Did you know that we have a newt reserve in Bracknell? Bracknell Forest Council maintains a set of former clay pits in Whitegrove. This site is another of Bracknell’s hidden gems with benches and an impressively large sculpture of a newt. As Binfield and Warfield were famous for their brick-works it seems fitting that the clay-pits are providing a home to one of our scarcest residents, the great crested newt. The great crested newt is another Bracknell Forest Council biodiversity action plan species. Although we have at least one colony in Binfield, we are more likely to see smooth newts.
Newts breed and lay their eggs in still water. These eggs hatch into larvae which have gills and hence are able to breathe under water. When the larvae metamorphose into adults, they lose their gills and have to breathe air. Adult newts will travel some distance from the ponds where they were born, but will usually favour damp habitats such as log-piles and ditches.
Great crested newts are the largest native species growing up to 17cm in length. They have a distinct ‘warty’ skin. The underside is bright orange with irregular black blotches. In the spring, males grow a jagged crest on their backs. Due to declining numbers over the last hundred years, the great crested newt is legally protected and it is an offence to kill, injure, capture or disturb them.
The smooth newt is the UK's most widespread newt species, and the most likely to be found in garden ponds. They can grow up to 10cm and are usually brown with a yellow or orange belly with small black spots, but no warts. Like great crested newts, male smooth newts grow a wavy crest along their backs in spring.
To find out more about newts, and other amphibians, visit the website of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation - https://www.arc-trust.org/
Bracknell Forest Council is encouraging community groups to build new ponds. In Binfield we might not need to do this as we have new, or improved, ponds in several of the new housing developments. With help from a friendly local ecologist we are hoping to survey some of these ponds next spring. We’d love to hear from you if you want to get involved.