It has just gone midnight. The air is warm and still and there is the sound of gentle raindrops caressing the ground outside. Male tawny owls are issuing their haunting calls, vying for their territories and distant blackbirds are singing. It is a secret magical time. I feel at peace with the world, it has been a sunny spring day and one which has been filled with lovely things and tonight is no exception.
I am outside my house with my filtered torch spotlighting in my pond. It is a hive of activity. There are smooth newts, palmates, one bull frog and a nursery of baby newts in the fine sprouting roots of purple looserife. But best of all I see what I have been hoping for: I have a female great crested newt laying her eggs on my pondweed.
My humble pond was constructed not long after we moved in. It was designed as a wildlife pond and to my delight was populated with newts and frogs only a week or so after its construction. I filled it with indigenous pond plants and marginals and watched and waited. Since then it has been graced with dragonflies and damsel flies, grass snakes, water slaters, caddisfly, great ramshorn snails, great pond snails, leeches and peashell cockles; amazing diversity for such a small area of water.
For those of you who have never seen a great crested newt (triturus cristatus), they are large magnificent creatures over double the size of smooth newts and palmates, and truly magnificent beasts especially the males who have a long jagged crest along the length of their body down to their tails. The females are bigger than the males and can grow up to 17cm long. They are relatively widespread in the UK but, like so many other things, are in decline due to habitat loss (rough grassland) and the infilling of ponds or altered watercourses. Unfortunately today there are not many places in Britain where they can be seen. I am just very lucky that my house and garden borders a newt field but even here I have seen a decline in numbers over the last ten years.
I can feel the rain getting heavier on my back, so I reluctantly retreat back into my house and get off to bed; now 1pm it is another late night wildlife vigil but so worth it.