Friends of Culzean


Supporting the National Trust for Scotland's Culzean Castle and Country Park

A Charitable Company Limited By Guarantee

Company No: 317093  Scottish Charity No: SC037983

 

Great Crested Newts at Culzean

So what’s so special about this pond tucked away in the woods of Culzean Park?

Well, with over 10,000 school children to educate each year and a lot of those children involved in the wildlife, natural history and environmental aspects of the park, pond dipping had to be an important part of those activities. What was needed was a large, safe and secluded pond that would naturalise well and host all those lovely slimy, squirmy, wiggly creatures so essential to a good session of pond dipping.

So the rangers chose a good spot, and created a nice big natural looking pond complete with vegetation and all the things necessary. And boy did they do a good job! When out dipping one day—what is that in your net… only a Great Crested Newt. Well, to me that just means another slimy looking pond thing but to the rangers this was serious stuff.

So here is some information about them from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page :
The Great Crested Newt’s habitat range extends from Great Britain and Brittany in the west across much of Europe north of the Alps and the Black Sea. It is one of only three amphibians which are protected by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. It is one of three newts found in the British Isles, along with the Smooth Newt and the Palmate Newt, and is the biggest and least common of the three.

It is a protected species under schedule 5 of the UK's Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and is therefore subject to the provisions of Section 9, which make it an offence to do anything unpleasant to them, including damaging a breeding site or resting place.

Great crested newts have dark grey-brown backs and flanks, and are covered with darker coloured spots so that they appear almost black in colour. Their undersides are either yellow or orange-coloured and are covered in large black blotches. Males can be distinguished from females by the presence of a jagged crest that runs along their backs, dipping at the rear of the abdomen to a smoother-edged crest above and below the tail. Adult newts have been recorded that are up to fifteen years old and often return to the same breeding site.

After a courtship display great crested newts mate and breed in ponds and pools. The female lays 200-300 eggs on aquatic plants. Once juveniles have emerged from ponds it can take up to 4 years to reach sexual maturity, during which time the juvenile newts are primarily terrestrial.

Outside of the breeding season, adult and juvenile newts are found in suitable terrestrial habitat where they seek shelter under rocks, logs and other suitable hiding places.

Their diet consists primarily of invertebrates including insects, worms, water snails, larvae and sometimes tadpoles.

So now you know! It’s not just people that have a passion for Culzean Castle and Country Park! The rangers’ dipping pond has turned into a sanctuary for one of Britain's rare species.

Dip with care children!