Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Palmate Newt 28th June 2011

Today I found a young Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus) in my Garden. This is the first time I have ever found a newt in my garden. I get lots of Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) which unfortunately the cats like playing with, but never a newt before. I know there are a few ponds nearby so they must be coming from these. I would like a pond but living in rented accommodation means that I'm not able to add one.

Lissotriton helveticus
I was able to entice this little newt into my garden by putting some cover down for it in a damp shady patch under a large tree. This cover came in the form of an old rubber bin lid which had seen better days.

Old rubber bin lid which has seen better days
It has been said that you cannot separate out immature smooth newt from immature palmate newt, but the following article on iSpot shows that you should be able to with relative ease: ispot.org.uk

The more observant of you might note the vast swathes of chickweed that I have let grow in this part of the garden. A common frog was hiding from the cats in this extensive green cover (which even the most observant of individual wouldn't be able to see in the photo).

I have found that if you can't afford to buy lots of plants for the garden then you might as well let the weeds grow a bit. Don't get me wrong I do carry out some weeding, but a monoculture of chickweed is better than barren soil for wildlife, even if it looks less tidy to some. I only let the chickweed take over in this shady patch, where it goes a little more unnoticed. I also have some wild Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenuim) growing in the garden, and these make a lovely substitution for bought plants.

When the weather has been dry like it was last spring, areas of bare soil in the garden got baked dry, but where there was extensive vegetative cover there was plenty of moisture left in the soil, and the insects were taking full advantage of this. Now that we are into summer and we have had some rainfall, areas like this are proving very useful refuges for amphibians too as the plants help retain the moisture from that rainfall. It only takes a few hours of sunlight in the middle of summer to dry out bare soil, even after a heavy shower or two.

I have been busy with other things lately (namely work and resting from work), but I did get over to Highgate Common again on Tuesday to help with the work party there. We cleared another large section of Bracken from the damp heathland in the north of the reserve. While waiting for all the other volunteers to arrive in the warden office car park we spotting a couple of interesting insects. There was a Broad-barred White moth (Hecatera bicolorata) on the brickwork of the warden's office, and also an Ichneumon wasp landed on the warden's pick-up truck. I believe that the wasp was Ichneumon sarcitorius but I haven't had that verified by an expert yet. I didn't have my camera with me at the time but I managed to make do with my phone. Luckily they both stuck around long enough so that I could play with the settings on the phone's camera.

Ichneumon sarcitorius?
Ichneumon sarcitorius?
Hecatera bicolorata
I think that they didn't turn out too badly in the end to say they were taken on a camera phone. The reason I think the wasp is Ichneumon sarcitorius is because the leg, antennae and thorax markings are the same as on  the picture here: natureconservationimaging.com

1 comment:

  1. An interesting blog! I visited Highgate common at the weekend for the first time.

    I'm a fan of letting the weeds grow, I prefer a more wild look over something all neat and manicured.

    A couple of years ago we had great crested newts breeding in my pond, I have some lovely photos of them, but sadly I haven't seen any since.



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