If you would like to read my Dorset nature notes about any of these featured species or sites please click on the post title

About Me

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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

10 April, 2014

Great crested newt: a national treasure

This may not be the greatest of photographs but I do not have an underwater camera (yet!). This is, however, something of a special picture for me as this it was taken the first and only time in nearly forty years of nature watching that I saw (let alone photographed) a great crested newt (Triturus cristatus). They are found at various sites in Dorset and I chanced upon this one in a pond on the north
Dorset ridge near Okeford Hill.
Spring, April and May, are the best time to see them as this is when they take to water to breed, the rest of the year they live on land and are hard to find. Even if you do see one it is easy to mistake it for a lizard. This is a female laying eggs on vegetation around the edge of the pond. Being the female she lacks the 'great crest' of the male but has the diagnostic silvery sides of the head. This species is somewhat larger than either the smooth or palmate newt and as this one was over 4 inches long it really does not leave any doubt as to species. In this particular pond there were several, the females laying eggs whilst the males swam around keeping an eye on proceedings. As far as I could tell there were at least twelve different animals in the small part of the pond I could actually see so, in all, there were probably several more. 
One of Britain's national wildlife treasures, this is not a common species and is protected by law of course. Britain is a stronghold for them in Europe but even here they have declined in numbers as suitable habitat is eroded.
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