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Have we got Newts for you!

As part of our National Lottery Heritage Funded project, Data for Nature, six Great Crested Newt surveys were undertaken over a three month period at Woodhouse Washlands.  The Data for Nature volunteer team were supported by staff from Wildscapes CIC, an environmental consultancy and subsidiary of the Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust. According to our results the estimated population size of great crested newts at Woodhouse Washlands is 82 individuals. Thanks to National Lottery players, the funding received for the project also allowed for a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) survey to be completed at the site to assess how suitable each pond is for great crested newts. A total of 6 ponds at Woodhouse Washlands have scored ‘excellent’ in the HSI survey. The results from this survey can be used to highlight which ponds are suitable for great crested newts (backed up by our fantastic newt survey results) and identify areas for improvement on the site.

The newt surveys were carried out using bottle trapping, torching and egg searching methods. In the evening, staff and volunteers set bottle traps, egg searched and torched each pond individually. Early the next morning they returned to site to check the bottle traps, recording numbers of great crested newts in each pond.

The HSI survey was completed during one visit to site where volunteers used the standard Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) method to assess each pond. The survey involves assessing different aspects of each pond including: pond area size, presence or absence of fish, vegetation cover etc. The result from each factor is converted to a HSI score to tell us which ponds are the most suitable for great crested newts.

A correlation was found between the number of great crested newts found in each pond and the HSI score. This indicates that typically ponds with higher HSI scores contain more newts. Based on our findings we were able to identify key issues affecting habitat suitability for great crested newts. Now we can focus on continuing to improve the site to successfully manage and conserve our great crested newt population.

Nabil Abbas, Survey Co-ordinator and Reserve Manager said:

The monitoring carried out by Data For Nature at Woodhouse Washlands Nature Reserve has found a thriving population of great crested newts in the complex of ponds there, including in the four new ponds which have been colonised since they were created 18 months ago.”

This graph shows the correlation between the mean number of newts found in each pond compared to the HSI score. (Figure credit: Isabel Commerford).

*Photo Credit. B. Robins*