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Underworld

  • Sun 16th Jun, 2019

It wasn't yet dark when we met but in the expanse of blue sky above us, there was a change of hue; the whisper of night, beckoning.

A flourish of pinks and wisps of white and orange streaked across the blue, as it deepened with the failing light.

Armed with torches and nets, we traversed our way to the edge, then shone the light across the surface of the pond.

Smooth Newt © Dan LombardSmooth Newt © Dan Lombard

The warm air was still, not a ripple, but a trail of bubbles racing for the surface. A smooth newt drifted towards the weeds, soon being swallowed by the green algae, our first record for the night's amphibian survey.

After that our senses adjusted and we counted frog after frog, hiding in the shadows and leaping away from the light with a splosh. Water boatmen rowed across the surface, their long legs sweeping ripples behind and the stylish figure of damselfly nymphs undulated through the water, the whoosh of their three gill tails conjuring images of mermaids.

By this time the blanket above us had darkened into the unfathomable. Midnight blue is a colour inexpressible with words - you feel it as much as you see it.

And the stars! Masses of stars, so bright, so silver against the black-blue depths.

Great Crested Newt © Dan LombardGreat Crested Newt © Dan Lombard

Then there he was, our first great crested newt of the night, hanging in the water, a relic of Jurassic times, with his magnificent jagged crest swaying back and forth.

Great Crested Newt © Dan LombardGreat Crested Newt © Dan Lombard

We counted a good population of these incredible beasts whose flamboyant orange bellies flashed at us as they prowled for a mate.

Great Crested Newt © Susie O'NeillGreat Crested Newt © Susie O'Neill

Bullets of dragonfly larvae shot through our beams and leeches, the epitome of elegance whilst in their element, danced past.

Too innumerable to mention, life in the underworld is a complex web of wonder, one well worth exploring.

Susie O'Neill

Susie works for the RSPB based at the Bempton Cliffs Reserve. She is also a local author. We are very pleased at YCN to welcome her on to our writing team, look out for more encounters on our news section soon! You can read her YCN profile Click Here.

Note: This pond visit was made as part of an annual scientific survey of amphibians at a local nature reserve. The work was undertaken by trained ecologists and licensed great crested newt handlers.