Mornings are not my strong point but waking up at 0520 with the chance of seeing some Great Crested Newts seemed like a fine reason to haul myself out of bed. After driving through some heavy rain showers I arrived at Swanwick Lakes ready to see if the bottle traps had done their magic and attracted some interesting pond life.
The previous evening I joined some HWT amphibian experts in torch searching around two lakes at Swanwick in the hope of being able to record amphibian sightings and observe their behaviour. At Swanwick we have all three species of newt; Smooth, Palmate and Great Crested. Under torchlight we saw a number of Great Crested and small newts (its very hard to tell if they are Palmate or Smooth newts without having them in the hand). As we went around we set bottle traps, which work on a similar principle to lobster pots – Once the animal has entered through the funnel it finds it very difficult to find the way out until, of course, a friendly HWT newt surveyor comes and lets you out unharmed.
The reason for carrying out bottle trapping is to record the spotted bellies of each Great Crested Newts we found. These markings are unique to each individual and from recording each one we should be able to work the rough population size in each of the lakes.
Not only is this sort of surveying work a great way of making sure our practical work is on track to maintaining species conservation but also in working with our ecologist colleagues we can better understand how the site is used for species such as Great Crested Newts.
It’s a bit of a different way to spend a few hours of my week but a way that I thoroughly enjoy. Lets just hope we get to see more amphibian life in the lakes as the breeding season gets underway.