newts

smooth-newtI freely admit to a considerable knowledge gap when it comes to looking after a pond, and also to wilful neglect when it comes to reading about  and acting on “what to do ” advice. I plead that it is cold and working with cold water on a cold day really doesn’t appeal to me at all.

But Friday afternoon was sunny and in the deep storage part of my brain-the increasingly large section of dusty, half remembered facts and fictions, there was something about using a rake to get blanket weed of the water. And there is a lot of blanket weed. I set about the task with some enthusiasm.

And  that’s how Mrs Smooth newt (thanks to Celia at Purple Podded Peas for the identification) comes to be starring in the picture-she arrived on shore by rake, unharmed and smiling, caught up in the blanket weed. She was probably newly emerged from hibernation and recently arrived back in the pond, little expecting a ride on a rake. I squealed with excitement because I was hoping there would be newts  and here was the living proof.

I have loved newts since I caught one in  net I was using to pond dip  on some allotments when I was a child. I was of course trespassing, aged 8, but the treasure of the newt was reward for the fear of being caught and shouted at. Back in the day, a good shouting at was probably enough to deter all but the most determined offender, but I was never spotted.

It was also a time when we had a Nature Table in the classroom. In Spring there was always an aquarium with frog spawn, a jug full of catkins, a bird’s nest and various Ladybird books pertinent to the subject on it. One year we had newts in the aquarium. Great crested. Long before they declined drastically. I wanted one so  much, and now, umpteen years on, I have newts in a pond in a place I live. Not Great Crested, but nonetheless very welcome. When I checked on the National Biodiversity Network website I found no newt records for this part of Herefordshire. I have submitted one to the Amphibian and Reptile recording group who have useful Identification guides on their website.

spring walks on frozen feet

We walked yesterday, just a short walk from the front door, to get some fresh air after a week of stuffiness. It has been so cold here and as I mentioned last time, the ice on the pond has been thick and prolonged, and snow has fallen too.

As we walked, we were treated to a glimpse of a Great Spotted woodpecker, hammering his breakfast hunting song from the top of an oak tree. I have had them in the garden on the feeders in the last week but it is always great to hear their characteristic drumming sound as they drill into wood. A little further we thrilled to the sound of water rushing and tumbling over the stones in the brook. Icicles hung from the banks, but drips of water were falling steadily from them into the headlong stream. A little further, we found clumps of snowdrops freed from their blanket of fallen snow, clean and crisp against the hedge.

In the garden I took these pictures before they vanished. It will be less cold this week-good news for the birds, but the cat who strolled across the pond will have to look out!

There is a painting on the other blog too. Just click here.