The Great Crested Newt in Peterborough

The great crested newts in Hampton Peterborough have delayed building work as Council rehome them. Sam Taylor from Froglife Peterborough tells the BBC’s Paul Stainton a bit more about the creatures themselves, and what’s being done for them.
Broadcast at 08:22 on Thursday 22nd July 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PAUL: Now in yesterday’s show we were all about the great crested newt. It was all because three of the little fellows were found on the site at Hampton Hargate Primary School, causing a delay in the planned expansion. Here’s Jonathan Lewis from Peterborough City Council, from yesterday’s show. (TAPE)
JONATHAN: We love newts at the Council. We’ve had lots of problems around newts on this particular site. It’s delayed, it’s added at least a year, to the process, while we’ve had to go through surveys, in terms of the newt population. We’ve had to put in mitigating factors, such as additional ponds on the area. But thankfully, all sorted now. We have a month to capture them, and then we can start building on the site.(LIVE)
PAUL: We were trying to find a newt sound effect to let you know what a newt sounds like, but we couldn’t find one. So if anybody knows what a newt sounds like, can you let is know please. But what exactly is a great crested newt? I’ve never seen one. And why does it enjoy Hampton so much? Well let’s find out. Sam Taylor is from Froglife in Peterborough. Morning Sam.
SAM: Morning.
PAUL: What does a newt sound like?
SAM: It’s really quiet. I don’t think you’re going to find them roaring.
PAUL: You wouldn’t have a good night out with one?
SAM: No. They’re more the kind of quiet type.
PAUL: Why have they decided they like to live in Hampton so much?
SAM: Well Peterborough is just fantastic for newts, and Hampton particularly. Before all the new building work was there, at Hampton Hargate and Hampton Vale and everything, it was full of newts. It was a very wild area, and they really like lots of different types of ponds. So they’re a little bit more fussy than frogs. Frogs will have one pond, and hang around in it, and be happy. Newts like to have quite a few different types of ponds. So they’ll have a pond that they breed in, and lay their eggs in. They’ll have another pond where they might eat, and go and find their food, a bit like a supermarket, or a restaurant type of pond. And they’ll have another pond just for hanging out, chilling out in.
PAUL: A bit greedy.
SAM: (LAUGHS) And they also like lots of different types of .. they don’t just like the water. Obviously the water’s important to them, because they’re amphibians, and so that’s where they breed. And it also helps keep them nice and cool when it’s hot and dry. But they also like lots of log piles and brick piles, and lots of little places where they can find dark little nooks and crannies to crawl into. So places like old brick pits and things, that we have at Hampton, are ideal for them.
PAUL: They keep getting in the way.
SAM: I know. Bless them. I think there’s two things that we should be proud of here. And I think one of them is that Peterborough is a really good place for an animal that nationally and in Europe has had a very very tough time. And we’ve possibly got the biggest population in Europe of great crested newts at Hampton. There are thirty thousand of them in our nature reserves, and I think that’s something that Peterborough can be proud of.
PAUL: Of course we can. Yes.
SAM: They’ve had a really tough time these little animals, and we’ve got loads. And that’s brilliant. And the other thing that’s actually a really good thing, is that we can’t just build willy-nilly. If you talk to people who knew Hampton, and places like Dogsthorpe as well, in Peterborough, before these houses were there, they all talk about being little kids, and going and running and playing in fields. And there were frogs and toads and newts everywhere.
PAUL: Yes. They were there first, weren’t they Jonathan Lewis. They were there first.
SAM: They were there first. That’s it exactly. And it’s the fact that we haven’t had much legislation. We’ve just been able to build wherever we wanted to. And that’s had a really damaging effect on species like newts, and lots of other wildlife as well.
PAUL: Perhaps they could join an alliance with the Aborigines.
SAM: (LAUGHS) Exactly. That’s it. They’re our aboriginal wildlife and they were there first. And a lot of people remember them being everywhere. If you talk to people over fifty in the city they’ll tell you. I used to go out and catch them all the time. They were everywhere.
PAUL: Jonathan Lewis was talking about catching a few to get them out of the way. How do you catch them? Do they like cheese?
SAM: Oh bless them. No. And they only move around at night really. So what you do, it’s very sweet, poor little things, you quite often see these short walls of net that people build around a site when they’re doing a newt collecting job. And they put this wall all the way round it, and then they dig holes at different spots along the wall, and they’ll put buckets down in the ground into the holes.
PAUL: Yes.
SAM: So the newts wander around at night, and they can’t get out. So they just waddle along the fence until they find a bucket and then they fall in.
PAUL: Aah.
SAM: Then the people come back in the morning, and they pick up all the newts that have fallen in the bucket.
PAUL: Aaaah.
SAM: Bless them.
PAUL: That’s so sweet. But they won’t know where they are.
SAM: It’s a little bit diorienting for them. Hopefully they’ll be then moved to somewhere where there are lots of ponds and things, so they’re not going to get run over by big diggers or anything like that.
PAUL: Listen. I’m sure you’re working with Jonathan, and that you’re going to rehouse these newts, and get them back to the three ponds that they need to survive. And hopefully everything will work out fine for the newt in the bucket.
SAM: I hope it will, yes.
PAUL: Thank you Sam. Thank you for coming on this morning explaining about the life of a newt and how you catch them. It’s with a bucket.