Great Crested Newts
Tritusus Cristatus more commonly known as (Greater Crested Newts), are the largest out of our three British species. Females can grow to a length of 17cm which is three times the size of Palmate and Smooth Newts. Although they are widespread throughout Europe, their biggest populations are found in Britain. Despite this, colonies have dwindled and disappeared over the last 100 years and they are now a protected species. They are nocturnal by nature and active at night looking for food such as, spiders, insects, slugs, worms and even small Palmate and Smooth Newts which are all on the menu. Newts spend two thirds of their lives on land, often far from water and are often found in woodlands. During the breeding season, they will spend the other third of their lives in water where they feed on a different menu of Fish, Tadpoles, Water Fleas, Pond Snails and other crustaceans and in fact, almost anything smaller than themselves. Crested Newts have dark, warty skins covered in minute white spots. Their skin contain toxins that are poisonous and act as a deterrent to hungry Foxes, Badgers, Hedgehogs and Rats. Herons on the other hand, are less fussy and will swallow them whole.
On mild, wet spring evenings, Crested Newts, Frogs, Toads, Smooth and Palmate Newts, make their way to the water for breeding. Greater Crested Newts prefer deep, clear water roughly 3 – 8 ft in depth, also favouring waters that contain lots of aquatic vegetation for egg laying. During this time, males take on a prehistoric look which is rather akin to the look of a miniature dragon. With their crinkled crest running from head to their tail, their bellies are marbled with bright orange and black markings and they develop a silvery blue stripe down the centre of their tails. From March to June, females will lay up to 200 eggs. Delicately using their back legs, they fold the leaves of aquatic pond plants around each egg giving them protection until they hatch. Baby Crested Newts also known as (Elf’s), like all other British amphibians, live in water and breath through gills, feeding on Water Fleas and various other small aquatic life as well as taking insects that have fallen into the water. At the end of the summer, Metamorphism takes place and baby Newts lose their gills and emerge on land as miniature adults. This is a very important time for them as they need to feed constantly as sometime in September they will go into hibernation and wont emerge again until the following March. Newts won’t return to water until they reach maturity and will then breed. This duration varies from 2 – 4 years depending on the abundance of food and weather conditions such as severe or mild winters.
Encouraging Crested Newts
There are several things you can do to attract these protected Newts to your garden. As I mentioned above, they prefer deep water to other amphibians, so bear this in mind when you design and dig out your pond. I would recommend that you dig out a ditch or several ditches connecting many access areas through your garden to your water garden and this will encourage Newts to your pond providing them with a pathway in which to get to the water. Last but not least, add plenty of logs and stones to your water garden and surrounding areas planting lots of mat-forming and creeping perennials and alpines amongst them. These areas will provide excellent damp hiding places and are ideal for attracting Crested Newts and other amphibians to your garden.
WATCH AND BE AMAZED !!