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One of our cats sat motionless on the edge of the pond today, head drooped down almost touching the water as if he were asleep. But the occasional tic gave him away: he was watching newts. The bright sunshine lit up a corner of our triangular pond, just where the water is deepest, and it is here that the 15 or so amphibians were frolicking.
These normally taciturn creatures are in the mood for love, and they are having a party. The last few weeks have seen a gradual increase in numbers, but until the warm weather of the last week, they have mainly been just hanging about in the water, barely moving. Now they are positively dancing.
The larger males, with their brighter bellies and higher, delicately crested, tails are courting the females. There is a lot of tail curling and gentle writhing as they follow each other through the pondweed or scuttle across the bottom of the pool. And every so often there is a sudden judder of acceleration, a few tail thrashes, and a pair jet through the water, then turn, swerve and dive down again.
There is something primordial, almost crocodilian, about their languid swimming motion, but it is endlessly fascinating. Both cat and I are mesmerized. Now is the time to spot them in any pond, because, being distracted by each other, they are less likely to be disturbed by observers. A national newt hunt is being organized to coincide with this peak activity.
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