On the 2nd and 3rd of May intern; Joe Chidzey participated in a Great crested newt licensing course run by Oxford Brookes university. The course was organised by James Watkins and we were taught by an extremely knowledgeable local expert – Rod d’Ayala – who shared with us his insights from many years of working with all three British newt species. The course was composed of three parts; a lecture given to us by Rod at the Oxford Brookes Wheatley campus, a practical part where we had a chance to carry out most of the techniques used to survey newts, and an online test to assess our gained knowledge – this was particularly important as a pass was essential in order to receive a reference which can be used when applying for a Great crested newt surveyors license from Natural England.
The course ran smoothly from start to finish and transport was arranged for us from the campus where we had the lecture to the surveying site where we completed the practical element. Despite an early (06:30AM) start on the second day of the course, everyone was in high spirits and looking forward to finding out if we had captured any newts in the bottle traps we had set. We only caught a handful of newts due to the sub-ideal weather, but these - alongside the many we saw torching in the evening and the live specimens Rod brought in - meant that we had the chance to see and handle three species (Great crested, smooth and palmate). After completing the course, I now feel fully competent to survey newts safely using the techniques we learned and am able to identify the different species in all life stages, as well as determine their sex. I couldn’t recommend this course more highly to anyone wanting to learn the same, whether applying for a Great crested newt surveyors license or not.