Support your local newts
Smooth Newts found their own way into my suburban garden. Over many years I have observed what they seem to like. I hope this page will encourage anyone so inclined to be newt friendly.
Garden habitat for newts
Obviously you need water, that's where newts breed and where you see them most easily. If you have a very small pond, like mine, I suggest you don't keep fish. Even small goldfish eat all larvae. I only saw newts breeding successfully after the fish I initially had in the pond had died. The newts then thrived, which in turn proved to be curtains for the frogs. Each year the newts ate all the frog tadpoles! Eventually no frogs remained. It seems a small volume of water can only support one predator. After breeding, adult newts leave the pond. I find them in damp, shady places, where the plant cover is densest. Don't clear away all the fallen leaves, newts shelter under them.
Male Smooth Newt identification
There are three species of British newt, Great Crested, Palmate, and Smooth. The Great Crested is larger with a more jagged crest. Breeding Palmate males have webbed back feet, they also have a thread at the tip of the tail. This smoothy, dressed in his mating season crest, was spotted rising from the murk. Each year around spring time the males tails get flatter and taller, as does the crest on their backs. In courtship males fan the water with tails folded back parallel to their bodies. A spermatophore is deposited for a responsive female to pick up in her cloaca. She performs the fertilisation.
The females have less bold markings, dots rather than spots on their backs and sides, and no crest. Eggs are laid singly, attached to a plant, sometimes inside a folded leaf. No further parenting is done.
Development from the egg
Eggs start as a pale, roughly spherical object inside a transparent, jelly like ball. Over the next two weeks the embryo develops head and tail features. After another week or so a larva emerges, initially with a yolk sac on its belly, which is consumed as development progresses. Legs are so thin when first formed they are barely visible. External gills are a distinct feature, retained for many months. Infants don't all develop at the same rate. Some over winter in the pond and can be seen in the spring sunshine of the new year, still in their aquatic form. When the larvae have metamorphosed into the body shape and colouring of a small, not yet mature newt, known as an eft, they are ready to move onto land.
For years something puzzled me. When the newts were not in the pond, and not occasionally seen in the borders, where were they hiding? In 2007 I levelled some paving that had gone askew over time and there they were, a knot of newts in a cavity under a concrete slab! Needless to say it was reinstated, as newt town.