Along with Nick Martin I placed 12 newt traps between 2 ponds in Phillips Park. These ponds represent the two remaining non-surveyed (within recent years) habitats to be assessed for newt activity within the park and one has even housed Great Crested Newts (GCN’s) in the past. Presently, Phillips Park is considered a GCN free zone, nonetheless we are hopeful of other amphibian activity. 8 traps have been placed in the pond with history of GCN’s and 4 have been placed in the larger pond less suited to newts.
Unfortunately both ponds drew a complete blank, the only catch out of the 12 traps was one dytiscus larvae in pond 2. Whilst no data is a form of information in its own right, the outcome is a bit disappointing.
We can speculate a number of reasons why no newts were recorded. I think it is unlikely that the ponds are completely unsuitable for newts to live but the ponds could be sub-optimum which, combined with other factors will deter newt populations. A real possibility is that recent disruption to the sites have discouraged the animals. Over the past few months a wealth of new cycle paths have been constructed within a close proximity to both ponds. The building of these paths has employed heavy machinery and vehicles which are clearly noisy and disruptive to ecosystems. Additionally pond 1 has had its depth increased via construction of a dam. It may take some time for local wildlife to acclimatise to this change re/colonise the pond.
Also likely to bias the results is the time of year that we completed this survey. Adult newts generally venture into ponds in May and June to mate, after this season they begin to migrate back towards refugia’s such as under logs and stones. By mid to late July it is likely that the majority of adult newt populations have completed this migration, leaving their watery world to a juvenile population. The lack of juvenile specimens at the site however, does not suggest this is the sole reason. Other factors of varying likelihoods include the localised presence of disease or predators and insufficient sample size.
Conversely and encouragingly, a good number of juvenile newts were accidentally found (during a pond dip for inverts) later on in the day in another water body on site, one that they had not previously been recorded in. These results go to show that only through repeated surveys over consecutive years can site managers begin build an accurate picture of newt presence within these ponds as well and Phillips Park as a whole.