HopGossip! Autumn/Winter 2018 In this issueâ€Ś New Patron Ferndown in flames Stephen Green - Running for ARC & Sand lizards in the spotlight!
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
Get in touch… Bournemouth - Head Office 655a Christchurch Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth, Dorset BH1 4AP
Hop off the Press ARC News.
In the Field Partnership Working.
In the Field Shedding light on torches - the results!
Partnerships ARC works with the Ministry of Justice.
10 Feature Ferndown in Flames.
12 Policy Making a difference through policy.
13 How can I support ARC? Stephen Green - Running for ARC. Gift ideas.
Telephone 01202 391319 Email email@example.com
14 Gems in the Dunes
15 North Wales
Coasting ahead. Mandy goes back to School!
Patrons: Earl of Malmesbury Chris Packham Iolo Williams Lucy Cooke
Chair of Trustees: Jonathan Webster Chief Executive Officer: Dr Tony Gent Conservation Director: Jim Foster
18 Species Profile
17 Media Sand lizards in the spotlight. Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris).
19 Tail Enders
Administration & Finance Manager: Helen Wraight Herp Word Puzzle Grid. Administration & Finance Officer (pt time): Martine Watkins . Administrative Support Officer: Angela Reynolds Amphibian Conservation Officer: Yvette Martin Communications & Outreach Manager: Martin O’Neill Connecting Dragons Project Development Officer: Peter Hill If you would like to contribute to the Connecting Dragons Project Development Officer: Mark Barber next edition please contact Angela Cumbria Natterjack Officer (pt time): Ruth Popely Reynolds at Database & GIS Officer: Ben Limburn firstname.lastname@example.org. Data Protection Officer: Johnny Novy Dorset Field Officer: Richie Johnson Dorset Field Officer: James Anderson-Barr Cover photo: Slow-worm © Dorset Field Officer/Health & Safety Officer: Richard Sharp Laura Cowley (Dorset Amphibian Dorset Seasonal Field Officers: Christine Blackburn, William Emmett-Mair & Reptile Network). & Stuart Handyside Friendship & E-Communications Officer (pt time): Kim Boughey Hop Gossip is edited and Fundraiser (part time consultant): Atul Srivastava designed by Angela Reynolds. GCN Conservation Officer/Species Coordinator: Dorothy Driver Gems in the Dunes Project Manager: Fiona Sunners Please note: the views Gems in the Dunes Project Officer: Andrew Hampson expressed in this newsletter are Jersey Project Officer: Rob Ward not necessarily the views of North Wales Officer: Mandy Cartwright Amphibian & Reptile Reptile Conservation Officer: Nick Moulton Conservation but those of the Regional, Training & Science Programmes Manager: Dr John Wilkinson authors. Senior Dorset Field Officer: Chris Dresh Senior Reserves Manager: Gary Powell Amphibian and Reptile S. Midlands Newt Conservation Partnership Project Officer: Andrew Buxton Conservation is a Registered Species Programme Manager: Dr Karen Haysom Charity. Wealden Field Officer (pt time): John Gaughan England & Wales Charity Wealden Field Officer: Ralph Connolly number. 1130188. Wealden Field Officer: Bryony Davison Wealden Reserves Manager: Rob Free Scotland Charity number. Wealden Seasonal Field Officers: Calum Bunce & Eloise Stradling SC044097. 2
From the Editor’s desk Welcome to the latest edition of Hop Gossip! Thank you for being a Friend! Friends are tremendously important to ARC as a charity. We are keen to increase our family of Friends and it would help us enormously if you could spend just a couple of minutes completing the enclosed short survey. The results will be used to shape our future campaigns. It seems like a lifetime ago since the long hot dry summer. In the ten years I have worked here, it has certainly been the quietest year for general enquiries and reported sightings of our native herpetofauna. What a tough year they must have had, weathering the icy cold winter and the very dry, relentless baking hot summer. As we approach the New Year and colder temperatures, it is possible that the pond in your garden may freeze over. You can find some information about managing your pond in freezing spells on our website www.arctrust.org/news/winter-worries I would like to welcome our newest Corporate supporters, Quadrant2Design who have provided us with a new set of banners (proudly displayed by Martin with Quadrant2Designs Hannah Nguyen below). The banners will be used for a variety of purposes such as conferences, meetings, talks, shows and other events. They will be a big help to our teams in standing out, getting across the message about the importance of amphibians and reptiles, attracting new ‘Friends’ and raising funds. More high-visibility to follow next time!
Until the next time, Have a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year!
C.E.O.’s Corner Dr Tony Gent Our wildlife is in a bad state. That is the key conclusion of the Living Planet Report 2018. Based on research from the World Wide Fund for Nature and others monitoring thousands of species, it concluded that wildlife decreased by 60% between 1970 and 2014. The variety of life on Earth is disappearing fast. Sadly this message isn’t new. We have made progress on some problems - for example acid rain but other threats such as wildlife trade and poaching continue while new research highlights climate change, plastics and loss of habitats. Public enthusiasm for nature conservation goes in and out of fashion. The sheer scale of this can be daunting. At ARC, we know that we cannot achieve everything alone. We work alongside other organisations, through coalitions of non-government bodies and with governmental agencies, to promote big ideas such as ‘natural capital’. We add our voice to help keep the environment on the political agenda. ARC’s primary focus is reptiles and amphibians making sure we provide a voice for these often forgotten animals. We do this through managing habitats, reintroducing populations to restore their range, giving advice to land-owners, raising awareness at events, trying to protect threatened sites and through survey and monitoring. We make a difference on the ground and provide some of the best ways for people to engage with conservation. We make sure that our reptiles and amphibians are not overlooked. We are exploring new ways to consider species on a larger scale, using tools such as computer modelling of population distributions and remote-sensing through satellites and drones. We are engaging in new ways of solving conservation problems such as strategic approaches to planning and licensing. We need to keep working at all these different levels. Together we can, and will, make a difference.
With best wishes,
Angela Reynolds Hop Gossip Editor email@example.com
North Wales natterjacks win green award! By Martin O’Neill - Communications & Outreach Manager ARC’s work to reintroduce natterjack toads in Flintshire has won a prestigious green award. North Wales Officer Mandy Cartwright joined partners from Flintshire County Council, Network Rail and Siemens to receive a trophy and certificate from MP Liz Kendall at the Houses of Parliament in November. The project to create habitat for natterjack toads as part of the North Wales Railway upgrade took silver against more than 800 other nominations in the Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice run by independent environment group, the Green Organisation. Judges commented: “This multi-organisation initiative to reintroduce natterjack toads has been a complete triumph. Groundworks were initiated to provide the perfect habitat and then thousands of tadpoles were introduced into their new home.” And now others around the world may learn from the North Wales example – the team has been invited to publish its winning submission in The Green Book, the leading international reference work on environmental best-practice. Photo right: Mandy (third from left) with partners from Flintshire County Council, Network Rail and Siemens.
Thank you from SitH! By Ben Limburn - Snakes in the Heather Development Officer I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in our national ‘Snakes in the Heather’ Community Survey! More than 500 of you helped us to better understand public interest and perception of our lowland heathland wildlife and conservation activities. The results have been essential in helping us to apply for funding to support our projects and other conservation work. Congratulations to the survey prize draw winners - Hayley from Manchester, Jack from Kent, Josh from Gloucestershire, Nick from Hampshire, Phil and Sophie from Dorset, and Veronica from Hampshire.
Wildlife Assessment Check launched! Householders and small developers may be unaware that it is a statutory requirement to consider the ecological impact of land use changes from urban developments, and promote a positive contribution to biodiversity. The Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning is a partnership of 18 organisations, including ARC, representing the conservation, planning and development sectors. Together we have launched the Wildlife Assessment Check www.biodiversityinplanning.org/wildlifeassessment-check It is a free online tool, designed to help developers check whether their proposed site and works are likely to require expert ecological advice before making a planning application. It aims to smooth out the planning application process for applicants by encouraging them to address potential ecological impacts early on, reducing unnecessary delays and costs. There will be more on this in the next issue of Hop Gossip!
What’s new with the ARC crew? By Angela Reynolds - Editor I’m delighted to say that our Data Protection Officer Johnny Novy has an extension to his contract. Johnny has brought so much knowledge to the Trust about GDPR and IT I don’t know how we managed without him! This year our Seasonal Field Officers consist of Calum Bunce and Eloise Stradling in the Weald and in Dorset, we see the return of Christine Blackburn, Will Emmett-Mair and Stuart Handyside. Welcome to Martin O’Neill (pictured right), our new Communications and Outreach Manager who began his ARC journey in October.
“I am looking forward to helping ARC be the voice for Britain’s amphibians and reptiles. As the first Head of Communications for the New Forest National Park I was, in effect, PR agent for the New Forest pony for five years so I have some form in promoting nature conservation. I have been lucky enough in my communications posts at the National Park, in two southern regions of the National Trust and for local authorities in Hampshire and West Sussex to be responsible for helping to safeguard landscapes and their wildlife in areas such as the New Forest, the South Downs, the White Cliffs of Dover and the heathlands of Surrey. Over the years I have learned that ‘content is king’ for compelling communications about conservation. Whether the medium is website, social media, the press, film, publications, conferences, on-site or face-to-face stories about wildlife and habitats that catch the imagination are worth their weight in gold. Together we can persuade more people to support our work and ensure that amphibians and reptiles survive and thrive. Nature conservation communications is my natural habitat; I am excited to discover and tell ARC’s unique story,” said Martin. Finally, we were sad to say goodbye to our G.I.S & Data Officer Arne Loth in November as he starts a new career in London at Trees for Cities. We will miss him! Ben Limburn is standing in on a short term contract now that the Snakes in the Heather Project development phase has been completed.
Lucy said: “I love amphibians. I always have. They were the first vertebrates to make the giant leap from water to land and so, to me, they are the original explorers. Despite their inherently vulnerable amphibious nature, amphibians have since managed to colonise every continent (except Antarctica) through some truly ingenious adaptations: from secreting their own sunscreen to making their own anti-freeze. Their extraordinary diversity is a constant source of wonder to me. But as we all know, amphibians globally are under serious threat, with over 40% of all species in danger of extinction. A few years back I spent 6 months travelling around South America investigating the declines and writing a blog as the Amphibian Avenger to try and raise awareness about this under-reported crisis. But conservation starts at home and I am honoured that ARC have asked me to become a patron of their charity. The amphibians I first fell in love with were the ones I discovered as a kid in the ditches of Romney Marsh. ARC are doing an invaluable job making sure they will still be there for generations to come to enjoy. I look forward to working with ARC to campaign and raise awareness about our native reptiles and amphibians, which are such an awe-inspiring part of our UK ecosystems.”
Hop off the Press!
A very warm welcome to our new Patron - Lucy Cooke!
In the Field Partnership Working By Bryony Davison - Weald Field Officer Working together with other like-minded organisations means a whole range of tasks can be undertaken. Using each other’s knowledge and expertise and pooling resources of tools (and volunteers!) can be hugely beneficial. Up in the Weald, ARC has been making new contacts and working on some new sites. We have carried out tasks with Hampshire County Council’s (HCC) Countryside Rangers and teamed up with the Deadwater Valley Trust (DVT) as well. Broxhead Common is a site of two halves. One side is managed by ARC and has a population of sand lizards. The other side of the road is looked after by HCC. It was here that the ARC team and volunteers met with Steve and Sam from HCC Ranger service, plus a few of their own volunteers, and together we walked the site laying out tins for a brand new survey transect. On the ARC side we carried out a sand lizard test burrow survey (10 recorded) to show Steve and his volunteers how to monitor for sand lizards. The afternoon was spent cutting back some path-side gorse to open up access on the Hampshire Council side. We are developing a budding new relationship with the Deadwater Valley Trust also down in Hampshire. ARC staff and the volunteer group joined Community Ranger Mel Cranford (an exARC volunteer herself!) and Steve Langham from Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group to lay a new survey transect on the Hogmoor Enclosure. We rounded off the day by clearing some reeds to open up one of the ponds on the reserve. ARC also took great pleasure in attending an event with DVT to showcase our native reptiles.
Photo top right: Guided walk at Broxhead Common © Mark Davison. Photo left: Looking for test burrows at Broxhead Common © Martin D’Arcy.
In the Field
July was a particular highlight for us all. As part of ‘World Ranger Day,’ Rangers from HCC, DVT and ARC co-led a guided walk spanning across the management areas of all three organisations: the Bordon Enclosure, and both sides of Broxhead Common. It has been a great experience and we all look forward to working alongside each other long into the future.
Shedding light on torches – the results! By John Wilkinson - Regional, Training & Science Programmes Manager As readers may recall from the Spring/Summer edition of Hop Gossip, a generous donation of torches from Cluson has enabled us to trial and compare traditional night-time survey torches (such as the Clulite CB2) with more modern, lighter, Cree LED models. The trial was carried out by ARC staff and training course attendees on three training events run in spring 2018.
Common toad © Chris Dresh
A variety of coloured filters were provided with the torches, enabling the effects of these on the (said to be) harsher light cast by the LED models to be examined. Initial trials showed that blue/green filters were less promising for detecting newts, so the trial concentrated on red/amber filters (already used by some surveyors, plus it simplified the trial!). A total of 26 people provided useful results in the formal trials (i.e. they were able to test and complete a form for several different torch/filter combinations). Of these, nine (37%) had previously conducted night newt surveys. Participants were asked to score each torch/filter combination between 1 and 5 (worst – best) for: Brightness Water penetration Low newt disturbance (i.e. the combination scored best if disturbance was low) Weight Ease of use Overall impression The average score across all categories was also calculated. Survey conditions varied at each of trials, being clear water/rainy on the first, cloudy water/clear sky on the second and clear water/ clear sky on the third. The torches and filters trialled are listed below, with the “winner” in each category highlighted in orange, and the overall winner in green! Results are also split by with/ without filter and type of bulb. Please see for detailed specifications and costs for each torch and individual filters.
BRIGHTNESS CB2 conventional battery CB2 li-ion battery CB2 li-ion battery (+filter) Clu-briter Clu-briter (+filter) PLR-400 Pistol PLR-400 Pistol (+filter)
WATER LOW PEN DISTURB
In the Field
Without filter With red or amber filter
WATER LOW BRIGHTNESS PEN DISTURB WEIGHT EASE OVERALL AVERAGE 4.11 3.92 3.74 3.81 3.90 3.63 3.85 3.31
Discussion The lightweight, lithium-ion battery-powered CB2 torch scored best for water penetration and did very well in all categories, but the surprise overall winner was the Clu-briter (scoring best for overall use and on average). This is a relatively low cost torch, with models starting at around £60+VAT (as compared to the CB2 li-ion’s £180+VAT). Please search on the Cluson website for costs and specifications by model. Trial participants were able to add comments to their forms… they were broadly very pleased with the LED model torches, noting that the “light quality” made it harder to spot newts under some circumstances – especially when directly above. Newts were easier to spot (they said) with an LED torch, when the light beam shone at an angle through the water, and this seemed to hold true whether using a filter or not. Torches without filters were preferred, though they scored only slightly higher than for torches where filters were fitted. There wasn’t much difference in preference for conventional vs. LED bulbs, though the latter scored slightly better on average.
In the field
Great crested newt © Chris Dresh
These results shouldn’t be regarded as conclusive – the trial conditions were not controlled (weather is unpredictable, after all!) but it’s clear that the lighter LED models have some promise! I used a Clu-briter this year for toad patrolling, and can certainly say that its ease of use, adjustability and battery life (as well as faster charging time) are very strong plus-points. If, however, the need to specify that you’ve used a million-
candlepower torch for your newt surveys is a “must”, and you can afford it, the CB-2 li-ion is a very strong contender and will save your back/ shoulders (as compared to the model with a conventional battery; the charge time is faster, too!). I’d also add that, though it scored lower in most categories the PLR-400 is an extremely powerful and light torch for its size, and I’m sure it would do very well in a “general” torch trial. If you have any comments or would like to share experiences of your own, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to take them into account in any future trials!
SPECIAL OFFER! If you order by phone or online, simply quote discount code ARC10 to receive 10% off your order!
Partnerships ARC works with the Ministry of Justice By Dorothy Driver - Species Coordinator Over the last few months ARC has been working with the Ministry of Justice. The first event, was a training course on amphibians and wildlife ponds we ran alongside Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, for the prisoners and staff at HMP Whatton Prison. The training course included presentations on identification, amphibian ecology and managing ponds for wildlife, followed by a short ponddipping session in one of the garden ponds. Kevin Newton, the biodiversity lead at HMP Whatton, has been working hard with the garden team (both staff and offenders) to improve the gardens for wildlife, with advice from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and other local conservation groups, and won the overall HMPPS (Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service) Wildlife Awards 2018. We were invited to celebrate the wildlife successes of HMP Whatton, and other prisons at the HMPPS Awards 2018 ceremony on 19th September. This was a lovely event, recognising the work undertaken within the prison estates to increase the biodiversity in these grounds. Simon King attended and joined the staff and guests for a tour around the gardens. It was while we were standing by one of the ponds that a frog leapt out from beneath a large bush, fairly close to me making it look as though I’d brought it with me, which was quite funny (it wasn’t me guv, honest!). Another pond – and another amphibian, this time a female smooth newt floating at the surface of the water – really stole the show and got the group talking. Weald Field Officer John Gaughan and I also attended the Ministry of Justice’s Biodiversity Day in London, where we had a stall alongside other conservation groups, including Bumble Bee Conservation Trust and Swift Conservation Trust. There was a lot of interest and we were kept busy all day talking to the staff passing through. The Ministry of Justice estate is one of the largest estates in Government, with the landholding including SSSIs, SACs and local wildlife sites. It is therefore important that we work with them to help maintain this resource for the good of herpetofauna - and wildlife in general, as well as engaging with offenders and staff about our species and their ecology.
Photo below: HMP Whatton - Winners of the overall HMPPS Awards 2018 © HMP Whatton. Photo above: Smooth newt © Chris Dresh.
Feature Ferndown in Flames By Gary Powell - Senior Reserves Manager In the early evening of Thursday July 26th, a large heath fire occurred on Ferndown Common in Dorset. The site, owned by the Erica Trust, has been managed by ARC for many years. Thanks to the efforts of the Fire Service, the fire was contained at 13 hectares; devastating for the wildlife in the area but still leaving a portion of the site undamaged and all nearby properties safe. The extremely dry ground and vegetation conditions made the situation very difficult, with numerous re-ignitions throughout the next few days. Strong winds on the Saturday caused further problems and Fire Service crews had to remain on site until Sunday morning. Luckily, heavy rain in the early hours of Sunday morning and throughout the day finally allowed all those concerned to relax. ARC staff were on site throughout the incident and had incredible support from local conservation partners for which we are very grateful. During the event we saw very little sign of any reptiles; the current drought had presumably forced them underground to seek shelter from the extremely hot and dry conditions. All six native species of reptile are known to be present in the affected area and those that survived the heat and smoke of the fire will encounter problems when they do emerge. Although several reptiles have been found dead, two smooth snakes, fifteen common lizards and two palmate newts were rescued in the days immediately after the fire and just a few more in the weeks that followed.
ARC are currently formulating plans to aid the recovery of this burnt area of heath. We will need to take this opportunity to remove dead standing scrub and small trees as well as look at the system of firebreaks that we have in place. These breaks, some of them mown strips and others bulldozed down to bare sand, serve a number of purposes. The mown areas may slow a fire if the ‘fuel load’ either side is kept to a minimum (such as large blocks of gorse or pine scrub) as well as provide ‘fire-defendable lines’ from which the Fire Service can operate. Exposed sandy areas provide habitat for sand lizards and a wide range of
invertebrates as well as being more effective at halting the spread of fire. Inevitably the site looks terrible after an event like this and some of the work required as aftercare may also, initially, look quite severe. We ask that the local residents and site users of Ferndown Common bear with us as we ensure that the site is made more resistant to the negative effects of wildfire in the future. As an addition to this ARC are fully involved with and committed to the new Firewise Communities project. This is a joint effort funded by the Urban Heaths Partnership, of which ARC is a longstanding member, Dorset Police and Dorset Fire and Rescue. The aim is to enlist and encourage communities local to heathland to form their own groups to make their properties more resilient to fire and their collective response to wildfire events more robust. The Firewise Communities Officer will work with these groups to provide information and backup. More details will follow in future editions of Hop Gossip.
Page 10 - Photo top right: Dartford Warblers were known to use the burnt area. Bottom: Fire fighters remained on site for days. This page - Photo top: A devastating view. Middle right: Rescued common lizard. Bottom left: Nightjars are also known to use the area. All photos ÂŠ Chris Dresh & ARC.
Policy Making a difference through policy By Jim Foster - Conservation Director The rules and procedures that govern how conservation works can seem impenetrable, but influencing them is key to seeing a brighter future for reptiles and amphibians, says ARC’s Conservation Director Jim Foster. ARC works in a number of ways to help our embattled reptiles and amphibians. The work we do on the ground –reintroducing sand lizards, say – is perhaps the most tangible route to success. Yet with limited resources we can only make a finite difference by acting directly ourselves, and some decisions affecting herps are out of our hands. How then do we maximise our impact? We approach this through influencing policy and legislation, and advocating how to optimise outcomes for herps. If we have a more favourable set of policies, government and others are more likely to act in a way that will help herps, without ARC or others having to intervene individually on a case-by-case basis. Recently we have engaged in a number of especially important policy areas. Often this involves us responding to government consultations, but where possible we engage directly with the agency staff and civil servants before consultations so that we can feed in suggestions and concerns at an early stage. Recent work includes commenting on proposals for the future of farming, since agriculture has a massive impact on many herp populations. We have suggested changes to land-use planning policy, because new developments have substantial – usually negative – effects and we are keen to see better controls. Natural England sought views on charging for licensing and we’re pleased to see that they agreed with many of our suggestions to prevent this from prejudicing volunteer activity. We’ve produced recommendations for improving how Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are selected and monitored. Whilst policy work may seem dull compared to our other more immediate activity, we think it’s increasingly important. Funding such work is fiendishly difficult, though, so we thank everyone who’s donated or become a Friend as you are helping us to make a difference.
Common frogs © Jim Foster
How can I support ARC? Stephen Green - Running for ARC By Atul Srivastava - Fundraiser ARC has secured an official charity place in the London Marathon 2019. After a competitive application process for this place, we are delighted to announce that Dr Stephen Green will be our official runner at the event on Sunday 28th April 2019. Stephen has been involved in the conservation of amphibians and reptiles for many years. He is based in Cornwall and is a Lecturer in Zoology at Cornwall College, Newquay. His work spans local and global herpetology, being both an active member of the Cornwall Reptile and Amphibian Group (CRAG), and taking groups of students to countries such as Honduras. One of the many benefits of ARC’s work is to improve people’s outdoor experience. Stephen says: “Earlier this year my three-year-old son, Charles, joined us to survey a local site for reptiles. We were lucky enough to find several slow worms, a grass snake and an adder. The value of this experience to his young, developing mind is hard to measure or define, but it is these experiences that build our connection with the natural world and have inspired so much of the literature and art which we hold dear to us. Sadly, without increased efforts and interventions on our part, opportunities for future generations to encounter wild amphibians and reptiles are being lost. Whether Charles will be able to share this same experience with his children one day in the future depends entirely on our actions today.”
Gift Ideas Proseprints create unique lino wildlife prints that are hand-painted before and after pressing. Rose and Perry are community development workers with training in art, theatre and education who both have a strong association and love for scrap stores and re-using reclaimed materials to create affordable arts activities and community celebrations. Rose and Perry aim to use the printing process as a method of raising funds and awareness of environmental and social issues, with 25% of the cost of each print donated to a designated charity. Funds raised through the sale of prints featuring amphibians and reptiles will be donated to ARC. We hope you feel as excited as we do about this projects potential to make a small but positive difference. Visit https:// folksy.com/shops/proseprints to buy your prints today! Ashlie Fawthrop is the Reptile Report’s 2017 Python Personality of the Year, and wants to help ARC to conserve our native reptiles and amphibians in the UK through sales of her snake calendar. Ashlie, from Living Art Ball Pythons, is donating £1.70 for each 2019 calendar sold. Great for keeping track of your herpetologyrelated events, or as a present for a snake-lover that you know! You can buy your copy of the calendar at: www.livingartballpythons.co.uk
How can I support ARC?
You can help by sponsoring Stephen’s run and voting for which costume he will run in (costume voting closes at 5pm on 15th February 2019) at: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/StephenGreen34
Gems in the Dunes Coasting ahead By Fiona Sunners - Gems in the Dunes Project Manager Here at Gems in the Dunes, on the Sefton Coast, we’ve had a busy summer! We kicked off with natterjack toad training, led by ARC’s Amphibian Conservation Officer Yvette Martin. Over a busy couple of days participants learnt about the toads and how to survey them, before we signed them up to the natterjack monitoring programme. Working with land-owners on the coast, to ensure consistent monitoring, we grouped volunteers, giving each group a cluster of pools to monitor. This worked really well and for many of the pools, we’ve gathered a lot more data than has been collected in the last few years. Most of the volunteers have said they are looking forward to monitoring ‘their pools’ next season, which is great news. We took a similar approach for both the sand lizards and tiger beetles, running training days, followed by giving volunteers their own ‘patch’ to monitor. We have a small group of knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers, recording and collecting data in a much more organised way than in previous years. Summer is a quiet season on the coast regarding habitat management works, due to the presence of other species including nesting birds. However, volunteers helped us to rejuvenate a handful of pools, for the benefit of both the natterjack toads and petalwort in the coming seasons. They also cleared overgrown sand patches and created many more at key sand lizard sites, which should also provide additional habitat for the tiger beetles too. Volunteers are key to our survey efforts as well as our habitat management works, so all their time and effort is much appreciated. Call us greedy, but we are still on the look-out for more! Volunteers come and go as their circumstances change, so if you are interested in joining us and helping with survey and habitat work on the Sefton Coast, please do get in touch at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can phone the Sefton Office on 01704 571 575
Gems in the Dunes
Photo: Volunteers getting stuck in during volunteer week in June © ARC
North Wales Mandy goes back to school! By Martin O’Neill - Communications & Outreach Manager North Wales Officer Mandy Cartwright went back to school to inspire the next generation’s interest in amphibians and reptiles. Mandy showed a selection of slow worms, toads, frogs, and palmate newts to year 10 students at Ysgol Treffynnon in Flintshire during a visit in October. Mandy attended the school in the 1990s when it was known as Holywell High School. She talked about re-introduction programmes, the different UK amphibian and reptile species and how to identify them, and the importance of monitoring species and habitats around the country. Mandy has worked for ARC in North Wales for the past four and a half years. Part of her role has involved co-ordinating the project to re-introduce rare natterjack toads to the sand dunes at Talacre. Mandy said: “I had an appreciation for amphibians from an early age when I would be out playing and trying to find tadpoles, toads and frogs. I find amphibians and reptiles fascinating to study and every day we learn new things about them.
“It was great to go back to school and share with students the work I am so passionate about. Hopefully it will inspire them to get outdoors into the natural environment and discover more about the incredible wildlife around them in all its forms.”
Mandy shows the pupils a selection of amphibians and reptiles © ARC.
Education New Shoots! By Sarah Allen - Education Officer, Urban Heaths Partnership A new and exciting project, led by the Education Team at the Urban Heaths Partnership and ARC, has been running for the past 12 months with Ferndown Upper School in Dorset. The A’ Level students involved in the project are studying Environmental Science and have been investigating the biodiversity of their local heathland site, Ferndown Common. The surveying has involved measuring the abundance of various species of heathland vegetation along with soil and environmental conditions such as light intensity and humidity. On 12th November 2018, armed with quadrats, tape measures, soil augers, and environmental sensors, the students strode onto Ferndown Common for the second phase of their research. However, what greeted the students caused them to halt in dismay as they surveyed a black, charred
landscape interrupted only by the skeletal forms of burnt gorse. Just a year ago they had been working on a site glowing with the golden colours of an autumn heath. Since then a fire had ravaged 13ha of the site and as a result the investigation had taken on a completely new direction. Despite the obvious destruction the students were able to detect the heaths resilience as shoots of fresh young Gorse and Molinia caerula grass poked through the black crusty earth. The students chose to survey a range of locations to illustrate recovery rates and subsequent biodiversity in sites affected by very recent fires and to contrast them with historical fire sites and mature heathland. In the Spring they will return to the site with Senior Reserve Manager, Gary Powell, to study the reptiles. From their findings they hope to devise potential strategies for the future management and conservation of the site, presenting their findings and ideas to a panel of conservation experts. The project, made possible by their enthusiastic teacher, Toby Osbourne, has huge value in terms of heathland education by allowing the students to understand the complexities of their local nature reserve as well as understanding the need for its conservation and responsible use. In turn the education team at UHP hope to work with the ‘A’ level students in conjunction with children from Ferndown First and Middle Schools on environmental engagement and education against arson, reaching more children who will be the stewards for this site in the future. For more information, please contact Sarah Allen, Education Officer for The Urban Heaths Partnership: email@example.com 16
Photos: ‘A’ Level students surveying vegetation © UHP
Media Sand lizards in the spotlight! By Ralph Connolly - Weald Field Officer & Volunteer Coordinator In mid-September, 85 captive-bred sand lizard hatchlings were released onto RSPB Farnham Heath as part of ARC’s nationwide reintroduction programme for the species.
© Mary Braddoc
A combined total of 40 volunteers and staff from ARC and the RSPB, along with a Countryfile film crew, joined forces to prepare the site for release- clearing encroaching Birch and Pine scrub and digging out sandy traces which, once mature, the lizards will use to lay their eggs in. Sand lizards are now established on all suitable ARCmanaged sites in the Weald so this kind of partnership work between conservation organisations is vital in continuing to restore this iconic species to its historic range. Being such habitat specialists in the UK, dependent on dry, sandy lowland heath or costal dunes, sand lizards are poor dispersers unwilling to traverse unsuitable habitat in order to reach areas which could support them. This is why reintroductions are such a vital part of their conservation to give them a helping hand onto sites where they can thrive. The juvenile lizards will have a chance to familiarise themselves with their new home and feed up for the winter before going into hibernation in October/November.
The footage taken on the day was broadcasted on Countryfile’s wildlife special back in October.
Species Profile Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris) Non-native © Fred Holmes
Behaviour Active between February and late September. Breed from March through to June. Lay light grey-brown eggs wrapping them individually in the leaves of pond plants. The larvae metamorphose in August, sometimes as late as September.
© Amanda Noble
Are they a threat to our native species? The answer is yes, they can be. Alpine newts are known carriers of the chytrid fungus (Bactrachocytrium dendrobatidis). This can cause the disease chytridiomycosis. Chytrid fungus is water-borne and can be accidentally spread between water bodies. Cases of chytrid infection have been discovered in some native amphibians in some parts of the UK. The fungus affects amphibians by attacking their skeleton and skin. Please get in touch if you think you have found one or to find out more and record your sighting, please visit the Alien Encounters website www.alienencounters.narrs.org.uk
Appearance/Colour Blue/black newt with an unmarked vividly coloured red or orange underside. Breeding males have a dark blue background colour with a light blue flash along the tail, a low smoothedged spotted crest along the length of the body and patterned flanks of black spots on a white or yellow background. Females have a mottled or marbled appearance in dark shades of blue with the same vivid underside as the males. Colours darken when on land and the skin has a granular appearance. Larva are dark with black spots and a long round tipped tail. © Fred Holmes
Habitat/Where to find them Native to central Europe. There are a few established populations in Britain, generally as a result of deliberate introductions into gardens and parks. In Britain, most introductions are based around garden ponds but ponds have been colonised in open woodland and grassland. Favours wooded areas, and vegetated fish-free ponds. © Fred Holmes
Herp Word Puzzle Grid
Insert each of the words below once only into the puzzle grid using the one done for you as a guide… there’s only one combination that works! N.B. They’re not in any order…. I C H T H Y O S A U R
Pelophylax Perezi Reptile Coronella Agilis
Rana Alytes Obstetricans Heathland Zamenis
Xenopus Frog Anguis
Answers in the next issue of Hop Gossip!
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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