SmoothNewts1

I lifted an old paving slab in the garden whilst clearing an area beside a shed and was surprised to see what looked like lizards hiding underneath it. In fact at first I thought they were curled up leaves or bits of wood that looked a bit like lizards, but it was quickly apparent that they really were live animals, though they didn't move. I went on thinking they were lizards for a while, and it was only when I tried to find out what sort of lizard that I realised they were newts – probably Smooth newts. Apparently this is a common enough mistake to make. More pictures after the break…


SmoothNewts2

You can just see a hint of the yellow/orange belly in the picture above, which is slightly speckled. They really don't look very newt-like here, being quite slim and not having any sort of crest on their backs or tails. The skin however isn't scaly like a lizard though, and they only have four toes, not the five of lizards. Also, lizards dart around quickly whereas these move fairly ponderously. Here's a page about Common lizards, demonstrating the difference in appearance.

I actually found three individuals, the longest being about 8cm, the shortest perhaps 5.5cm. Here are nicely posed shots of the two smaller ones as they sat on the top of the slab I'd picked up. They are noticeably different in shade and shape. Perhaps male and female, or just natural variation or progression through life.

SmoothNewts3

  SmoothNewts4

I actually picked them up to see if they were alive since they were completely motionless initially. They didn't even move when I picked them up, though I could see them quickly breathing. After a while they came to their senses and crawled slowly off my hand. At that point I still thought they were lizards, by the way as apparently newts secrete toxins from their skin and can be stressed out by being handled so I probably wouldn't have done so if I'd known.

I don't have a pond, but the neighbours do. I imagine that the cool, damp space they'd found was a perfectly decent spot to rest. I plan to dig a pond, so finding them gives me hope that it will quickly be colonised.

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