Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Shine a light on newts

Common newt © Natalie Bowers

Newt courtship beats any flamenco, hands down

The best time to see the newts dancing is after dark, when they show up under torchlight 

At the start of spring, across the country, newts return to their ponds. Having slept the winter away hidden amongst tree roots, under rocks or in crevices underground, their mind is on just one thing – procreation.  Once back in the water, the male smooth newt takes on his breeding costume, his crest extending and his colours becoming brighter, and then he is ready for the dance.

The courtship dance of the male newt is a captivating sight to behold.  He performs a ritual dancing display, crest erect, body held stiff and tail curled round, the tail tip quivering alluringly.  His seductive writhing is all aimed at catching the female’s attention, whilst he wafts his pheromones in her direction. And it’s those pheromones as much as his performance that she finds irresistible.  By July, the female will have laid all her eggs, and the adults leave the pond, heading back into the meadows, hedgerows and woodland where they spend the rest of the year.

How to do it

The best time to see the newts dancing is after dark, when they show up under torchlight.   Please steer clear if you think there may be great crested newts present because it's against the law to disturb them. It’s best to check out the pond in the daylight, to find a safe place to stand on dry land where you can see open spaces amongst the water weed into which the newts may emerge.  Then after dark, enjoy watching these dance arenas with your torch.  As always when you’re around water, take care, go together with someone else, and be safe.

If you can’t get to the special places listed below… The great thing about newts is that you don’t need to go to a nature reserve to see them.  Most garden ponds, if they are looked-after in a wildlife-friendly way, will probably have newts breeding in them.  There is also some great footage of the courtship dance of the smooth newt at the Wildscreen Arkive .

Special spots

The southern suburbs of Peterborough are home to some of the largest newt populations in the country, and The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire own a reserve entirely for these mini-dragons. Stanground Newt Ponds is a tiny pocket of land, set aside during the building of a housing estate, where both smooth newt and great crested newt breed in the two small ponds. 

Berkshire,  Kintbury Newt Ponds

Derbyshire,  Hartington Meadows

Derbyshire,  Hilton Gravel Pits

Derbyshire,  Rose End Meadows

Stirlingshire, Grangemouth,  Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre

Palmate newt © Mark Robinson

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