Great crested newts at Gibside
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Gibside's ponds are home to a successful breeding population of great crested newts. These amphibians are protected across Europe because their numbers have fallen greatly over the last 30 years as many ponds and newt habitats have been drained, filled in or destroyed.
With funding from County Durham Environmental Trust and Northumbrian Water, we have begun a special project to help us take care of our ponds so newts can continue to thrive at Gibside.
We have created two new ponds and cleared out four more ponds around the estate to improve them as habitats for newts.
When newts lay their eggs it isn't in a clump like frog spawn or a string like toad spawn, but one at a time, and they wrap each one in a leaf. So we planted some water forget-me-not and brooklime plants around some of the ponds to encourage egg-laying.
We have also invited local people to attend free workshops to learn about newt-friendly gardening to improve newt habitats beyond our boundaries.
Our project includes a programme of surveys to monitor newt numbers before and after we improve the habitat. We survey for newts at night when they are most active.
Surveyors use torches to look for newts in the pond water and special ‘live’ traps that allow us to estimate the numbers of newts in each pond.
In the spring, great crested newts wake up from hibernating under rocks, log piles and stone walls. They start to move towards their breeding ponds. At Gibside this means crossing some tracks and roads.
We put up ‘Newt Crossings’ at different points across the estate to draw attention to the fact that people might come across newts on the road, and to make sure they don’t get squashed!