The Newt Survey

17:55 Thursday 29th March 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: On a moonlit night, they hunted the beast, through grass and water. Yes, you’ve guessed it. The annual newt survey took place last night, at the Swaddywell Nature Reserve near Helpston. The Wildlife Trust along with volunteers carried it out, and joining me now is the woman who organised it all, Rachel Price. Hi, Rachel.
CHRIS MANN: How was your evening?
RACHEL PRICE: It was absolutely wonderful. Yes. We couldn’t have wished for a better evening, weather-wise, and beautiful clear skies. It was lovely to be out on the Nature Reserve at night, because it’s a fairly unique experience. It’s not something many people do.
CHRIS MANN: No. I’m sure. Just tell us, what is a newt?
RACHEL PRICE: A newt is an amphibian. So it belongs to the same family as frogs and toads. So they’re born in the water. As they mate they lay their eggs. Most people are fairly familiar with frogs, and you get frog spawn in ponds. So they’re the eggs. And they hatch out, and they go through various stages, and then they as adults live their life on land. So newts are pretty similar amphibians.
CHRIS MANN: So if you spot one, what’s the difference between that and a frog and a toad?
RACHEL PRICE: Goodness me. Describing what a newt looks like on the radio ..
CHRIS MANN: I got you.
RACHEL PRICE: .. it’s a much longer animal. It looks a little bit like .. lots of people describe them as baby dinosaurs, looking like baby dinosaurs. They look a bit more like a lizard. If people don’t know what a lizard looks like, they’re a much thinner animal than a frog or a toad. Much thinner. So they’re only about an inch in width. It depends on the species. I’m sorry, a centimetre in new money, a centimetre in width. And they have very long tails. So the tail length is about the same length as the body, on most species.
CHRIS MANN: I think we know what we’re looking for now. So how did the survey go?
RACHEL PRICE: Very well indeed. We had greater numbers than we’ve had in previous years of two species. There are three native species of newts in Britain. That’s the Great Crested, the Palmate and the Smooth. At Swaddywell Nature Reserve we have Great Crested Newts and Smooth Newts, or Common Newts, otherwise known as Common Newts. And we found good numbers of both.
CHRIS MANN: We were just talking a moment ago about otters, as you will have heard, and the concern there is the drought will affect them. What about the newts?
RACHEL PRICE: Newts, it will affect them, but not as adversely as people might feel. They do spend part of their life in water, and water is essential for the breeding cycle, but the adults don’t rely on ponds. So as the ponds are drying out, although it looks very distressing, and this applies to frogs and toads as well, so long as it’s not a prolonged .. several years of total drying out of ponds, it’s actually good for the populations of newts. Because what happens is ponds naturally get filled up with lots of things that eat newt eggs, and newt larvae, and even adult newts. Things like frogs will prey on newt larvae, dragonfly larvae will eat them. And fish will eat them.
CHRIS MANN: Ok Rachel, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much. It’s been interesting to hear about the Newt Survey.