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National Newt Day – Bath Spa University

BSU launches world’s first ever National Newt Day

Wednesday, 24 April, 2024

Happy National Newt Day from BSU! Today marks the world’s first National Newt Day, led by Bath Spa University’s Environmental Science academics and pioneered by staff and students in recognition of the University’s commitment to preserving this incredible species. Newton Park is home to all of the UK’s native species: Smooth, Palmate and, most notably, a thriving population of Great Crested Newts.  

Taking place on 24 April each year, National Newt Day brings attention to providing suitable habitat for Great Crested Newts and other newts living in the UK, draws attention to the species and aids in preventing their decline, offering information on what to do if you find them and drawing attention to the risks of improper handling and disturbing their habitat. 

Protected by UK wildlife legislation and European legislation, the Great Crested Newt has suffered a distinctive decline, making our campus population even more precious. 

With wavy crests and striking orange bellies, Great Crested Newts have been compared to miniature dinosaurs and are identifiable by their marking of black spots, each as unique as a fingerprint.  

Although it’s illegal to disturb, capture, or handle Great Crested Newts without a licence, the BSU Grounds Team are instrumental in preserving their habitat; managing species-rich grassland and herbal native flower borders acting as habitat corridors so the newts can move freely around campus. Keen-eyed visitors can find these corridors within the Italian Gardens, Walled Garden, and playing fields, running through to areas of grassland and providing cover from predators. 

While they spend most of the year in woodland, hedgerows, marshes and grassland, spring sees Great Crested Newts move to ponds for the breeding season and Newton Park becomes a living lab where students can utilise the natural ecosystem to monitor wildlife. 

Wildlife Conservation, Environmental Science, Ecology and Biology students have carried out pond clearance, managing vegetation to provide open spaces in the water, which act as a ‘disco dance floor’ for the male newts to perform courtship displays.  

Dancing complete, the newts lay individual eggs on the underside of a leaf which they then carefully curl over. When the baby newts, or ‘efts’, have hatched, the new arrivals journey back through the corridors until next spring, when their time to hit the dance floor arrives. 

Discussing the University’s newt population, BSU’s Grounds Manager Penny Snowden said: 

“Numbers indicate populations are doing well on campus and we’re confident our efforts in managing the ponds and habitat are helping the newt populations thrive. We recently built a "hibernacula" near the receptor ponds, a piled-up shelter made of logs, rocks, decaying wood and turf. It provides great habitat for newts as well as reptiles. It was fun to build with the team, a bit like a ‘lasagna’, quite a creative solution to maintaining their habitat."   

The annual campus BioBlitz 

This spring, the University’s Sustainability Team will join forces with students and academics for a campus BioBlitz as part of an Environmental Management module where participants will identify as many organisms as possible in just one day. This includes a newt survey monitored by the University’s consultant ecologist, who is licensed to handle the protected Great Crested Newts. 

These habitat management activities are essential for students learning practical conservation skills, allowing the unique opportunity to develop skills for future employment. 

Have you got a passion for wildlife conservation? Explore our conservation course or find out more about what you can do to protect Great Crested Newts on our blog. 

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