Friday, 31 May 2013

Have I Got Newts For You

This time last year I'd never knowingly seen a newt outside of a book or a TV programme. Then, in a pond not far from where I work, I spotted several of these:

Great Crested Newt larva

This, I subsequently found out, is the larval form of the Great Crested Newt, the largest - and most endangered - of the three species of newt native to Britain. With its rough, granular skin, scythe-like tail and impressive jagged crest, the adult male Great Crested Newt is the closest you'll come to seeing a dragon in the English countryside, so - as you can imagine - I was rather keen to get a photo of one.

Like a lot of creatures, Great Crested Newts look at their best during the breeding season (i.e. now), but trying to photograph them is easier said than done. I quickly found out that they rarely come up to the surface, and when they do they typically dive straight back down again before you can get the camera anywhere near them. In the meantime, I had to console myself with getting pictures of the smaller Smooth (Common) Newt:

Smooth Newt

...and the equally diminutive Palmate Newt, with its distinctive webbed hind feet and tail filament:

Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus)

But still no photos of a Great Crested Newt.

Then, just when it seemed that the pond would be covered with lily-pads before I even got so much as a single shot, my Great Crested Nemeses finally decided to cooperate:

Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)

Okay, so they're not the cleanest photos I've ever taken, but shooting subjects in a pond (as opposed to a brightly-lit aquarium) is never easy at the best of times, and you can only do your best with what you've got. If you're trying it yourself I recommend a fast, close-focusing lens in the 100 - 300 mm range ... and a great deal of patience.

P.S. I apologise for the terrible pun headlining this post, but it was either that or the even more lame "Goodness Gracious, Great Crested Newts!"

See also:
More of my newt photos on Flickr
Great Crested Newt Conservation Handbook (