There’s newt unusual here, just us natives

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The warmest Halloween on record coincided with the last night of the Garden Moth Survey, resulting in more moths in my trap than for many years at this time.

There was nothing really unusual, (I was hoping for maybe a rare migrant brought in on the recent southerlies) but quite a good variety of different carpet species and a late Angle Shades.

This is a highly distinctive moth, which rests with the wings folded longitudinally, looking very much like a withered autumn leaf. The adults generally fly between May and October, in at least two generations, but it can be found in any month.

While I was out checking the trap on Friday evening, I gave my garden pond a quick check with the torch to see if the newt, which I had discovered there for the first time recently, was still around. It wasn’t under the water this time, but resting on the brickwork surrounding the pond. This gave me the opportunity to pop it into a small Perspex box and nip into the house to try and identify it in the light. It turned out to be a female palmate newt. It is our smallest native newt and is distinguished from the similar smooth newt by a lack of spots on its throat and the dark stripe which passes through the eye. It was probably out for a stroll round the garden to try and build up its energy store for the coming winter, or it may have been eyeing up one of my woodpiles as an ideal place to hibernate. Anyway, once its identification had been confirmed, I returned it to where I found it so that it could continue its evening stroll.

I was amazed to learn that these tiny amphibians can live for up to 10 years.

On Sunday, the weather was starting to cool down but it was still dry and bright enough for a pleasant stroll round old haunts in the Earlston area. Autumn is a great time to walk from the village through Speedy’s Wood to Cowdenknowes House.

The path is well maintained by the Earlston Paths Group and winds through a lovely stretch of mixed woodland high above the banks of the Leader.

At Cowdenknowes House the path crosses the river by a footbridge and heads towards the busy A68 for the last section back to the village. What a pity a route couldn’t be found which followed the river back to the village instead of having to walk the roadside verge next to the thundering traffic.

A project, perhaps, for the paths group at a later date?