Wriggly, Wiggly Great Crested Newts

Meadow at Prior's Wood

Meadow at Prior's Wood

Great Crested Newt at Prior's Wood

Great Crested Newt at Prior's Wood

Lucky happenstance

What’s that there wriggling in the bottom of the hole? As part of making improvements to the fencing around the meadow at Prior’s Nature Reserve, Three Crosses, Gower, we found a first for the site. Two great crested newts were found wriggling at the bottom of a hole made for installing new gate posts to keep the winter grazing ponies in the meadow.

Pitfall Traps for Surveying

The extreme heat at the time, meant that work was slow and only one post of each gate was installed that day. The hole left by the second post acted like a pitfall trap used in surveying. During official surveying, pitfall traps would be covered when not in use, which is possible as the hole is filled by a bucket whose lid can be firmly closed, our holes had uneven surrounding ground making that impossible.

A Close Call

When we came back to finish the job a couple of days later it had just rained, making migration for amphibians easier, and filling the hole with a bit of water obscuring the bottom. About to dig the hole to finish the job, Huw our regular long time volunteer saw a wriggle. What we fished out were two adult great crested newts, one fully grown female and after another thorough rummage, turned up a young adult male not quite grown to his full size as he's still smaller than the female, but already with the distinctive white flash on his tail and crest lying flat along his back whilst out of water.

The Great (Crested Newt)  Escape

Safely rescued and helped on their way the two newts made good their escape into nearby vegetation. Fantastic find! Though the new gate installation was only stage one of planned track and drainage improvements to the gateways. These were made possible by the Wild Woodlands project funded by WREN, a not-for-profit business that awards grants to community projects from funds donated by FCC Environment to the Landfill Communities Fund.

Planning for Further Work Without Disturbing Newts

These further improvements will now have to be put on hold until a licence is obtained to work safely in that area, causing minimal damage to newts and their habitat. The Wildlife Trust is now working with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) to have licenced surveyors collect records and plan appropriate management for the future works.

The Knock-on Effect

The closest record of great crested newts is 5 miles west, but now other nearby ponds may also be suitable or already inhabited, perhaps nearby Gelli Hir Nature Reserve. Further investigation is certainly warranted and also possible now our relevant staff are named on surveying licences, so who knows how many we will find or where next!

A Poem by Huw Evans, 2018

Prior's Wood

We saw each a great crested newt

A spot, Tara's identification could not refute.

Their bright under-bellies, flickered through leaves

Scraped by our wellies.

One most likely a two-year old male

The distinctive crest running from head to tail.

The other, female a beautiful specimen-

Making off under a hedge-

When gone from sight, remained the privilege.

Both discovered in a water-filled hole

Almost damaged as we explored with a pole.

But once within our reach-

Providing a lesson only Nature could teach.

Revealing themselves

As into the Soul one delves.

In waiting perhaps to hibernate-

When temperatures drop below 5 degrees centigrade.

Yes, a first time record for the area:

Requiring a fully-licensed handler.