This little guy is my first sighting of the red spotted newt this year!
I love these red spotted newts. I cringe when I see them in the road (like the one in my photo above), for fear that they may get squashed from cars or foot falls. These guys are a true sign of spring – which makes me very happy. Although, my morning walks with Wilbur are a bit more daunting, what, with me constantly trying to keep both Wilbur and myself from stepping on them. And not all are as bright orange as the one above. They range in color from olive to brownish-green with red spots on their back. During the immature terrestrial “red eft” stage, the body is completely bright orange or red, some even brighter than the one in my photo above.
I have stopped trying to usher them across the road. I’ve done it with large leaves or my hands, but then someone told me that the oils on my skin may be toxic to them. And I worried that moving them in any way could cause undo stress. So I let them be and hope for the best. Thankfully, my walks are in a very low traffic area.
According to the NH State Wildlife Department, these newts lay “up to 400 eggs, which are attached singly to submerged vegetation in ponds, lakes, or swamps. Larvae are aquatic. Juvenile red-efts spend 1-3 years on land before returning to the water. Adults may be active all winter on pond bottoms or in streams.” Imagine that…They start in the water, spend years on land, and then end up back in water. Remarkable creatures. Their biggest threat is habitat loss and water pollution.
Just so you know, I am not the only lover of all things amphibian. Our area actually has Salamander Crossing Brigades. The group, Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory, or AVEO, organizes “Big Nights,” where these volunteer “brigades” help amphibians cross the road.
Their website explains it best…
“As the earth thaws and spring rains drench New Hampshire, thousands of salamanders, frogs, and toads make their way to vernal pools to breed. Many are killed when their journeys take them across busy roads. Each spring, AVEO trains volunteers to serve on Salamander Crossing Brigades at amphibian road crossings throughout the Monadnock Region. Volunteers count migrating amphibians and safely usher the animals across roads during one or more “Big Nights.” In the last five years alone, AVEO’s Crossing Brigades have crossed over 12,000 amphibians!“
My family and I participated in one of these events, but left sadly disappointed that there were no salamanders crossing that night. The weather conditions have to be just right. There may be a few dud nights before people get to see large migrations.
Oh! I almost forgot about the title of this post… As a kid, I would hear about witches potions containing “eye of newt”, (the TV show, Bewitched, comes to mind), and I’m sure during my very young Bewitched-watching days, I had no idea what a newt even was. Now that I know, I can’t imagine anyone trying to extract the eye of such a tiny, not to mention adorable, creature, so I decided to do some research. This is what I learned from Witcheslore.com:
“Over the years the witches began to use codes in their workings, hence now you hear of eye of newt and tongue of dog which are codes for very simple and attainable flowers and plants. The witches would have a great old laugh about the unsuspecting fool who stumbled upon their recipes and went on searching for the ingredients, battling for a lions heart, a bulls horn, mother’s milk, and an Englishman’s foot.”
Phew! Thank God they weren’t using real body parts! Just flowers and plants. So now you know. Witcheslore.com went on to note that Eye of Newt is code for mustard seed, which is used for fertility, protection, and mental powers. Fascinating, really.
Well, I hope you learned as much as I did about our wonderful little newts, and if you happen to see one on your walks, please watch your step.
How do you feel about your local amphibians? Have you ever seen a newt?
Thank you for reading!
Until next time,
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