Call of the Wild

You know how sometimes it’s only when you give up, really completely give up all hope of something, that it happens?

That’s what it was like seeing those newts recently. I’d last spotted one at the edge of my pond, a whole couple of years ago and that was a great surprise. First of all I saw the nose and face moving from behind a pebble, and then the front legs…I was thinking this is one of the frogs ( hatched from the tadpoles previously that year). But the body, well it kept coming…until I realised it had a long tail…All over in a few seconds, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing – or thinking: “It must be a newt!”

I’d put down a little wood pile as soon as I got to this garden three years ago, to attract or shelter newts but hadn’t seen any sign (although the next door neighbours said they ‘had’ newts in their pond). However I’ve since learnt that putting this woodpile under the honeysuckle was perhaps not the best idea, as frogs at least can be poisoned by honeysuckle. I adore honeysuckle and couldn’t bear to give it up since I love the scent and once it grows, I’m hoping the sparrows will love it too. This honeysuckle staying where it was, near the pond, was part of the reason I’d given up any future sightings of newts and frogs alike there. And it was another reason for digging a new wildlife pond early this year, in a different spot, away from such a dangerous plant.

I can’t explain why recently one evening in my kitchen about to prepare supper, I felt impelled just before dusk to go outside and look in the pond. The original pond. So murky and green and empty of movement after all that frost and ice in February that I’d completely given up on seeing any interesting life in it. Or more importantly on it being a useful habitat at all, for anything except a vastly reduced amount of snails. I was wondering about draining it and starting again.

Staring into the dark waters I saw a curled shaped that at first I thought was a leaf, fallen in. I was thinking about removing it (as you do with excess vegetation) when it moved, curled more. Again I couldn’t quite make out what I was seeing. But I followed the curled leaf shape along to the rest of the body….which turned out to be a miniature dragon shape in front of my eyes. At once so tiny yet so fabulous, like something out of a story book for children. Something I couldn’t quite believe, but wanted to!

I rushed indoors to tell my husband and grab my camera phone – but of course it had gone. Leaving me wondering…The next morning I was awake early and despite the cold, couldn’t resist another peek in the pond. It’s right outside my kitchen door, across the decking. There I saw the same shape again, with a few dots on the back! I didn’t even try to get a photo this time, just kept still, watching, looking. Entranced. I hadn’t been imagining things! Here he (or she) was, slowly climbing over a submerged pot, so I could really see how he moved. (Last year I thought I saw something similar but then couldn’t really be sure. Now I was certain. And overjoyed!)

What is that dopamine hit we get on espying and feeling seen by a natural, wild thing? Tolerated even for a little while? I don’t know the exact chemistry, but the feeling is amazing.

Imagine my pleasure the next day, nearly my birthday, on seeing not one, or two but FOUR newts, slightly tangled and slowly moving. I’ve looked up since that this is newt mating time – maybe that’s what was going on – but sadly there are no leaved plants in that pond for the females to attach and wrap eggs in. (Situation being remedied with some Frogbit on order right now). Still no photo – it was so murky. Since then the water has cleared to crystal clear, and I’ve made no sightings of them. Just to my immense surprise the next day, a large frog! Sitting under the water’s surface quietly for a quite a while, then later poking his nostrils out.

Here is my newt drawing, showing how when climbing the body curves one way and the feet (and or hands!) on the one side come closer and on the other reach wider…The tail is too long, I’m pretty sure. I did this from memory. (Oh and a photo of the handsome frog, just in case you don’t believe me!)

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