Have we got newt for you!

North East wetland reserve helps local population of protected great-crested newt thrive.

There’s been very encouraging news from recent survey results for these remarkable amphibians at WWT Washington Wetland Centre.

Great-crested newts were first noted at the 103 acre site back in 2011. Survey work began to establish their locations, numbers, and accessibility, and identify possible issues they may face. It was at this point a plan was made to improve the habitat for this declining newt species.

In 2014, survey work showed that the newts were confined to just one area of the site, making them quite vulnerable against predators and risk of flooding.

Reserve manager John Gowland explained, “Our concern was that if great-crested newts were limited to one place, they were at high risk of being predated due to the nature of other pond dwellers such as stickleback fish, who unfortunately eat newt eggs and their young efts.”

“We created ‘migration passageways’ using tree trunks covered in soil in areas that were quite a rough terrain for newts to pass through, in the hope that they would find and use these passageways to search for new territories.”

Further survey work in 2017 showed the very first great-crested newt in Top Meadow pond, some 200 metres away from the longer established amphibian ponds. This young male had hatched the previous year illustrating that the ponds had been found as hoped. Although still a small population at the time, there was an increase in great-crested newts overall on site which was very exciting news for the centre.

The team at WWT Washington have been able to carry out more regular surveys during 2019 and there have been even more encouraging signs. During four surveys conducted this year, 11 adults, 4 efts and 1 immature great-crested newt were observed throughout the amphibian ponds.

Habitat work at WWT Washington has involved creating new ponds and enhancing existing ponds with liner so they don’t dry out and creating more passage ways from known sites to new areas – something which is vital in helping them travel safely. Wardens have also introduced breeding aids this year to encourage great-crested newts to lay their eggs in a safer environment.

WWT Washington’s work to protect this endangered species is on-going and survey work is carried out annually.