Eleven rules for newt-watching


1    Wait for a fine day.  The sun’s rays penetrate the goopy water.

2    Don’t eat a meal consisting largely of smoked mackerel before newt-watching.

3   Have patience.  Get your eye in. Look at the small swirls of the water.  Spot a striped nose.  As a newt dives, its paws turn, showing pale palms like tiny gloves.

4   Close focus binoculars can be good, but while gawping at a nose in one part of the pond you may be missing half a dozen amphibians frolicking elsewhere.

5   Remove some of the blanket weed from the pond, along with some dead leaves.  No doubt newts and their prey need cover and plenty of plant food, but I doubt that a solid mat of blanket weed is ideal.  The newts will, of course, immediately hide from the uproar.

6   Continue to have patience.  It was a surprisingly short time before newts began to emerge in twos, threes, even fours.  They looked as if they were complaining about having their furniture arbitrarily rearranged.

7   Bring your good camera out with you.  Otherwise you will be stuck with your feeble phone camera …

8   but don’t bother to take many photos. What with reflections on the surface and random sludge in the water, they won’t look like much anyway.  You need to keep watching.  More patience …

9   Observe:  time will begin to reveal individuals  One with a prominent pale dorsal stripe; another spotted like a leopard; a juvenile looking as if carved from the best unblemished chocolate; one as green and sleek as an olive; yet another veined and striped around the head; another green one, striped and speckled with bronze; one black as night, with its fiery streak of belly limned with blue.

10  Continue to observe:  if you are lucky, as I was, you will see one doing the waggle dance.  A number of other newts came to observe, compete, join in.  The movements became stronger, and the group sank into the deep shadows, where they may or may not have consummated the mating.

11   Give up before your knees become agonisingly welded to the paving stones.

Feel free to guess which of these rules I adhered to.


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