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Is your garden bursting with bee and butterfly-friendly flowers, do you have a small pond where toads, newts and frogs can frolic? If you think your garden is a welcoming and friendly place for wildlife then you can now enter it into the Wildlife Friendly Gardening awards organised by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and The Gardens Group. It doesn’t matter how big or small your garden is, and not even how tidy, what the judges are interested in is whether it attracts wildlife.

 

You can pick up entry forms and guidance notes from our garden centres, online www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlifegardening, or contact Joy Wallis on 01305 264620, email jwallis@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk. The closing date for entries is Monday 19 May 2014 and the awards ceremony will be held at Castle Gardens in July.

 

Good luck!

 

Mike

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Resembling baby dragons, the UK’s three newt species find garden ponds provide a particularly good habitat. The smooth and the palmate newt can grow up to 10cm in length and are relatively common. But our favourite is the impressive and protected Great Crested Newt (GCN) which grows up to 15cm in length. All newt species need open water to display to each other in spring, soft plants to lay their eggs in (they lay them singly and then use their back legs to fold a leaf around them) and preferably a fish-free zone, as fish eat baby newtlets. 

 

Like frogs, newts can start their breeding season as soon as the pond warms up enough, so in Dorset this can be as early as late February, early March.

 

There was a Kingcombe rumour that our pond had the Great Crested Newt in it as well as the smaller species, so last summer we set up special bottle traps, (I hold a special licence issued by Natural England, allowing me to trap and handle protected species). Our luck was in and we caught a lovely female, proving that our pond was indeed a site for GCN.

 

If you create a pond, amphibians will most likely find it on their own accord within a season or two; as all amphibians, frogs, toads and newts, are susceptible to some nasty diseases we don’t recommend moving animals or their eggs between ponds.  

 

Dr Rachel Janes – Pond Conservation officer 

 

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