Great crested newts are our most protected amphibian. Surveys for this species are constrained between the months of April and June. If you know you have ponds on site or you are in an area where surveys are likely, we advise you to get in touch as soon as you can to avoid unnecessary delays.
Why can we only survey in such a short time?
Many people assume that newts live in ponds. This is true to a certain extent. Newts congregate in ponds in spring and early summer to breed. For the rest of the year they are terrestrial, living in hedgerows, seeking shelter in log piles and eating insects. When they are living on land they are a lot more difficult to survey for. This is why ecologists need to survey ponds, and we can only do that at a time of year when the newts, if they use that pond, will be present.
We can survey using eDNA testing (these see if newt DNA is in the pond) and/or traditional bottle trapping techniques. This method involves placing traps around the edge of a pond in the evening and checking them the following morning. Newts will walk into the traps, which have a funnel-like construction, meaning they can get in, but not out again. This needs to be done 4-6 times to see if they are present and if so, what the population is like. While placing out and collecting the traps, other complementary survey methods can also be used, such as counting the number of newts present by torchlight and undertaking an egg search.
If works are likely to cause a disturbance to great crested newts, or will destroy land or ponds which are used by newts then you will need a licence from Natural England. We will be able to advise you on this following the outcome of surveys.
There are new mitigation schemes being trialled in areas of the country, but these are localised and the traditional surveys and licencing methods still stand for the majority of the country. You can find out more about the roll out of new licencing methods for great crested newts on the Natural England website here.