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…

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Laura writes in with an unusual wildlife sighting and associated question:

I am a reader of your blog and wondered if you or your readers have any advice they could offer me regarding an unusual thing I saw today. We went for a walk this morning along a stretch of (non-navigable) canal not far from our home in Nottingham. We saw the usual wildlife we often see along there – ducks, swans, coots and moorhens – but we also saw a turtle in the water. It swam up to the surface, where we saw it for a few seconds, and then it swam back down in the water and out of sight. We assume that it was perhaps once someone's pet and that they decided they no longer wanted to keep it, perhaps releasing it into the water. I have no idea how long it's been living there, or if it's in good shape. What I'm wondering is if I should report it to anyone – the local council, the RSPCA, the local Wildlife Trust? It's probably not the best place for a turtle to be living, and equally the other native species may not benefit from its presence. Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated!

Actually Laura, sightings such as this seem to be surprisingly common. A Red-eared terrapin was found in my local nature reserve a couple of years back and this was swiftly whisked away by the RSPCA. However in that case it was easily caught by the reserve wardens just after being sighted, whereas your example could be anywhere in the canal!

I suspect that it's perfectly healthy and happy apart from a lack of company. That said, maybe it does have company as Googling for "turtles in British rivers" throws up a number of stories of turtles living for decades in British waterways. Apparently lots were discarded after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze in the early 90s. Given that, the RSPCA might well just have to shrug their collective shoulders and explain the same tale to you, but it's as well to mention it to the local wildlife trust to ensure they're aware of their presence.

Apparently it's too cold in this country for them to breed successfully by the way, so the turtles people see in the wild in the UK are almost certainly those that have been dumped and lived on for years.

And finally (in the style of Trevor McDonald) Laura also mentions that she's seen Housemartins for the first time this year. And I don't think she was talking about a reunion gig.

FrogsMating

Rivergirl writes in with some great pictures of Frogs getting jiggy with it now that Spring has sprung. [Actually today it seems to have sprung a leak!]

That’s one of her pictures above, and there are loads more in these two posts on her blog A Walk on the Wild Side, as well as educated commentary on what’s actually going on.

If you have pictures, videos or exciting stories of natural goings on in the UK then do please send them along!

If the buzz on Twitter is to be believed, the last couple of sunny days have got frogs in the mood and frogspawn is appearing in ponds across the UK. The link is a live search for "frogspawn" so will pick up whatever's most recently been tweeted.

IguanaKewGardens

A splash of colour to liven up a drab winter. This is the resident Iguana in one of the glass houses at Kew Gardens in London. I had no idea there was one, so I was quite surprised to turn a corner and find it right there on a wall looking pleased with itself.

Update: actually as Richard points out in the comments this is more likely a water dragon than an Iguana!

The London Wildlife Trust has a mini-guide describing how to make a diverse 'habitat wall'. This seems like a massive no-holds-barred version of the insect hibernaculums that seem to have become popular recently – but with room for everything, possibly even small deer :-)

FrogFountain 

There has been growing worldwide concern over the so far unstoppable spread of Chytridiomycosis – a fungal disease which kills amphibians. Some have even predicted that amphibians are on the way out altogether, and indeed a number of species have become extinct within just a few years.

The BBC reports news that the disease has now been properly understood in terms of how it brings about death, confirming the suspicion that the fungus interferes with electrolyte transfer through the skin resulting in eventual cardiac arrest. However this doesn't much advance the fight against the disease. Fungicides are already known to work, but it's completely impractical to apply them to the world's frog populace.

In the UK the disease has been recorded in a few locations, as noted by ZSL. Their page also contains a good introduction to the disease itself, though it only speculates on how it causes death since it predates the recent discovery.