Smitten by the newts’ amorous advances

The birds and bees - palmate newt style
The birds and bees - palmate newt style

It was showing off time for male Palmate Newts when I visited some woodland ponds the other day, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

Courting pairs were obvious in the clear shallows and allowed me close study of the whole fascinating behaviour.

How much the females welcomed the males' attention was hard to say.

Each pair seemed to consist of a female trying to go about her normal newty day, while an over amorous male tried his best to stop her going anywhere at all.

To be fair the males had dressed up for the occasion, each sporting natty black webbing on his hind feet and wide fin like margins to his tail, the top one extending right along his back.

As if that wasn't enough to impress, he also had a fine, hair like filament growing out the end of his tail.

But enough of fashion, what was his technique with the ladies?

No one could fault him on enthusiasm as he curled his tail tightly round to face her and quivered it rapidly to waft his hormone charged scent over her.

This was the famed Palmate Newt ‘fan dance’ and I was as transfixed as he hoped his lady friend might be.

To tell the truth I don’t think I saw any of the females react in any way to all of this rigmarole.

It seems playing hard to get is the expected behaviour of the ladies.

However, the fan dance of the male Palmate Newt must be very effective, as those same ponds are alive with newt tadpoles later in the summer.

Before then, of course, the females must lay their eggs.

Unlike frog and toad spawn, newt eggs are laid individually, each in a little globe of clear jelly and carefully wrapped in leaf of an underwater plant to protect it from predators.

This jelly ball absorbs water can can grow quite large.

I have seen them as big as ping pong balls.