An investigation funded by people living around Middleton and Ashley, near Corby, discovered an array of wonderful wildlife living around the ponds of the Welland Valley.
Parts of the Welland Valley are classified as a “red zone” for crested newts but, despite recorded sightings, there is very little contemporary data available on the size and health of the local population.
Following a recent local sighting, villagers around Middleton and a series of other conservation donors have raised funds to commission a comprehensive ecological survey.
The investigation focused on a 1 km stretch of the beautiful Welland Valley, between the villages of Ashley and Middleton. The region has many ponds, ancient fields and hedges, which are the ideal habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.
The crested newt (GCN) is a priority endangered species listed in the UK. It is our largest newt, breeding in ponds in the spring and spending the rest of the year feeding on invertebrates in hedges, marshes and grasslands.
These newts need the right habitat to survive and thrive and their breeding and roosting sites are protected by UK and EU law. However, these habitats are increasingly threatened by development and climate change which can disrupt reproduction and destroy the environment they need to survive.
Five ponds were studied, out of six identified in the study area. Weather conditions in April and May were unusually cold for the season, but despite this, the majority of the ponds surveyed performed well on the Habitat Survey Index (HSI). The ponds contained a wide range of amphibians and invertebrates, and the pond traps captured four GCNs and 18 smooth newts.
Mature established hedges, wooden blocks and tufts of grass provide connectivity in all directions and wintering habitat. The ponds themselves will hold water throughout the year, only being able to dry out during periods of prolonged drought.
The study was undertaken by accredited conservationists Lockhart Garratt and involved a detailed survey and monitoring of the ponds for six weeks. In addition to providing valuable data on
GCN, the investigation also recorded evidence of other important species in the region, including bats and protected birds.
Two species of bats have been recorded; the pipistrelle and the Daubenton bat. The survey identified a number of bird species that are listed as Conservation Birds of the United Kingdom (BOCC).
Three bird species protected on the Red List have been recorded; the cuckoo, the song thrush and the yellow hammer. Red List birds are globally threatened species with a severe decline in breeding populations in the UK. They are considered priority species in the UK, which should be included in local biodiversity action plans.
The birds listed in amber are species with an unfavorable conservation status in Europe, in decline and with less than 300 breeding pairs in the UK. The survey recorded three species listed in amber; acacia, woodpecker, and tawny owl, as well as 13 other species identified from the BOCC list, including buzzards, red kites, gray heron, reed warblers and chicks.