Throughout the spring months, our Millennium Country Park is bursting at the seams with new life, from the explosion of fresh leaves from our trees and hedges, darting dragonflies over our ponds and lakes, and baby birds fledging far and wide. Our Senior Ranger, Nicola Ceconi and her team got out and about around the Millennium Country Park taking advantage of this incredible time of the year. The ranger team collected valuable data of our two resident newt species. Newt surveys are carried out between February and June, with March to May being the most successful months. A newts life cycle sees the newt metamorphosis.

The newts begin their lives as eggs, having been folded meticulously into a pond leaf by the female, between the months of March and June. These eggs will eventually transform into larva called efts. They then develop into thriving, land dwelling juveniles, going onto become adults and continuing the life cycle as they also go off, find a mate, and lay their own eggs.  

Download our ‘Newts and Metamophose’ activity sheet HERE.

What methods are used to survey newts?

There are a few ways in which our rangers go about surveying our resident newts, and this all depends on what stage the newt is at in its metamorphose and the time of year. Much of the spring surveying involves identifying the species and counting adult newts. For this, the ranger team uses a method called bottle trapping, which creates a funnel where the newt enters and are temporarily trapped. Although this might sound invasive, we undertake this method with extreme precaution and our ranger team have been specifically trained before carrying out this technique.

Bottle trapping is the best method for collecting reliable data about species and numbers, estimating the population density. Data is fed back to the Bedfordshire Natural History Society (BNHS).

The importance of newt surveys

An exceptional species on site is the Great Crested Newt. Many of you may remember a childhood of pond dipping, catching newt after newt and admiring their vibrant and distinct orange speckled bellies. Today, this species is in decline and heavily protected due to the loss of breeding ponds, as many have been destroyed or damaged causing inadequate water quality. Protection status in place, it makes it illegal to capture, injure, kill, or disturb the species and its valuable habitat. This is where our expert rangers come in. Nicola is a licenced newt surveyor, having undergone 3 years of training, gaining experience and knowledge from other specialist surveyors.

Our Senor Ranger, Nicola Ceconi leading the spring newt surveys. 

Understanding how the newts occupy our ponds allows us to manage the surrounding habitat effectively. Due to the newt’s protection status, we need be extremely vigilant on any work we plan around the pond to avoid disturbing them. With the data gained from these surveys we can make informed decisions on what time of year we can commence practical work and developments. On a conservation note, our surveys funnel into a wider data set which will enlighten organisations such as Reptile and Amphibian Group (ARG UK) about the newt’s distribution and population size and provide understanding on where conservation work should be targeted.  

We are extremely lucky in the UK to have the highest population of Great Crested Newts in Europe. However, this doesn’t combat the decline occurring here in the UK and other European countries. For this reason, it makes our newt surveying work and habitat preservation evermore meaningful for the European population of Great Crested Newts.

Do you want to help protect the Great Crested Newt and other species?

You can Sponsor a Habitat, including our Ponds – a newt’s favourite habitat to breed!

Sponsor a Habitat today