The Common or Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) is the commonest of the three species that occur in the UK. The arrive in their breeding ponds, after hibernating through the winter, in March.
In the breeding season the males develop a long wavy crest an become much more brightly coloured. They grow up to about 10cm long and are often found in garden ponds, often arriving of their own accord. Garden ponds are increasingly important as breeding sites for Common Newts as natural ponds are lost or filled in and become polluted.
The male have a very elaborate display, waving his tail while "dancing" in front of the female. This action wafts glandular secretions towards her which stimulates her to approach in. He drops a spermatophore (a small packet of sperm) near to the female. She takes this into he cloaca and her eggs are fertilised internally. A few days later the female starts to lay 7 to 12 eggs a day, laying up to 400 eggs in total, usually on broad-leaved aquatic plants.
Newts have to come the surface of the water periodically the breath. Amazingly for such a animal the average lifespan is around six years and it is possibly for them to live 20 years.
"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
Itchy eye and sore and runny nose time has arrived. It's time for another jar of my favourite honey form St Margaret's Farm, to help ward of the effects of the Oil Seed Rape pollen.