The Noak Bridge
Nature Reserve Society
Hello and welcome to our first Newsletter of 2013. We hope you all had a lovely Christmas and we wish you all a very happy New Year. Our new Notice Board, courtesy of the Basildon Council Jubilee Grant, has been installed for a little while now at the top entrance on High Ridge; it is a very nice looking board and fits in well with the woody surroundings up there.
Also, thanks to your membership subscriptions and donations, along with the remainder of the Jubilee Grant, we have been able to purchase some very handy tools to help with our work, so we would like to say a very big thank you to you all. Without your contributions we would find it very difficult to carry on the vital work within the Reserve.
Talking of work in the Reserve, we always welcome willing workers on to the Work Party which runs from 1pm to 3pm every third Tuesday of each month. We meet at the top of the Main Driveway, usually at around 12.55pm. The dates are always on the Notice Boards. The work is very varied and very rewarding; it can be litter picking, pruning or cutting back, installing signs or helping to install new benches occasionally, retrieving items from the ponds and sometimes helping with surveys of plants and small animals such as insects and birds.
Some of the more obscure litter picked recently has included a lorry tyre, the leftovers from a BBQ and three sacks thrown into the bushes containing the rubbish from a house party; we did however manage to recycle 90% of all this rubbish.
We are still waiting for one of our two Jubilee Benches which should be with us very soon. The two benches to honour Janet Bircham and Ralph Chapman, both founder members of the society, are now in place: Janet's is at Fox Pond and Ralph's is at Willow Pond.
The Great Crested Newt
As many of you will know, the great crested newt is a resident of the Nature Reserve. They are the largest of our native newt species. During the breeding season males develop a jagged crest which has a break at the base of the tail and females take on a 'bulky' appearance. Adults can reach 15cm, nose to tail; the skin is black or dark brown and has a rough, 'warty' appearance. Males have a large jagged crest during the spring but it is much less pronounced during the rest of the year. Irregular black blotches cover the bright orange belly. 'Warts' along the side of the body may have white tips. Males have a white flash on the tail and females a yellow or orange one. They are widespread but distribution is patchy. Great crested newts have full legal protection under UK Law, making it an offence to kill, injure, capture, disturb or sell them, or to damage or destroy their habitats. Their primary threat is the loss of ponds and intensification of agriculture.
In the Spring: Adult newts emerge from their overwintering site in March/April and head to a pond to breed. Males perform an elaborate courtship dance before the female lays individual eggs on plant leaves and then wraps them carefully to protect them. Depending on the local weather, two to four weeks later larvae, sometimes called "newt tadpoles", will hatch out. The larvae have feathery gills around the head, distinguishing them from frog and toad tadpoles; they have a mottled appearance and a tiny filament at the end of the tail. A couple of months later they start to grow their front legs, again different from frogs and toads, followed by their back legs. At this time of year adult newts will be found in and around the pond hunting frog tadpoles.
In the Summer: Around August, when the larvae have fully absorbed their gills they will leave the water as newtlets or efts.
In the Autumn: This is spent preparing for the winter. The newts will feed on various invertebrates.
In the Winter: Great crested newts will shelter under rocks, in compost heaps or even buried down in the mud. They don't hibernate as such, and will often take advantage of a milder patch of weather to come out and forage.
Our Ranger, Mark Williams will be holding a Bird Walk in the Reserve on Sunday 5th May at 10am. There will be more information about this in the Spring Newsletter.
Finally, from all the Committee, we thank you all once again for your continued support. It really is greatly appreciated.