News

Something Stirring In The Woods
08/09/2005
SOMETHING STIRRING IN THE WOODS
8 September 2005


One of Britain’s less common residents is being invited to move into new prime real estate in a wood in West Lothian. Great crested newts are being given a helping hand by Lothian Amphibian and Reptile Group (LARG) thanks to money from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agencys’ (SEPAs’) Habitat Enhancement Demonstration Site Scheme. The group are currently building a newt friendly pond which will help the existing population expand as part of improving biodiversity in the area.

Calderwood, by Mid Calder, has been a Site of Special Scientific Interest since the 1980s. The Muireston Water and the Linhouse Water meet at the north end of the wood which has two small ponds with an existing great crested newt population of at least 40. The ponds also hold populations of other British newts, the smooth and the palmate. The site between the rivers has mixed birch woodland and grassland, with the river valleys covered in woodland of ash, elm, oak, hazel, rowan and gean. On the grassland, in season, are wildflowers such as common knapweed and harebell also known as Scottish bluebell.

The great crested newt is Britain’s largest newt and is protected under both the Wildlife & Countryside Act and under the European Habitat Regulations. There are thought to be about 1,000 of these amphibians in Scotland but they are declining due to the destruction and fragmentation of their habitat. This is caused by reduction in the water table which makes ponds dry out, development and waste dumping.

Peter Leach of LARG said: ‘Calderwood has had a good population of this European Protected Species for many years but the second of the two ponds is prone to drying out. This new pond will give the population a viable alternative and will give opportunities for the colony to expand. LARG are very grateful to SNH and SEPA for enabling us to undertake this small but important piece of work.’

The work of actually constructing the pond in the West Lothian Council owned site is being done by an 11 strong gang of BTCV volunteers plus their supervisor. The pond is roughly in the same area as the existing ponds and will provide an additional breeding area for what is hoped will be an expanding amphibian population. The new site is in a natural depression which might have once been a pond. The first stage is to strim off the soft rushes growing there before digging out the pond which when deep enough will naturally fill with ground water.

No planting is planned as plants will gradually take over the new pond by natural processes, hopefully including water forget-me-not which is a preferred plant for great crested newts to lay their eggs on. The newt colony is near enough to discover the new pond in a fairly short time. LARG dug a similar newt pond at South Queensferry on the Dundas estate two years ago and a thriving great crested newt population has taken over the pond already.

Ian Bray, SNH’s area officer for West Lothian said: ’Great crested newts are a priority species in the UK and across Europe and this pond will improve the habitat for them in West Lothian. The pond will be as natural as it is possible with no artificial materials or plants or animals brought in. These newts are part of Scotland’s natural heritage and an important part of the biodiversity of West Lothian so it is important to take steps to improve their habitat. We are pleased to be able to work with LARG on this project.’

The pond will cost £2,000 in all with SNH putting in £1,000 and SEPA the other £1,000. The work is expected to take until 12 September.
ENDS

Further information:
Heather Kinnin, press & public relations officer, Scottish Natural Heritage 0131 446 2274 email heather.kinnin@SNH.gov.uk
Peter Leach, LARG 0131 551 4492 email peterleach.tss@virgin.net


Notes for editors
1. A photograph of a great crested newt is available for single free use in exchange for acknowledging SNH as the source, contact 0131 446 2274. If you want to send a photographer out to photograph the work contact the West Lothian ranger service on 0131 446 2274.
2. Scottish Natural Heritage is the government body with respect to conservation, enhancement, enjoyment, understanding and sustainable use of Scotland’s natural heritage. It works for and with Scotland’s people. Website www.snh.org.uk
3. SEPA's aim is to provide an efficient and integrated environmental protection system for Scotland that will both improve the environment and contribute to the Scottish Ministers' goal of sustainable development. For more information on our work visit our website: www.sepa.org.uk
4. For more details of SEPAs’ Habitat Enhancement Demonstration Site Scheme, please see www.sepa.org.uk/guidance/hei/demo_award.htm.