An appeal to raise £20,000 has been launched to fund an extensive survey of protected Great Crested Newts and their habitats in the Welland Valley after a rare newt was photographed on a family's doorstep.
The villager in Middleton near Corby found the Great Crested Newt sitting near their back door during the short warm spell in March.
As the photos circulated on social media, many villagers weren’t surprised, as they been aware of the presence of rare creatures for many years.
Now the Middleton RAG (Residents Action Group) hopes to raise £20,000 to commission a professional ecology survey in an attempt to protect habitats in the valley.
A spokesman for RAG said: "This survey is critical to the future protection of these magnificent creatures.
"One of the reasons for this threat is the lack of data on the newt population in areas where they are known to inhabit.
"Without the clear evidence habitats can become vulnerable to development and activities which can disturb breeding and remove the environment they need to survive.
"Not only will it establish a definitive baseline for the Great Crested Newt population in the Welland Valley, but it will also help us to protect the critical habitat that they and other protected wildlife need to survive.
"We have been in touch with The Welland River Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Natural England, ARC and The Wildlife Trust who are all very keen for us to share our survey results with them.
"We therefore want to survey, identify and log the population of a 1km stretch of the beautiful Welland Valley, between the villages of Ashley and Middleton in Northamptonshire.
"The area has numerous ponds, ancient ridge and furrow fields and hedgerows and we are keen to start as quickly as we can."
Parts of the Welland Valley are classed as a ‘Red Zone’ for Great Crested Newts, but despite registered sightings, there is very little contemporary data available on the size and health of the local population.
The survey will be undertaken by an accredited ecologist and involves detailed surveying and monitoring of a number of ponds over several weeks to log the population of a 1km stretch of the Welland Valley, between the villages of Ashley and Middleton.
The area has numerous ponds, ancient fields and hedgerows, and spring to early summer is the best time to survey the ponds where the newts breed.
Apart from providing invaluable data on Great Crested Newts, the survey will also record any evidence found of other important species in the area including otters, badgers, hedgehogs, bats and protected birds.
The Great Crested Newt is an endangered and listed protected priority species in the UK.
It is our largest newt, breeding in ponds during the spring and spending the rest of the year feeding on invertebrates in hedgerows, marshes and grasslands.