No, the dilemma is connected in a way to my growing love of nature and the need to be able to do more to encourage it to flourish and to be able to interact with it where and when I can. Bear with me while I explain myself and my dilemma. At the rear of the factory building, where I while away the long hours of ‘the grind’, there is a large expanse of concreted road surface for the unloading of materials, storage of base product and general access etc. At this time of year the half observant person may notice several areas across the ‘yard’ which have little mounds of dark flattened debris, oozing a dark liquid, or alternatively twisted, dried out husks that make a sound similar to dried leaves when underfoot. Closer investigation reveals that these remains are of a small creature either flatted by traffic, foot or vehicles, or those that have failed to reach shade in their nightly endeavor to cross the yard and have been dried by the now warming sun.
If you are fortunate enough to have time to wander the factory yard upon these slowly warming evenings you’ll be able to spot these creatures before they’re flattened by traffic or dehydrated to a husk by the unforgiving sun. Your first impression may be that you’ve spotted a small lizard, but if you have a care to look closer at the creature that sits on this desert of concrete it proves to be an amphibian, the Smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris) to be correct.
|Cute aren't they?|
|Had to belly crawl for this shot at 2am this morning|
This would explain the high numbers of flat or dried remains for this creature is certainly not the fastest around and coupled with its amphibious need to retain a moist skin, then been caught out on the unforgiving desert of the yard spells certain and slow death for it. I mention the word desert when describing the yard, and yes what may seem to be just a large expanse of hard surface necessary for the day to day function of a factory is indeed akin to a huge and unforgiving desert to these miniscule creatures. Why do they throw themselves, lemming like, onto the yard? Well I can only surmise that it’s the attraction of the factory lights that draw these delicate newts to their inevitable doom, there is now other reason that I can see for their suicidal behavior, certainly no source of food, moisture or shelter that would sustain them is available here. They make this journey from waste ground upon the factory’s parameter, an area with is out of reach to minions like myself being behind secure fencing and any expedition towards it is looked upon by paranoid higher beings with more than a little suspicion. The waste ground I assume has all the necessary needs for a happy newt but without fail at this time of year the procession of the doomed 'Lemming' newt is repeated once more.
Here we come to my dilemma, I firmly believe that nature should be fully left to her own devices, the less humankind interferes with the natural process the more successful, resourceful and enchanting nature proves to be. Those who recall some of my earlier posts will know that my rear garden is the size of a postage stamp but within this small space I’m always looking to encourage nature to use it, whether just in passing or as a permanent home. At the same time I’m also trying to utilize the space to grow a small number of edible crops for my ever demanding plate, and combing the two is demanding but ever so rewarding at the same time. So how does this cause me my dilemma? When faced with the scenes of carnage on the factory yard my heart told my to save as many as these newts that were hell bent upon their own destruction whilst my head spoke of leaving well alone and let nature run its course. Whether rightly or wrongly my heart in this case won out and I resolved to save at least some of these newts last year. Normally I would not have removed a plant from its natural habitat let alone a living creature, true I will take a wild plant or animal for the pot upon occasion, but this brings me, I feel closer to nature and the way that I’d love to live, hypocritical? Perhaps, but what I’m trying to say here is that when I can I try to avoid interfering with the flow of nature but by, upon occasion, when taking and consuming wildlife (being flora or fauna) I feel that I’m being more a part of the flow than when eating a cellophane wrapped piece of meat harvested off a shop's shelf. Anyway moving on from this where I may be making not much sense, back to the newts.
So last year I made the conscious (and quite probably illegal) decision to remove a wild creature from its environment, however unnatural, and relocate it elsewhere hoping to promote its survival. But then the next issue arose, where should I release these creatures without altering the balance of another area or even just dooming them to another form of premature death? I considered the edges of the factory, but besides being grilled with a thousand questions of what I’d being doing near the parameter and shouldn’t I have been greasing something or other, there was nothing to stop the little buggers heading back and becoming the smallest mounds of road kill that you’re likely to see. I’m not aware of any local populations of smooth newts where to introduce the recuees and also the introduction of them to an already thriving population may have disastrous effects, tipping the numbers balance, introducing disease for which I cannot test etc. So this left me with a slightly uncomfortably but perhaps viable solution, my garden. Now before some of you go lecturing me upon about self interest whatever, this choice was not taken lightly and although not a perfect solution does have some redeeming points in its favor; Within the confines of my garden there are areas of habitat that are favorable for these amphibians, as well as a well planted pond there are perennial borders continually refreshed with compost and leaf mould which in turn leads to damp areas of cover teaming with invertebrate life, there is an shady area, albeit small, set aside for a rotting woodpile and what ever grows there is left alone which is proving a haven for allsorts of fungi, flora and fauna not usually associated with urban gardens, here also is a pile of half pipes and roof tiles covered with more leaf mould which attracts a mired of fauna. Coupled with the insect attracting plants that I’m endeavoring to increase and areas of shade and damp provided by my mainly container driven food planting area it is an amphibians nirvana, on a small scale. Also the surrounding gardens offer other varied habitats and more diverse possibilities.
|Waterfall into pond - plastic you know|
|Already amphibians here, point of danger?|
|No sign after 10 minutes from release this morning|
So at this time last year a total of five Smooth newts were recovered from a premature flattening and released into what I hoped would be a favorable habitat for them. For the majority of the year I saw neither head nor tail of them and to be honest as the summer months stretched towards autumn all thoughts of the immigrants had been forgotten. But then, whilst moving some planters to enable an attempt at crop rotation, there, blinking at his rude exposure to the evening sun was a male smooth newt in what appeared to be excellent health (although I’m probably better at judging the health of a dog than an amphibian!). Watching him closely I finished rearranging the various planters and was lost in wonder for a while as I observed him make his way to the cover of a crack in the flagged step (see Clare, I told you that leaving cracks between the flags was OK). On a couple more occasions I came across newts, definitely a couple of different individuals, whilst tidying up for the onset of autumn which confirmed to me that although maybe not strictly the moral thing to have done I was justified in that the habitat provided was able to support the newts and they had indeed settled, not needing to move away in search of something better. Even saying this I still have a pang of guilt about relocating them and my interference, but given the choice between being flat or discovering new lands I know what I’d pick. This year the newts are at it again, littering the concrete with their tiny corpses, once again I’ve relocated a few, but doubts still nag at me as to whether it’s the right thing to do, after all I advocate mankind to interfere less with nature yet here I am, perhaps playing at a amphibious deity? I tell myself that I’m allowing some small part of nature survive when, if left, it would most certainly be jam but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m right.
Now perhaps some whom think that they know me might mock or even have the odd titter at this grease monkeys attempt at wildlife preservation, after all surely there are more majestic and deserving animals that would better merit my attention? But, and I’m not exactly what you’d call a tree hugger here, there’s wonderment and awe to be found in all the different faces of Mother Nature. It does not have to be a tiger, panda or elephant to deserve the right to survival, all nature is connected in ways that are far beyond our comprehension and to lose just one species through our ignorant lives is a sad thing indeed. Yes perhaps to some these newts are not worth a second thought and have no place or purpose in our ‘ordered’ world, but I but you a pound to a pinch of salt that if asked, the newt would have something to say about it! Maybe this grease monkey is becoming slightly tree huggerish, who knows, it may not be a bad thing after all. Not my usual ramblings I know, but hey without a poor post how can I tell when I ever manage to present you with a good one? someday I promise it'll happen, someday.....