Today I found my first great crested newt Triturus cristatus eggs of the year at Romney Warren (see photos below). Mary Tate of the Romney Marsh Countryside Project told me they had been present in the pond for about two weeks. The females select a suitable submerged leaf, in this case willowherb, but very often plants like water mint or floating sweet-grass. The egg is attached to the leaf, which is then folded over to enclose it. Such folded leaves are very conspicuous and finding them can be a very effective way of establishing the presence of this species in a pond, assuming you can separate them from the eggs of the smaller newt species. The photo below shows numerous folded leaves with eggs, marked by white triangles.
Because great crested newts are a protected species English Nature, now Natural England, published some very useful Mitigation Guidelines for people considering developments near newt sites.
This document describes the typical situation over much of Britain - the first newts turn up in the ponds in late January, with most eggs laid between mid March and Mid May. Our coastal area is unusually mild. At Dungeness newts tend to start turning up in the ponds in late November/December, with the earliest eggs reported on New Year’s day by Owen Leyshon a few years back. In my experience breeding adult males are starting to lose their crests and leave the water by the end of April/early May. Just travelling a few miles inland, off the Marshes, sees them returning to their ponds slightly later in the winter.
The New Romney breeding site.
In Northiam numbers of smooth newt Lissotriton vulgaris* continue to increase slowly in my garden pond (peak count now 19 animals, up from 8 last week). I also spotted my first male palmate newt, L. helveticus* of the year this evening, and the first pair of common frogs has been found in amplexus.
* Recently changed Latin names.