RAUK - Archived Forum - Palmate Newts and Tractor Ruts

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Palmate Newts and Tractor Ruts:

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Gemma Fairchild
Krag Committee
Joined: 14 Feb 2003
No. of posts: 193

View other posts by Gemma Fairchild
Posted: 13 Apr 2003

I am currently reviewing Amphibians and Reptiles by Trevor Beebee and Richard Griffiths (the things I have to do for this forum )

On page 62 there is brief reference to (RG) finding Palmate Newts in water filled tractor ruts in the west of England.

I observed this also in 1986, a rough pasture in Surrey had between 7-10 deep ruts filled with water (the area was reasonably boggy at this time but has now become much drier due to the formation of an adjacent pond, the ruts appeared to have been formed at least a year before judging by vegetation growth around the edges)

The ruts were literally packed with many hundreds of Palmate Newts, one on top of another, very actively moving in bright sunshine. I spent a few hours watching the local Grass Snake population taking full advantage of the situation. (I also observed many Adders in the general area but none were seen to feed on the Newts)

I have often wondered why, when an established garden pond lay approximately 50m to the West, and a purpose built new amphibian pond lay approx. 25m to the East that the Palmate Newts chose to congregate in the ruts. The only advantage I could see was a very high temperature in the ruts, placing a hand in amongst the newts, it felt quite unnaturally warm.

Has anyone else observed this in Palmate Newts or other Amphibian species?

A similar strange aggregation was uncovered when Mervyn and I were moving spawn at Dartford. A local volunteer removed an old newspaper from the pond, only to find it contained in its folds around 28 adult Smooth Newts. Again the paper and water in the area felt unnaturally warm to the touch. No other Smooth Newts were observed elsewhere in the pond.

I am interested as both these observation suggest to me a plausible survey technique for newts, anyone have any thoughts, similar observations or heard of heated traps for newts ever being described or used?

As an addition to the above, is it possible that bottle traps act in this way?

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Forum Coordinator
Joined: 17 Feb 2003
No. of posts: 448

View other posts by Caleb
Posted: 14 Apr 2003

I've seen palmates in puddles about the same size as tractor tyre ruts. Again, it was near to a large pond. I suspected that this was just the first water they came across, and they stayed there rather than moving on. These puddles did actually produce some reasonable sized larvae, though I don't know if any metamorphosed.

Smooth newts in newspaper, and nowhere else, is somewhat odd- was there any cover elsewhere in the water? I've found lots of smooth newts in clumps of dead leaves at the bottom of ponds, I guess the newspaper might be similar.

I've found that all three species like coming out in strong sunshine- I always visit ponds in the daytime before I go at night, and I usually see newts in much the same places in daytime, just in smaller numbers.

Have you had much success with bottle traps? I've not used them for years, I never had much success with them, even in ponds that I knew had lots of newts in.


Senior Member
Joined: 23 Feb 2003
No. of posts: 87

View other posts by Martin
Posted: 14 Apr 2003

A few years ago I heard of a crested similarity at a known crested pond. Someone had dumped undelivered newspapers in a large quantity and when these were being cleared newts were found in between the pages and papers. The paper piles were damp but not in the pond.

Warmth and moisture did spring to my mind at the time.

Gemma Fairchild
Krag Committee
Joined: 14 Feb 2003
No. of posts: 193

View other posts by Gemma Fairchild
Posted: 15 Apr 2003


I find bottle traps very hit and miss, though the EN GCN mitigation guidelines suggest that it maybe the best method for GCN in weedy ponds. I guess it needs to be a lot of traps over a lot of survey nights to be useful. I expect experience of where and how to place them counts for a lot also. (I wonder if they work best on hot days when they act like little greenhouses, trapping heat that the newts then seek at night?)


It's good to hear that GCN follow the same pattern, does seem to suggest newts have an ability to seek warmth and cover that may not have been exploited as a survey technique, I'm thinking along the lines of trays of pond water sunk near the margins with easy access, containing plenty of cover (maybe even newspapers as they seem to like them) and heated during the day with a glass sheet cover, perhaps this would remain warmer over night and newts will be found in the morning???

If anyone has newts in a garden pond (Martin ) I would be fascinated to know if there is anything to it. (Though I would guess that the technique would most likely work early season when pond temperatures are low)

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