HopGossip! Autumn/Winter 2016 In this issue… The Vanishing Viper Friends’ Day 2016 Great Crested Newt Detectives & Species Champions
Contents Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is a national wildlife charity committed to conserving amphibians and reptiles and the habitats on which they depend. Working in partnership with Amphibian & Reptile Groups of the UK
Hop off the Press ARC News. State of Nature Report.
Amphibians Let’s talk about Newts - Great Crested Newt Stakeholder Meetings. Second Norfolk Pool Frog Release
Get in touch…
In the Field
Bournemouth - Head Office 655a Christchurch Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth, Dorset BH1 4AP
10 Friends Have Fun in the Forest
Dorset Volunteer News. Community Pond Digging.
ARC Friends’ Day 2016.
12 The Vanishing Viper Priorities for Adder Conservation.
Telephone 01202 391319 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrons: Earl of Malmesbury Chris Packham Iolo Williams Chair of Trustees: Jonathan Webster Chief Executive Officer: Dr Tony Gent Conservation Director: Jim Foster
Great Crested Newt Detectives Update. Dutch Delights. The 8th World Congress of Herpetology.
16 Cumbria Natterjacks at North Walney: A change of fortune!
17 Species Champions MP Species Champions project.
Administration & Finance Manager: Helen Wraight 18 Species Profile Administrative Support Officer: Angela Reynolds Common Toad (Bufo bufo). Administrative Assistant/Data Officer (part time): Kat Green 19 Tail Enders Amphibian Conservation Officer: Yvette Martin Can you identify the snake? Amphibian Conservation Officer (part time): John Buckley How many grass snakes can you see? BLF Dragonscapes Habitat Officer: Peter Hill BLF Dragonscapes Species Officer: Mark Barber Communications & Outreach Manager (part time): Dr Angie Julian Cumbria Natterjack Officer: Ruth Popely If you would like to contribute to the next Database & GIS Officer: Arne Loth edition please contact Angela Reynolds Dorset Field Officer: Richie Johnson at email@example.com. Dorset Field Officer: James Anderson-Barr Dorset Field Officer/Health & Safety Officer: Richard Sharp Dorset Seasonal Field Officers: Stuart Handyside, Sam Manning & Will Emmett-Mair Friendship & E-Communications Officer (part time): Kim Boughey Cover image: Kim Boughey holding a Fundraiser (part time): Atul Srivastava smooth snake © ARC GCN Conservation Officer/Species Coordinator: Dorothy Driver New Forest Smooth Snake Survey Project Officer: Ben Limburn Hop Gossip is edited and designed by North Wales Officer: Mandy Cartwright Angela Reynolds and Co-edited by Reptile Conservation Officer: Nick Moulton Jacob Gerlichs & Katharine Green. Regional, Training & Science Programmes Manager: Dr John Wilkinson Scottish Officer: Dr Pete Minting Please note: the views expressed in Senior Dorset Field Officer: Chris Dresh this newsletter are not necessarily the Senior Reserves Manager: Gary Powell views of Amphibian & Reptile Wealden Field Officer: John Gaughan Conservation but those of the authors. Wealden Field Officer & Volunteer Coordinator: Robin Bassett Wealden Reserves Manager: Rob Free Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Wealden Seasonal Field Officers: Marcus Militello & Ralph Connelly is a Registered Charity. England & Wales Charity number. 1130188. Scotland Charity number. SC044097
From the Editor’s desk Happy 2017 to all our Friends and Hop Gossip readers! I will begin by apologising for the delay in Hop Gossip arriving on your doormats; 2016 was a very busy year indeed, with many changes internally, and as a consequence, a few things have happened a bit slower than usual! ARC has seen many changes with an ongoing restructure of the organisation. You will see in the news pages that we have taken on nine new staff members since the last issue, including Dr Angie Julian as Communications and Outreach Manager. Angie will be working with Kim to expand and improve our Friendship Scheme and I’m sure you will be hearing from her in the months to come. I only had one day ‘out in the field’ in 2016 so it will come as no surprise that the highlight from last year, for me, was the Friends’ Day back in September. It was great seeing new faces and the weather was kind to us! You can read about what we got up to in the centre pages. It won’t be long until our amphibians and reptiles emerge from their winter slumber. Don’t forget to let us know when you spot them through the Record Pool! www.recordpool.org.uk With a new Government and Brexit, we face 2017 with a degree of uncertainty and undoubtedly new challenges. One thing that will remain though, is our commitment to conserving our amphibians and reptiles nation wide. Best wishes,
Angela Reynolds Hop Gossip Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
C.E.O.’s Corner Dr Tony Gent It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since, on June 23 rd 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union; a result that was perhaps largely unexpected and certainly caught many ‘off guard’. Brexit has been tossed into, and now banned from, many dinner table conversations but, despite a radical upheaval of the political landscape, its consequences remain unclear, even to the point where some still believe it might not happen. Unsurprisingly, the implications for the environment and for wildlife are equally uncertain. Many mechanisms and a great deal of funding for conserving British wildlife and the science that underpins it were developed through the EU over almost 30 years: the key legislation that protects our threatened species and most important wildlife sites; the agrienvironment schemes that pay for much of the land management; the national monitoring programmes that provide a six yearly ‘health check’ and, above all, the European level policing that ensures national Governments comply with regulations. Breaking with Europe threatens these mechanisms, which may disappear or receive less funding and less scrutiny. We could also lose out on discussions with other European experts; traditionally the UK has been an insular nation and we have only just started to reap the benefits of working with European colleagues on a range of conservation issues. However, not all of our wildlife conservation work is tied to membership of the European Union. Our key national legislation – the Wildlife and Countryside Act from 1981 – remains largely in force and, following a series of amendments over the years, would benefit from an overhaul. There is scope to create new legislation to better protect our species. At present we try to seek to fund conservation from mechanisms that were largely developed to support agriculture; a nationally developed and nationally led scheme could offer better value for land managers, the public and wildlife and potentially be administered more effectively without European Union involvement. The UK also remains a signatory to many international conventions designed to protect our wildlife and environment – so we still have an opportunity to contribute actively on the world stage and, in turn, ensure that we meet the standards expected of us. So, in the months to come, we have the challenge of trying to maintain best of what we had through EU membership while seeking to maximise opportunities when we leave the Union. Environmental Non-Government Organisations, including ARC, are looking at the options available and are engaging with Government to promote ways forward to benefit wildlife and the environment generally. Recent work undertaken through the European Commission’s review of its wildlife legislation confirmed that species and habitats are threatened across Europe and showed considerable public support for both wildlife and effective laws to protect it. It also showed that concerted action can and does help. The State of Nature partnership launched its second report on 14th September, highlighting the same trends and issues and the importance of nature in the UK. Many people here are keen to see wildlife conserved both for its own sake and for the enjoyment of future generations; we also have the collective intellect and experience to develop effective legislative, policy and funding mechanisms to achieve this. We believe that there will be many opportunities over the coming years in which we can improve the situation for our wildlife; it just requires political will to put them into practice.
The Amphibians and Reptiles of Scotland By Dr Pete Minting GCN Detectives Project Officer The Amphibians and Reptiles of Scotland book, coauthored by myself (Great Crested Newt Detectives Project Officer) and Chris McInerny of Glasgow University, is now available as a free pdf from the Glasgow Natural History Society website. This book was completed during ARC's Scottish Project from 2013 2016, with the help of several generous sponsors and guest authors. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this project. The book contains many photos and maps, so you will need a good internet connection to download the free pdf version (135MB). If you would like to register your interest in a printed copy, please email me on: email@example.com
Introducing New Staff We have had a busy second half of the year here, with 9 new staff joining the ARC team! Dr Angie Julian joined us in September as a parttime Communications Manager. Angie (currently also part-time Coordinator for Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK - ARG UK) will work with our Friendship & E-Communications Officer, Kim Boughey, to improve and expand the friendship scheme and to help propel ARC into the public consciousness. Another new face in the ARC Boscombe office is Atul Srivastava, who has become ARC’s Fundraiser, working to increase funds coming into the charity, which is vital in the continuation of ARC’s work. Katharine Green also joined the team as our new Administration Assistant, working with the administration and finance team to help ARC staff with admin support until the end of the year. After Christmas, Kat will change roles and become Data Officer. Five new field staff have also joined our team, with Dorset Seasonal Field Officers, Sam Manning, Stuart Handyside and Will Emmett-Mair, and Weald Seasonal Field Officers, Marcus Militello and Ralph Connolly. They will be assisting our Dorset and Weald Field Officers with conservation management work on our nature reserves throughout, Dorset, Surrey and Hampshire over the winter months.
Arne Loth - ARC’s new Database & G.I.S Officer Having just completed an MSc in Biodiversity Conservation at Bournemouth University, the offer to join ARC’s head office as the new Database & GIS Officer couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only does it mean that I get to stay by the seaside, but I will also have the opportunity to put everything I’ve learned over the past two years into real conservation practice straight away, a luxury not always afforded to recent graduates. GIS has been a key part of my studies and, particularly, my dissertation, where I used spatial analyses to answer the question of whether rewilding might be an appropriate conservation strategy for Dorset. I have learned that, while GIS is definitely not for the faint of heart, the meticulous nature of the work and the final visual output make it a highly satisfying and rewarding experience, and I am excited to delve deeper into this world as part of my new job.
My passion for wildlife can be traced back to walking the woodlands of my native Germany as well as southern Sweden, where I spent the majority of my holidays growing up. Initially, my main fascination was with mammals, an interest that ultimately led me to places like South Africa, where I was involved in cheetah conservation, and Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, where I helped monitor killer whales. Having joined ARC, I am now excited to expand my knowledge to the herpetological part of the animal kingdom. Already, I have learned much about the UK’s reptilian and amphibian fauna and some of the cutting-edge science that can be used to predict their distribution and, thus, conserve them for future generations. I cannot wait to get involved in these efforts, and to explore the southern English countryside with a newly trained eye for its herp diversity!
State of Nature Report By Jim Foster - Conservation Director Over the last 50 years, 56% of British native species have declined, while 15% are at risk of disappearing from our shores altogether, according to a ground-breaking report released in September. The second State of Nature report, compiled by a range of partners including Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, makes for sober reading but shows there are ways we can help. The report indicates more clearly than ever before that nature is in serious decline across the UK and that time is running out if the UK is to meet its global commitments to conserve nature. However, with the right leadership and specific action, there is still hope that we can pass on a healthier natural world to the next generation. How we protect and manage our land is key to reversing nature’s decline, and the decisions by the UK Government and devolved administrations arising from the recent EU Referendum result will be critical if we are to succeed in protecting and restoring nature. Our current understanding of the state of nature is due to the remarkable efforts of thousands of citizen scientists and researchers across the UK. There are still gaps in our knowledge that Sand lizard © Chris Dresh (ARC) need to be filled but that should not stop us from taking action now to conserve nature. ARC has worked alongside hundreds of volunteers to produce the evidence about the status of our native amphibians and reptiles that fed into the State of Nature report. Whilst the broad results are negative, along with other wildlife organisations we believe that we can still make a difference. You can also make a big difference by helping us – by volunteering on our reserves, monitoring species or managing your own garden or allotment for wildlife. If you Smooth snake © Chris Dresh (ARC) would like to help then just get in touch with us, or have a look at our website.
Hop off the Press!
And it’s not all bad news. ARC has already helped some of our rarest reptiles and amphibians to recover by taking significant practical steps forward with their conservation. In recent years we have reintroduced sand lizards, smooth snakes, natterjack toads and pool frogs back into their former range, to make up for the massive losses that these iconic Natterjack toad © Chris Dresh (ARC) species suffered over the last century. Our work with partners and volunteers has also bolstered declining populations in many parts of the UK. And, our publications, projects and training courses have helped land managers and volunteers right across Britain to make a real difference. To read the full State of Nature report, please see: www.rspb.org.uk/son Pool frog © Jim Foster (ARC)
Amphibians Let’s talk about Newts - Great Crested Newt Stakeholder Meetings By Dorothy Driver - GCN Conservation Officer/ Species Coordinator It was the season for great crested newt meetings this spring; the first examining issues that are important to solve to help conserve the newt across the UK, and the second exploring the development of a county-level project, aimed at producing a conservation plan for the species. ARC organised a two-day conference “Progressing Great Crested Newt Conservation Status Assessment and Conservation: Developments since Chester 2013”, held at Chester Zoo on 12th-13th April 2016. The overall aim was to make things better for newts- everywhere! This was the third in a series of partnership meetings arranged by ARC to discuss issues affecting the Great crested newt species, and provide an opportunity to share © Neal Armour-Chelu activities being undertaken to address specific concerns, as well as looking to the future. The first of these meetings was held in Shrewsbury in 2012, with the second following in February 2013.
The first day looked at predictive modelling and development issues, due to the advancement of modelling and its application over the last few years. Other presentations included; PondNet (a national citizen science based monitoring programme), a talk looking at concerns from a local planning authority’s perspective, an examination of newt matters from the consultancy side, and a presentation investigating how to secure long-term security and management for newt populations subject to mitigation.
Newt pond © Ben Driver The second day focused on Favourable Conservation Status (FCS), surveillance and establishing the important issues to concentrate on in the years ahead. This included talks on conservation status– assessing when it is favourable, integrated monitoring in Wales, on-line recording as well as challenges and opportunities for great crested newts in the wider countryside. We also had four workshop sessions looking at key areas; resolving conservation and regulation issues, looking at achieving positive outcomes from planning decisions and achieving more positive habitat management in the countryside, FCS and target setting, integrated monitoring, and “Where next? What are the priorities for great crested newt conservation for the next 2 years?”
A range of key stakeholders attended this meeting with staff from conservation NGOs, local planning authorities, the local environmental record centre, environmental consultants, statutory authorities and academia, bringing varied experience from across the environmental sector to the discussion. We are extremely grateful for everyone’s willingness to give their time and their enthusiasm for the subject matter. We would like to say a big thank you to our sponsors; the Welsh Government and The Environment Partnership. Our thanks also to speakers, workshop leaders and Chester Zoo for hosting and helping us organise the meeting. ARC has also been working on a collaborative agreement with Natural England (NE), looking at the first phase of a Great Crested Newt County Pilot (Kent). We worked on this project with DICE (University of Kent) who undertook the production of the GIS layers, which we analysed, looking at the newt distribution in Kent relative to the different land-use classifications. A project brief for phase 2 was also prepared, to help NE develop a funding proposal to produce a conservation plan for great crested newts in Kent. A stakeholder meeting was held on 12th May, at the NE Office, to discuss the project looking at the GIS analyses and the project brief.
Protected Landscape PPT slide © Jim Foster
Many key stakeholders including Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group, DICE, conservation NGOs, Kent County Council, the local environmental record centre, local authorities and statutory authorities attended. We wish to thank the meeting attendees for their time and valuable feedback. The project proposal is currently with NE to investigate taking this project forward.
Second Norfolk Pool Frog Release By Yvette Martin - Amphibian Conservation Officer The 2016 pool frog reintroductions, which are part of the Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership Scheme for the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and a wide range of partners, completed a second successful year! ARC are very happy to welcome back a few more pool frogs to Thompson Common, Norfolk which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Hopefully, in a few years, the frogs will spread naturally to public areas of the site and you’ll be able to listen out for the distinctive call of the pool frog! Many thanks to our partners; Norfolk Wildlife Trust and The Institute of Zoology (IoZ). All photos © Yvette Martin (ARC)
In the field - Dorset Dorset Volunteer News By Richard Sharp - Dorset Field Officer/Health & Safety Officer ARC’s Dorset Volunteers have had a cracking season so far. We have had great success joining forces with volunteers from The Great Heath project, allowing us to not only accomplish greater habitat work than usual, but, also educate a far larger audience to the minutiae of herpetological conservation. This season we are expanding this partnership approach to Christchurch and East Dorset council, the first task of which doubled our numbers and the area of birch we could clear on our Ramsdown site! Probably the highlight of the year so far, apart from all the sand we managed to dig, was our trip out to Vitower. This site is a little gem of heathland on the Purbeck side Clearing the ponds at of Poole Harbour, home to a translocated population of Vitower © Yvette natterjack toads. Toads were translocated here in the Martin early 1990’s by ARC, known then as the Herpetological Conservation Trust, when four artificial ponds were constructed on the site, three of which have been a great success ever since, with toads breeding on a regular basis. This year though, they were in some need of attention, so the volunteers went in, cleared scrub, scraped soil and generally gave them a good clear out! The predator load has been seriously reduced by our work and hopefully the ponds can now be repaired. Clearing the rank vegetation from around the ponds has increased burrowing potential, as well as helping metamorphs to shelter after emerging from the pond.
Natterjack toad © Eva Ford
You really can’t complain about this site, right out in the middle of Rempstone Forest with beautiful quiet views down over saltmarsh to an inlet of Poole Harbour, though I will have to say that it was a tad too hot! I must thank everybody who turned up as it was a sterling effort, especially getting caught in the summer traffic on the way back!
In the field
Winter programme tasks run every Wednesday 10am - 3pm until the end of March 2017. If you are interested in taking part please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Vitower work party © Eva Ford
In the field - North Wales Community Pond Digging By Mandy Cartwright - North Wales Officer
Utilising the spoil to form a wildlife bund
Recently two local volunteers got in touch and asked for assistance with a pond design and dig, for Janet, who had recently lost her husband Steven. I was over the moon to be involved with the project and even more enthused when I found out on my initial visit that Janet and Steven taught me maths and geography at high school! The tools used were kindly loaned to us by North Wales Wildlife Trust.
Removing the turves
Creating gentle sloping edges
Taking a break and admiring our handiwork
Everyone helping to lay the liner
Using some of the turves to secure the liner edges
The deeper section will ensure the pond won't completely freeze.
All photos ÂŠ Mandy Cartwright (ARC)
Iâ€™ve been busy working on a community pond dig, as part of project funded via the players of the Peoples Postcode Lottery. The project combines community engagement, training and wildlife gardening, with amphibian and reptile data collection within North East Wales.
Friends’ Have Fun in the Forest ARC Friends’ Day 2016 By Kim Boughey - Friendship & E-Communications Officer
On Saturday 24th September a group of our most enthusiastic supporters were treated to a day out at the New Forest Reptile Centre for the ARC Friends’ Day 2016. These annual events are our way of saying a big thank you to our wonderful ARC Friends for their invaluable ongoing support. During the morning Gary Powell, ARC’s Senior Reserve Manager, gave a guided tour of the specially built enclosures and introduced us to some of our fabulous native amphibians and reptiles, including: adders, slow-worms, common lizards, common frogs and a shy natterjack toad. We then settled down for a fascinating talk from Ben Limburn, ARC’s New Forest Smooth Snake Project Officer. Ben gave us an overview of his exciting project and a privileged insight into the secret world of the smooth snake, one of our rarest reptiles. After a comedic interruption by a group of pigs who wanted in on the action, the group was given a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with a beautiful female smooth snake (named on the day as Gertrude!)
Once everyone had enjoyed a picnic lunch in the sunshine (with only minor pig invasions), Gary and Ben led us to a nearby heath for a guided walk and a mini reptile survey. Gary told us about the ecology of the heathland and how the land is managed to help wildlife of all kinds. Ben then explained how the refugia (sheets put down to encourage reptiles to bask) had been placed on site as part of his project and how the data collected would be used to inform future habitat management in the Forest. During the survey we recorded several species and got to meet a sweet little slow-worm.
Friends Have Fun in the Forest
Many thanks to Gary, Ben and the rest of the ARC team and of course a huge thank you to all of the lovely ARC Friends who were able to join us for this fun day out in the sun. We hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did and we look forward to seeing you again next year!
Assortment of photos from Friends Day 2016 ÂŠ Angela Reynolds (ARC)
The Vanishing Viper Priorities for Adder Conservation, 8th - 9th October 2016, Somerset By Dr Angie Julian - Communications & Outreach Manager Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, together with our partner organisation, Amphibian and Reptile Groups of UK (ARG UK) co-hosted a very special meeting in Somerset in October, to discuss how best to conserve the adder, arguably the most vulnerable of our native reptiles.
Adder © Paul Hudson
This unique forum gathered together over 140 adder practitioners from the NGO sector, statutory bodies, land managers, ecological consultants, academic institutions, and enthusiastic volunteers; to network and debate adder conservation through a series of presentations, discussions, workshops and interactive sessions. Introduced by Tony Gent, the conference started with a summary of the strategic challenges facing adder conservation delivered by our Conservation Director, Jim Foster. This was followed by an overview of the national status of adders, based on a research questionnaire conducted jointly by ARC and ARG UK and presented by John Baker of ARG UK. This highlighted a worrying decline in adder numbers since the 1980s and 90s, which was mainly attributed to disturbance and unsympathetic habitat management, and was reinforced by a subsequent presentation from one of our Trustees, Jan Clemons who charted the extinction of the adder in Warwickshire.
The Vanishing Viper
The conference was divided into five sessions, each covering a different aspect of adder conservation. The first session discussed the insights gained from survey and research. We also heard about some novel techniques, with Nigel Hand of Herefordshire ARG explaining how it is possible to use radio-telemetry to track adder movements. The use of this technology was later expanded by Darryn Nash from University of Kent, who demonstrated its use to monitor the success of a development translocation.
Moving on, we heard about the challenges associated with managing landscapes sympathetically for adders, from a range of land managers and volunteers. The headline messages were that whilst many land managers are well disposed towards reptiles generally, and specifically adders, they find it difficult to balance the conflicting requirements of managing sites for multiple species as well as human activities with reptile conservation. There are additional challenges posed by land ownership, commoners’ grazing rights, funding and resources, and the continuation of long held ‘traditional’ practices. However, on a positive note a number of the land managers have come up with some ingenious solutions, including ‘dirty swaling’; using volunteer survey data to target specific areas for adder conservation; promoting less invasive scrub clearing techniques; changing grazing practices to lower their impact and lighting fires more thoughtfully. An interesting idea from Hounslow Heath was of encouraging the local community to feel pride in their local adders. Later in the afternoon, Mark Barber and Pete Hill from ARC ran a workshop which sought to find out more about the issues surrounding public interactions with adders. Many ideas and suggestions were raised which will form the basis of a review of how we frame our messaging concerning adders in the future, and how we can encourage the wider public to interact with them in a less conflicted way. During Sunday we heard more about policy issues opening with a presentation by Tony Gent on the national legal framework, and a more detailed discussion of site protection, regulation and policy issues in Wales and England from Liz Howe of Natural Resources Wales and Paul Edgar representing Natural England. ARC Trustee, Professor Richard Griffiths (University of Kent) then introduced the next section which focussed on mitigating development impacts, with an overview of the IUCN guidelines as they apply to adders. We heard more about the process of translocation and mitigation from specialist ecological consultants, and finally a good news story demonstrating the success of the adder translocation to Hounslow Heath in Greater London which was undertaken in 2000. In the final session, Steve Langham and Richard Griffiths gathered feedback from the floor to create a ‘mind map’ of all the factors that were felt to be important for adder conservation. These will be iterated by an expert panel using the Delphi process, and Richard will present the results at the next Herpetofauna Workers Meeting, which will be held in February 2017 in Nottingham.
Scotland Great Crested Newt Detectives - Update By Kim Boughey - Friendship & E-Communications Officer
Photos - ÂŠ Dr Pete Minting As part of our Great Crested Newt Detectives project, three new great crested ponds have been detected in southern Scotland by environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling in 2016. Positive eDNA results were recorded from ponds where great crested newts had not previously been recorded at Cummertrees in Dumfriesshire, Coldingham in the Borders and Culzean Country Park in Ayrshire. According to ARC's Great Crested Newt Detectives Project Officer, Dr Pete Minting: "The result from near Coldingham is interesting because it suggests that great crested newt populations in the Central Belt of Scotland may be linked to those in north-east England. Until now, there appeared to be a gap in their distribution between Dunbar and Berwick-uponTweed.".
At Cummertrees in Dumfriesshire, great crested newts were detected in a farm pond two kilometres west of their nearest known site. Volunteer Sara Pintado said: "We couldn't really see into the pond, as the cattle in the field had made it a bit muddy, so it is good that we were able to get a result with the DNA test." Great crested newts were previously known from Culzean in Ayrshire but DNA testing has detected them in a new 1km grid square. The great crested newt and its habitat is protected by law and a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is usually needed when surveying for this species. However, a licence is not needed when collecting water samples for environmental DNA (eDNA) tests, so participation in the Great Crested Newt Detectives project is more straightforward for volunteers. In 2017, ARC will be focusing on sites further north, so if you are interested in volunteering, please contact email@example.com, Free training events (where sampling kits will be provided) will be held near Glasgow, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness, Fort William, Oban and Campbeltown.
Great crested newts were first found trapped in a manhole near Coldingham in June, by engineers working on broadband cables. After the newts had been rescued (under licence, by consultant Peter Leach and Borders Council ecologist Andy Tharme) ARC asked volunteers to look for likely breeding ponds and collect water samples. A nearby pond gave a positive DNA result and later, great crested newt larvae were found in the same pond.
Overseas Dutch Delights By Robin Bassett - Wealden Field Officer As a frequent traveller to the Netherlands I have long wanted to get the best out of the country in terms of its amphibian and reptile populations. With a bit of help from ARC’s C.E.O Tony, who made the necessary introductions for me, my most recent visit benefitted from a little local knowledge from the good folk at ARC’s equivalent organisation in the Netherlands, Reptielen Amphibien en Vissen (RAVON). The dunes in south Holland are fantastic for sand lizards and, for someone who spends most of his time observing heathland sand lizards in Surrey, this was a real treat. My guide in dune watching, Conn Barrett, is a volunteer for RAVON, who has spent many years observing these gorgeous creatures and on an August morning that had cleared and warmed up after a little rain we managed to find twenty animals of all shapes and sizes. A few days later, up in the north of the country, in the province of Drenthe, I met up with RAVON staff member, Ingo Janssen, for a foray onto a rarely surveyed piece of remnant heathland. Over the past century the Netherlands has suffered the kind of catastrophic loss of heathland that we are all too A stunning example of a sand lizard from the familiar with in the UK and a number of the Netherlands - © Robin Bassett (ARC) remaining fragments are isolated purple jewels in a sea of farmland. It was to one of these sites that Ingo and I ventured in the hope of finding smooth snakes, that had not been recorded there for five years. Slow worm and adder were both found before Ingo found his prize, a beautiful sub -adult female and that made it all worthwhile! Huge thanks to Tony for pointing me in the right direction and to Conn and Ingo for giving up their time to show me their wonderful sites and to share their detailed knowledge. I shall return…
The 8th World Congress of Herpetology By Jim Foster - Conservation Director
Every four years or so there is a global gathering for people studying amphibians and reptiles: the World Congress of Herpetology. The first such meeting was held in Canterbury in 1989, and this August saw China hosting the eighth. I was delighted to be there representing ARC, along with our Trustee, Professor Richard Griffiths.
The meeting got off to a rather bewildering start when, with just under two days to go, the Chinese government instructed the organisers to find a new venue. The grand city of Hangzhou, near Shanghai in eastern China, had been due to host the conference, yet it was also the venue for the G20 Summit shortly afterwards. The government apparently decided that 800 herpetologists posed some sort Frogs feature on this 5th century cast iron drum in of risk to the smooth-running of the Shanghai Museum. elite politicians’ shindig. Amazingly,
the organisers managed to translocate everyone - and the whole conference programme - to a new venue in Tonglu, some 100km away. The meeting lasted for a week and comprised a range of themed symposia, open sessions, discussion sessions, plenaries and posters. Herpetologists from all over the world were there, with I’d guess around a fifth being from China. Being primarily a scientific conference, not all the content was focused on conservation, yet there was plenty of relevance for those interested in the conservation perspective. The first plenary lecture was a fascinating if sobering exploration of climate change, suggesting that the tropics are likely to be an “extinction hell hole” for lizards. Briefly, this is because forest-dwelling tropical lizards are poorly adapted to the relatively rapid changes we’re seeing in weather patterns. The only comfort here was that temperate lizards might fare better (or should that be less worse?) than their equatorial cousins under a warmer climate. Other lectures of note included an exploration of ethnoherpetology (people’s relations with herps); efforts to safeguard the embattled Chinese giant salamander; how to rescue a critically endangered frog from a volcanic eruption; whether the 4,000 commercial snake farms in Asia are a good thing for conservation (clue: probably not); and how releasing baby cane toads can “ecologically immunise” goannas at risk from adult cane toads in Australia. And plenty more I don’t have space to mention here.
I gave two talks on ARC’s work, one assessing the success of our pool frog reintroduction after ten years, and another on the value of Species Action Plans. It was a great opportunity to swap experiences with other people working on amphibian and reptile conservation. Reintroductions are often touted as a key conservation tool for amphibians, yet the figures reveal fewer new projects globally – possibly because we haven’t yet worked out how to counter the threats of disease and climate change. In the UK many tangible threats are inherently reversible and so we’ve made good progress with reintroductions. As always I returned home full of inspiration, and already looking forward to the next conference in New Zealand in 2020. Natterjack toads and smooth snakes rarely get a mention at these meetings, but studies and conservation projects on similar species and issues can help with projects back in the UK. All photos - © Jim Foster
The conference ended with a huge banquet.
Cumbria Natterjacks at North Walney: A change of fortune! By Ruth Popely - Cumbria Natterjack Officer
Natterjacks have been losing ground on North Walney for many years. The spread of the common toad with habitat changes resulted in dwindling breeding attempts (which repeatedly were unsuccessful.) Clearly a plan was needed to initiate recovery. So in 2013 I met with Brian Fenwick, (pictured above right) the long-standing site monitor, and Steve Benn, Natural England’s reserve manager, to develop one. More pools for natterjacks were our key objective so with Brian’s superb site knowledge, we homed in on two low-lying, likely areas in the north. The terrestrial habitat was ideal, but access for a digger would be difficult. By 2015 Natural England was a partner in the Dunes of Barrow Project, and ARC had received a generous bequest from Dr Gomez’s estate with her expressed wishes to help natterjack toads. So ARC and the Dunes of Barrow Project joined forces to create the much needed pools at North Walney. The project also funded crucial scrub management elsewhere on site which will prove beneficial to the natterjacks here too.
Barry, working for the Neil Martin Group, created 13 new pools and restored 2 existing ones in February 2016. To everyone’s delight, Brian recorded 7 spawn strings this year. In honour of ARC’s benefactor, this area is now referred to as Gomez Valley.
On a visit in June with Brian, we recorded 2 newly-laid spawn strings and thousands of four-legged natterjack tadpoles in one of these new pools, and 100s of developing tadpoles in another. Steve later reported natterjack tadpoles in yet another new pool, where due to the very dark colour of the water, the spawn had been missed. A fine example of partnership working and it would appear the North Walney natterjacks are embracing their change of fortune!
All photos - © Ruth Popely
Species Champions MP Species Champions project By Dr Tony Gent - CEO March 2016 saw the launch of the Species Champions project at Portcullis House in Westminster. This project is run by a partnership of seven species focused conservation organisations - RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Buglife, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Plantlife and Bat Conservation Trust. The project involves Members of Parliament adopting some of England’s iconic and threatened species and acting as Champions to help improve the species future. Currently 31 MPs have adopted species, as diverse as shrill carder bees, eels, nightingales and the snake’s-head fritillary. The support that the MPs can lend includes: raising awareness of the species and threats to it, relating this to the development of public policy and legislation, taking opportunities to highlight ‘their’ species during Parliamentary business and working collaboratively with the partner John Pugh, MP for Southport, natterjack toad Species Champion (pictured with ARC's Rosemary Sigger & Jim Foster) organisation to support them in their work.
Sir Desmond said “I’m delighted to be working with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to champion the rare smooth snake. Our native wildlife is at threat and I’m keen to do my bit to promote efforts to protect these precious species. It’s fantastic that so many other MPs have come on board to be part of the Sir Desmond Swayne, MP for New Forest West, Smooth Snake Species Champion (pictured with (from left to right), Simon Holloway (Forestry scheme.” ARC met up Commission), Ben Limburn (ARC), Ian Barker (New Forest National Park with Sir Desmond at the Authority), Paul Edgar (Natural England), Tony Gent (ARC) & Richard New Forest Reptile Daponte (New Forest Ranger) Centre in Lyndhurst in July to introduce him to some of the professional staff and volunteers involved with the New Forest Smooth Snake Survey and to talk about our plans for a national survey for the species, involving field survey and the use of new analytical techniques, that will help us assess habitat condition and predict the distribution of the species. The Species Champions project in England follows on from a similar successful project in Scotland, launched in 2013 by the Scottish Environment Link partnership, of which ARC is a member. The project involves 50 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), with three of these championing species of amphibian and reptile (smooth newt, natterjack toad and slow-worm). A new initiative has also recently been launched in Wales, by Wales Environment Link, to engage Welsh Assembly Members in a similar way. More information can be found on the following websites for the different projects: England: https://www.buglife.org.uk/specieschampions, Scotland: www.scotlink.org/workareas/species-champions/ and Wales: www.waleslink.org/
ARC is pleased to be working with two MPs, who have accepted the invitation to support some of our rare reptile and amphibian species. Rt. Hon Sir Desmond Swayne, MP for New Forest West is Championing the smooth snake and John Pugh, MP for Southport, is lending his support to the natterjack toad. Both MPs have major populations of ‘their’ species in their constituencies.
Species Profile Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
Habitat Commonly found in gardens and residential areas. Populations in the wider countryside appear to be in decline. Toads enjoy cool, dark spots to rest Other habitats include open woodland, hedgerows and grasslands. More tolerant of dry conditions than frogs. Can be found far from water outside of breeding season especially on heathland, moors and cliffs.
Appearance/colour Robust brown/grey with warty skin. Broad, rounded snout. Copper coloured eyes. Large paratoid gland located behind each eye. Skin appears dry on land. Whitish underside with dark irregular blotches. Males develop nuptial pads on their thumbs during breeding season. Immature toads may be brick-red, as are some adult females. Albinos have been recorded . Tadpoles are jet black with a rounded tip to the tail.
Behaviour Hibernate on land, often in old rodent burrows a considerable distance from water. Outside of the breeding season, toads are mainly nocturnal, sheltering during the day. Males call by day and night with a faint squeaky croak. Toads tend to congregate in larger ponds during mating season. ‘Walk’ across land rather than hop like frogs.
Breeding Migration to ponds occurs in early spring, often the ponds in which they were born. Many are sadly killed on roads during migration periods. Males often form ‘mating balls’ as they scramble to compete for females in the water. This can sometimes result in suffocation. Spawning takes place at night and is laid in strings. Tadpoles emerge from the eggs within 2 to 3 weeks. Metamorphosed toadlets leave the ponds in large numbers in June or July. Photos: Top left - Male Common toad © Howard Inns. Middle right - Male and female in amplexus (mating) © Neal Armour-Chelu, Middle left - Juvenile © Neal Armour-Chelu, Bottom right - A string of toad spawn and a common toad tadpole © Howard Inns.
Can you identify the snake? Match the photo to the snake
How many grass snakes can you see?
Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is a national wildlife charity striving for a world where amphibians and reptiles are safeguarded for future generations. With over 25 years experience in the wildlife sector we are committed to the conservation of frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards and the habitats on which they depend.
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