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Amphibians spend part of their lives in water and part on land, using the water principally to breed and during the early part of their lifecycle. They are cold-blooded creatures, their temperature closely matching the air or water that surrounds them. They feed mainly on live animals, although the young (tadpoles) of frogs and toads rely also on plants. The common frog and common toad are familiar to most of us as they inhabit our gardens and breed in our ponds.

A relative newcomer, the marsh frog, once restricted to nature reserves in the south of the county, is now spreading north along the rivers and streams and colonising garden ponds. The smooth newt also breeds in small garden ponds but the other two native species of newt that occur in Essex are more likely to be found in larger natural ponds.

The great crested newt is a specially protected species. It is relatively common in Essex, which is one of its strongholds, but rare in Europe as a whole. The palmate newt is restricted to the south-east corner of the county, including Epping Forest and Thorndon.

© Pat Allen