Duncan was out doing newt survey work early this morning for EcoNorth, Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s consultancy. The aim of such surveys are to determine whether the protected great crested newts are present, as these need special consideration as part of any development. There seem to be relatively few ponds in lowland north-east England without them, though they are often there in small numbers. As a European protected species just surveying for them requires a licence. The morning involved collection in bottle traps that were set the night before and seeing what they had caught. The newts, once recorded, are then released, unharmed, back into the pond.
One pond revealed not a single newt but the second was much more interesting with two male great crested newts being caught along with a few smooth newts too. The great crested is distinctive in having warty skin and the male has a prominent crest. At this time of year he also has a bright silvery stripe on his tail. Smooth newts are smaller and, as the name suggests, have smooth skin. Males have a distinctive crest too causing some confusion on occasion.