eggs and tadpoles, therefore threatening the breeding newt population.
For more information, please contact the Countryside Officers on 01264 368000, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.