An endangered species of newt is thriving in a Highland woodland which is its most northerly UK outpost.
Work by Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) has created a pondscape in Strathpeffer to help the Great Crested Newt, a European Protected Species.
The habitat was created over four years guided by local experts, Katie O’Brien and her father David, and developed out of earlier work to lower water levels in an existing pond to comply with reservoir management regulations.
The newts had been under constant threat from non-native fish species that would eat the eggs and juveniles in the original pond.
But creating more ponds provided an opportunity to safeguard a population of Great Crested Newts, the largest of three UK species and named for the crest along the back of the adult males.
There are fewer than 50 known breeding ponds in the Highlands, with more than 20% being on land managed by FLS.
Katie, who discovered the latest colonisation while on a lockdown exercise outing, said; “Creating new ponds gave the existing population a chance to grow but success also depended on the newts having over-wintering places (‘hibernacula’), such as log piles and dry stone walls, as well as foraging areas and dispersal corridors, such as woodland.
“All of the hard work and effort really paid off and it’s really satisfying to know that as well as providing homes for Great Crested Newts, the ponds have healthy populations of other amphibians such as the common frog and palmate newt.”