What Happens when a Protected Species Lives in your Garden?
“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”
― William Shakespeare
This morning I was perusing the local news when I came across an article about some construction work which has been delayed due to the discovery of two protected species. As I scanned the words, thinking – Hmmm… whatever – one of the images of the protected species in question popped out and slapped me in the face, screaming – IT’S NOT SO WHATEVER NOW, IS IT!?!
Flashback to the night before last. While standing on the threshold of the back door of my house, glancing out at the night, my eyes wandered down to the step below me and spotted a fat squiggle which could have been a slug except it had legs.
The light was dim and so was I.
I bent down, narrowed my eyes and realised that it was a newt.
“She turned me into a newt.
… But I got better…”
― Monty Python and the Holy Grail
They look like lizards (although this one looked more like a mini dinosaur) when they’re out of water, but when they’re in water they turn into something else. Nature’s version of a transformer. They shapeshift from lizard into a frilly fancy mythological being.
I observed it for a while. It may have observed me too.
I took a photo of it, rather badly, as I felt guilty for using a flash (I always try to avoid using bright lights on creatures with sensitive eyes), but I really wanted a pic (humans!). I did apologise to it and thanked it for its patience. Then I went back inside and…
…that was that.
Until I saw the photo of the protected species and recognised my night visitor.
There are three types of newt in the UK, this particular type – The British Great Crested Newt – are not usually found in gardens like mine, or at least that’s what I thought because they are very particular about what sort of habitat they need and from everything that I’ve read and heard about them, my garden is not the five star accommodation which they prefer.
I do have a pond, and it does not have fish or aquatic birds which is perfect for newts, but it’s an overgrown abandoned mess and I have no idea what the alkalinity of the water is. Insects like it, so do frogs, toads, snails, slugs. The local crane thinks it sucks, but it’s the watering hole of deer, the bathing spot for owls, the sipping cup of other creatures with wings and with fur, the food source for those who hunt, foxes and stoats, those who drink there and live around it, lots of rabbits. It was once visited by a water vole but I’m not sure it stuck around. The moles around here like to dig the earth up around the pond on a regularly basis. The rest of the garden around it is shady, damp, overrun by plants, cluttered with natural litter such as fallen leaves from trees left to rot where they are. It’s very… organic.
When I first moved into this place I used to work on the garden (my partner and I made the pond), try to tame it, grow stuff in it, tidy it up and make it look like the sort of outdoor place which humans like, but the creatures who live there prefer it when I don’t mess with it, they thrive in it when it is not manhandled, and since they use it more than I do as for them it is their home, hunting ground, and play area, I listen to their needs. My garden is alive with bees, butterflies, birds, and a plethora of other beings who maintain it the way they like it, and occasionally allow me to behold them in their natural habitat, take photos, but mostly they find me an annoying disturbance to their calm and their usual way of doing things.
Nature tells me what it wants and I agree because I’m a lazy gardener and I’ve learned the hard way that if you ignore what nature tells you… you eventually regret it. A thriving alive environment when the chaos of it is brought to order by human hand can turn into a sterile, though sometimes very attractive, overly-cultivated dead zone which only humans can appreciate (although they often grumble about the lack of wildlife visiting their perfect garden, at least the types of wildlife they actually want to have there, or they grumble about the ones which do visit which are ones they don’t’ want to have there).
But every now and then I do some tidying up. Which is what I had planned on doing this week. Especially as the other day I had bumped into my landlord who had politely mentioned that my garden was looking a bit wild. I knew what he meant was could I please tidy it up… at least tidy up the part of it which he and the visitors to his home can see. He’s very understanding and easy-going, and he tries his best to do what is environmentally friendly, but all humans have their limits and like things just so. When they’re not just so… you get a just so story.
But according to the research (random and sloppy search) which I have done today, you need a licence…
“The species has been in decline for a number of years with Great Crested Newts becoming increasingly rare or absent in some areas.
The Great Crested Newt is fully protected under UK and European Law due to its decline and vulnerability due to loss of habitat and breeding ponds.
Due to licensing issues only suitably Qualified and Experienced persons who are licenced by the Likes of Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage and CCW are permitted to survey and disturb them.”
…if you’re going to disturb one of these special beings known by humans as – The Great Crested Newt (no idea what they call themselves, certainly not Newtella which was what I dubbed my night visitor). Uh oh. That newt the other night and the one (maybe the same one, but it looked bigger) which I accidentally disturbed this morning while trying to tidy up a corner of my house where there is an old safety barrier left over from a hole dug in my garden by the water company when my pipes froze the Winter before last and a bunch of leaf litter, may have legal grounds to prosecute me for my mistakes.
So… basically I can’t do any work in the garden or around the outside of the house because…
“Work within 500m of Great Crested Newt terrestrial habitat and breeding ponds requires a DEFRA development licence to be obtained prior to the commencement of works.”
I wonder if that includes the inside of the house too… since I work from home, I may have to put a pause to that too until I get a licence, but getting a license may require some work… Hmmm.
This is a rather unexpected development.