Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Netting newt efts

Yesterday we surveyed the ponds for newt efts (young newts that have hatched over the spring and summer).  We are doing this as part of the Gibside Great Crested Newt Project, to find out how well great crested newts are breeding in our ponds.   The project has also included digging new ponds and re-excavating and improving existing ponds, so over the next three years we will monitor the newt population to see how they have been affected by these pond improvements.

John with the catch from the Walled Garden pond
Phil surveying in the Garden pond.      

 Rangers and volunteers used nets to scoop up pond creatures and find young newts.  Some of the efts we found were well-grown and almost ready to leave the pond.  The efts that we found in the Walled Garden pond were the largest, and starting to loose their feathery gills.  They must have hatched a couple of months ago, earlier in the season.  Others were tiny, only a couple of inches long, so they must have hatched recently.  The last few weeks of rain showers will have tempted the adult newts back to the ponds to lay more eggs.

This tiny eft was found in the Park Field pond.  It is so small, we think it must have hatched sometime last week.

Larger efts from the Walled Garden pond.  They still have their feathery gills, but they will disappear soon, and the newts will leave the pond.
Amphibians will breed and lay their eggs in ponds, and then leave the ponds and spend most of the year on dry land, eating bugs in the long grass and hiding in tussocks.  They hibernate on land during the winter.  The youngest efts may not develop sufficiently to leave the pond before the winter, so they will hibernate in the mud at the bottom of the pond.  As the water warms up again in the spring, their development will start again, and they will leave the pond at a year old.

We found great crested newt efts in every pond that we surveyed which is great news for the newt population.

County Durham Environment Trust and Northumbrian Water funded £20,000 for the Gibside Great Grested Newt Project.

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