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HopGossip! Autumn/Winter 2019 In this issue‌ Surrey natterjacks - Down but not out! Sand lizard captive breeding and re-introductions The official opening of ARC’s new pad & Smooth operation


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 744 Christchurch Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth, Dorset BH7 6BZ Telephone 01202 391319 Email enquiries@arc-trust.org

www.arc-trust.org 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

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Hop off the Press

6

In the Field

8

ARC News.

Witley Common Discovery Trail. Volunteers in the spotlight. Surrey natterjacks - Down but not out!

Species

Sand lizard captive breeding and reintroductions. UK’s rarest amphibian given a headstart.

10 Feature

The Official opening of ARC’s new Pad!

12 Monitoring

State of Nature 2019.

13 Projects

Smooth operation.

14 South Wales

Carry on Connecting!

15 North Wales

Biodiversity award for ARC reserve!

16 Europe

European Congress of Herpetology.

17 Fundraising

Ferndown needs Bags of Help! Funding for Scotland.

18 Species Profile

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata). Administration & Finance Manager: Helen Wraight 19 Tail Enders Administration & Finance Officer: Martine Watkins It’s a Cracker! Administrative Support Officer: Angela Reynolds Can you guess what’s going on in this Amphibian Conservation Officer: Yvette Martin photo? Communications & Outreach Manager: Anju Sarpal Connecting the Dragons Project Officer: Peter Hill Connecting the Dragons Project Officer: Mark Barber If you would like to contribute to the Cumbria Natterjack Officer: Ruth Popely next edition please contact Angela Database & GIS Officer: Dr Rob Ward Reynolds at IT Project Officer: Johnny Novy angela.reynolds@arc-trust.org. Dorset Field Officer: Richie Johnson Dorset Field Officer: James Anderson-Barr Cover photo: Rainbow viewed Dorset Field Officer/Health & Safety Officer: Richard Sharp from ARC managed reserve Dorset Field Officer: William Emmett-Mair Town Common in Dorset © Chris Dorset Seasonal Field Officers: Stuart Handyside, Philip O’Keefe & Ciara Askin Dresh (ARC) Friendship & E-Communications Officer: Kim Boughey Fundraising Coordinator (part time consultant): Atul Srivastava Hop Gossip is edited and GCN Conservation Officer/Species Coordinator: Dorothy Driver designed by Angela Reynolds. Gems in the Dunes Project Manager: Fiona Sunners Gems in the Dunes Project Officer: Andrew Hampson Please note: The views North Wales Officer: Mandy Cartwright expressed in this newsletter are Reptile Conservation Officer: Nick Moulton not necessarily the views of Regional, Training & Science Programmes Manager: Dr John Wilkinson Amphibian & Reptile Senior Dorset Field Officer: Chris Dresh Conservation but those of the Senior Reserves Manager: Gary Powell authors. South Midlands Newt Conservation Partnership Project Officer: Andrew Buxton Snakes in the Heather Citizen Science & Operations Officer: Ben Limburn Amphibian and Reptile Snakes in the Heather Public Engagement & Education Officer: Owain Masters Conservation is a Registered Species Programme Manager: Dr Karen Haysom Charity. Wealden Field Officer: John Gaughan Wealden Field Officer: Ralph Connolly England & Wales Charity Wealden Field Officer: Bryony Davison number. 1130188. Wealden Reserves Manager: Rob Free Scotland Charity number. Wealden Seasonal Field Officers: Laurence Hills & Mark Crisp SC044097. 2


From the Editor’s desk Welcome to the latest issue of Hop Gossip! Winter is well and truly here and marks the end of what has been a tremendously busy year for ARC. I feel like going in-to hibernation, much like the creatures outside! Whilst thinking about hibernation, my thoughts turned to how tough it is out there for wildlife during the harsh winter months. The State of Nature 2019 report, released in the autumn of this year, revealed some sobering statistics about the decline of species and habitats on our own doorsteps. As well as giving gifts to loved ones and sharing festive feasts, lets think about extending a bit of that generosity outside of the warmth of our homes this Christmas to the wildlife sharing our spaces. If we all make our gardens, back-yards and window sills more wildlife friendly by providing shelter, connectivity, food and water, it would be a great gift to them. Find out more about the State of Nature 2019 report on page 12. The office move seems like a distant memory now that we are finally settled in. Change is something that we have all had to get used to and need to be prepared for in the coming months. With a General Election on the horizon and Brexit, the next time I am writing in this column it is likely the whole country will be facing changes. One thing that won’t change though, is our determination to work tirelessly towards the conservation of both amphibians and reptiles and the places that they call home. Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy healthy New Year!

Angela Reynolds Hop Gossip Editor angela.reynolds@arc-trust.org

C.E.O.’s Corner Dr Tony Gent

Over the years ARC and its predecessor organisation have managed more than 1,600 hectares of habitat to make it more suitable for amphibians and reptiles. We have undertaken many translocations of our rarer species. We’ve restored natterjacks to 16 sites and sand lizards to well over 70, including bringing both species back to north Wales (an area from which they had become extinct) and have led on returning the pool frog to Britain. Indeed (as you’ll see from Nick Moulton’s article on page 8 in this magazine) 2019 celebrated the 10,000th sand lizard being released to the wild through the translocation programme since it started in the 1960s. Looking a little closer to home, this was also the year that we managed to carry out some improvements to our own habitat - as we ‘translocated’ our headquarters a few hundred yards down the road to a newly refurbished office. We had occupied our old premises since the early 1990s and over that time we had outgrown the space. The new office will provide us with both a greatly improved working environment and a sound investment that will contribute towards ARC’s sustainability into the future. Like any big change, moving from an office occupied for over 20 years presented both challenges and opportunities – not least the need to rationalise the vast amounts of paper that had been accumulated by employees past and present over that time. Change has also been a key theme elsewhere; the climate is changing as are the pressures on our habitats and the natural environment. The sociopolitical environment is also changing and with it we see new challenges and opportunities both for the environment and for the way we work as a charity. We still remain unclear about the implications of the UK’s changing relationship with Europe and how this may affect the laws, policies and funding mechanisms that currently underpin nature conservation. We’re seeing attitudes changing as society wakes up to the environmental issues including the use of plastics and towards the emergencies that are climate change and biodiversity loss. This year we’ve seen new environmental legislation being developed, increasing calls for change to the planning system to ensure there are net benefits for wildlife as a result of development, and proposals for changing legislative, policy and funding mechanisms to help more farmers make a positive difference for nature. More and more we are seeing a changing attitude towards more positive collaboration between different sectors to achieve positive environmental outcomes. And, as a charity, a business and an employer, we are seeing changes to the legislation and rules that govern the way we operate. In turn, these changes mean that we must make sure that what we do and the way we do it remains best suited for the job in hand. Although many things are changing, we are clear that reptiles and amphibians still need conserving – we owe it to them and to all the people who care about these animals; that’s what we’ve always done and what we will continue to do.

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What’s new with the ARC crew? By Angela Reynolds - Editor We have a few new faces at ARC since the last issue of Hop Gossip! landed on your doormats. We said goodbye to our Communications & Outreach Manager Martin O’Neill at the end of September. He made a lot of positive changes to the Trust during the year he was here and played a big part in the branding of our new HQ. Anju Sarpal has taken up the reins and is really enjoying getting stuck in, getting to know staff and the partners we work with up and down the country. Alice Pawlik completed her stint as Amphibian Husbandry Officer and you can read about her work on page 9. Our new project Snakes in the Heather is up and running with two project officers (see page 13). We have welcomed back Ben Limburn as Citizen Science & Operations Officer and recruited Owain Masters as Public Engagement & Education Officer. Our Field Teams are more than half way through the winter season doing habitat management across our reserves. The Dorset team are joined by Winter Seasonals Ciara Askin, Philip O’Keefe and ARC regular Stuart Handyside. Our Wealden team are joined by Laurence Hills and Mark Crisp.

How are we doing? Have your say! By Anju Sarpal - Communications & Outreach Manager

Hop off the Press!

Hello I’m Anju Sarpal, self confessed frog fanatic and ARC’s new Communications and Outreach Manager. In my first few months in my new role, my aim is to make sure that you, as our supporter, are getting your voice heard and receiving the information you need.

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As part of that endeavour we have created a quick survey to gather your views. We would be grateful if you could complete and return the enclosed survey or fill it in online https://www.arc-trust.org/ hopgossip-survey I look forward to reading them and meeting you soon. In the meantime if you have news, views or observations you would like to share with fellow supporters and partners, drop us a line at comms@arc-trust.org

Reports of crimes against wildlife continue to rise By Jim Foster - Conservation Director Wildlife and Countryside Link and Wales Environment Link, revealed this Autumn in their third Annual Wildlife Crime Report, that reports of alleged wildlife crime incidents to NGOs rose again in 2018, with an increase of more than 17% since the first report in 2016. There were a total of 1,324 reports of wildlife crime incidents against bats, badgers, birds of prey, amphibians and reptiles and marine mammals, recorded by these NGOs in 2018, compared to 1287 in 2017 and 1130 in 2016. Despite the increase in reporting of wildlife crimes, the number of convictions remains very low, with just 11 individuals and businesses convicted of these types of crimes last year. Crimes against badgers, birds of prey and bats remain among the most common wildlife crimes reported. Also noteworthy is that the number of reports of marine mammal disturbances have more than doubled this year. Pete Charleston, Chair of Link’s Wildlife Crime Working Group and Conservation Wildlife Crime Officer for the Bat Conservation Trust, said: ‘The abuse and persecution of wildlife will remain invisible, and go unpunished, unless crimes against wildlife are effectively recorded and assessed. Wildlife crime police officers are hugely dedicated, but they need funding certainty and resources to catch these criminals, and tougher sentences available to ensure criminals face a punishment fit for their crime.’ ARC CEO, Dr Tony Gent said: ‘This report highlights the need for better enforcement of the laws protecting amphibians and reptiles. Sadly we continue to see illegal acts resulting in the loss of amphibian and reptile habitats, which adds to the pressures they face. We urgently need a range of improvements, including more support for wildlife crime officers and better guidance for courts.’ To tackle wildlife crime more effectively, the NGOs are calling for the Governments in England and Wales to ensure greater assessment of wildlife crimes, better targeting of resources, and more successful identification, prosecution and sentencing of criminals.

Great crested newt © Chris Dresh.(ARC)


Over 100 delegates gather for 2019 Scientific meeting By Anju Sarpal - Communications & Outreach Manager The Joint Scientific Meeting run by ARC and the British Herpetological Society (BHS) was held at the Bournemouth Natural Science Society museum on Saturday 30th November 2019. Our one day conference, now in its 15th year, annually invites science and research based presentations from around the world and ends with a raffle which raises funds for various great herpetofauna related causes. This year’s speakers covered a wide range of topics from studies across the globe. From using 3Dprinted, GPS embedded, decoy turtle eggs to track poachers in South America and abundance and population structure of the Morelet's Crocodile in Mexico, to Zoo visitor’s understanding about amphibian declines in different countries. Our thanks to the University of Kent, Institute of Zoology and Imperial College London, University of Salford, University of Liverpool, University of Otago and Natural History Museum to help make the event a sell-out. Earlier this year, world renowned herpetologist Professor Tim Halliday, sadly passed away. A collection of his books were kindly donated by his widow to auction with the proceeds to be donated to amphibian conservation research. We are delighted to report that we have raised over £600 via the silent auction held at this event alone! We will be holding more silent auctions at future events.

The Herpetofauna Workers Meeting 2020 By Angela Reynolds - Editor

National Lottery award winner! By Angela Reynolds - Editor In November, the National Lottery, celebrating its 25th birthday, hosted its annual awards for the UK’s favourite lottery funded projects and people.

The HWM is organised by ARC and Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG UK) and has been running annually for over 30 years. This popular two-day event occupies the centre stage of the herpetological calendar with a full and varied programme of presentations and workshops and a Gala Dinner. Attendees include everyone from conservation organisations and statutory bodies, to students and enthusiastic volunteers. The 2020 meeting is being held in February and will be linking up with Gems in the Dunes, ARC’s groundbreaking project to conserve threatened species on the Sefton Coast. For the first time we’re also offering a chance to roll up your sleeves and get involved in habitat management, under the guidance of the Gems in the Dunes staff, in an optional Friday excursion. There will also be a less strenuous option for a guided walk in the dunes with our partners North Merseyside Amphibian and Reptile Group. Friends of ARC can attend for as little as £50 per day but be sure to book soon as tickets sell fast! Registrations close at midnight on January 13th. For more information visit https://www.arc-trust.org/Event/hwm2020

Paul Hetherington of Buglife, one of the Back from the Brink partners said: “Extinction is forever. There is no turning back. We have a moral responsibility to prevent the extinction of all species. Back from the Brink is the start of the recovery journey for more than 200 of England's most endangered species. This project is also the first time such a wide range of species-specific organisations have pooled resources to work holistically for the benefit of all species, making it a ground-breaking cooperation.” Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard for this including Project Manager Fiona Sunners and Project Officer Andrew Hampson, our Gems in the Dunes team!

Project volunteers © Andrew Hampson (ARC)

Hop off the Press!

ARC is delighted to be part of the Back from the Brink partnership, which won the National Lottery Heritage Award for our work to involve people in saving threatened species.

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In the Field Witley Common Discovery Trail By Ralph Connolly - Weald Field Officer & Volunteer Coordinator The ARC field teams maintain some of the best– managed Heathland sites in the country, home to a whole range of species that are highly specialised to this unique habitat. From discussions with visitors to our sites here in the Weald however, it is clear that few are aware of the nationally rare reptiles living around them or how internationally important a resource heathland is. Antisocial use of heaths, whether through leaving dog mess, littering or inadvertently starting fires can also be very detrimental for this fragile ecosystem but people cannot be expected to value something if they do not understand it. Increased access to natural spaces for the local community and awareness of the work involved in maintaining this habitat can only benefit the long-term conservation of wildlife. Funding from the Postcode Local Trust, and plenty of digging from ARC volunteers has allowed us to install a board and series of six information posts around a new waymarked trail on Witley Common which describe some of the site’s features, how we manage it for wildlife and helping visitors appreciate and take ownership of their local heathlands. We’ve also now have a set of brand new gates made from local Oak to make the site more secure but also more welcoming. The ARC managed area of Witley Common packs a lot into a small site, as well as the open heath there are areas of mature deciduous woodland, ponds, hazel coppice and grassland and it’s about time this beautiful site gets the recognition it deserves - come and see for yourself! Photo: New Witley Common interpretation board © ARC

ARC Volunteers in the Spotlight A look at some of ARC’s volunteers and their invaluable contributions.

Dave Meyers

In the Field

Started volunteering with ARC: 2012

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Our very own Heath Robinson, Dave is one of the longest serving Wealden volunteers. Along with producing videos documenting our work parties he has devised numerous bits of now invaluable kit, including, a sand trace tamper, fire bellows, tree popper, fire fork and has embellished that most important piece of volunteer day equipment - the storm kettle - with some nifty augmentations. If a tool is broken, or sometimes even if it isn’t, he will be the one to repair and reinvigorate it! Memorable wildlife experience: ‘One early June day I was trying to video a common lizard arranging its best basking position, when a Cuckoo landed above me and went off on one, and as I looked up I saw a pair of Redstarts in a gorse bush...awesome.’ Combined with a keen eye for spotting reptiles, no matter how cryptically they may be basking, Dave is an invaluable member of the ARC Weald team. He was also responsible for the fine carpentry work that went into the new Information Posts installed along the Witley Common Discovery trail (see above). If you’re interested in volunteering to help with our work in the Weald contact ralph.connolly@arc-trust.org


Surrey natterjacks – Down but not out! By Rob Free - Weald Reserves Manager The natterjack toad in west Surrey at one time was so common as to attract its own local name of the Thursley thrush after its distinctive call. Sadly, today Surrey’s natterjack toads probably number around the 16 mark in two locations. These are the reintroductions at Crooksbury Common and Frensham Country Park. The population at Frensham initially did very well with successful breeding in purpose-made ponds at a Waverley Borough conservation enclosure area. In recent years there has been no recruitment of young to an increasingly elderly and diminishing adult population. Volunteer surveyor, Regina Coult was able to identify just eight individual adults in 2019. The reasons for the decline may be predation from signal crayfish introduced from America, poor water quality and difficulty maintaining the breeding pools in an ideal condition due to fluctuating water levels and the rapid invasion of common reed. The population on Crooksbury appeared to have failed after a second reintroduction undertaken in 2006 and 2007 led to no subsequent spawning. However, after three new pond scrapes were dug on site in 2009 breeding unexpectedly occurred in 2016 and 2017. The approximately eight animals at Crooksbury appear to be a mix of young and old which, while still well below a long term sustainable population level, at least sounds a little healthier. Recent failures seem to be due to these new ponds drying out quite rapidly following the onset of a prolonged dry spell of weather. Two of the new ponds have now been lined with butyl in an attempt to overcome this but require some further tweaking next spring to be successful. ARC is currently working with the Waverley Ranger for Frensham to create new natterkack toad pond scrapes on an area of lichen heath hopefully out of reach of signal crayfish. The natterjack toads in Surrey may be down, but not out.

Photo above right: Natterjack toad © Fred Holmes (ARC). Bottom: ARC staff searching for natterjack toadlets at Crooksbury Common © ARC.

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Species

Sand lizard captive breeding and re-introductions By Nick Moulton - Reptile Conservation Officer ARC has just reached two milestones this year: 50 years of sand lizard re-introductions and the release of over 10,000 animals! Our early re-introductions with the British Herpetological Society Conservation Committee (BHSCC) were partly via captive breeding, but also through the rescue and direct translocation of animals from sites that were being developed. The lizards were taken to appropriate sites where the species had previously become extinct. With more effective site protection and reduced site loss during the mid-1990’s, the Herpetological Conservation Trust/ARC adapted the programme to continue reintroductions solely via captive breeding. Jonathan Webster, ARC Chair of Trustees said "We are delighted with the success of the sand lizard re-introduction programme. So far the partnerships, including agencies, NGOs and land-managers, have instigated 78 re-introductions to both dune and heathland sites in 12 vice-counties and restored the species to 7 of these. 80% of these have been successful or initially doing well and more are planned for the future." A region with particularly high loss, estimated at 95% of the native populations, was the Wealden heaths. Our former Wealden Reserves Manager, Mike Preston, has been involved in the programme since the 1970s and continues the captive breeding and re-introductions to this region.

Species

“When we started there were only 4 native sites left in the Wealden Heaths. We have now restored over 5,800 animals to 28 heathland sites. Our captive breeding vivariums are outdoors and as natural as possible. When the eggs are laid they are removed and then incubated. When the animals hatch they are retained and fed for a few weeks and then released to the wild. The releases are generally undertaken in early September. For a reintroduction around 50-80 captive-bred juveniles are released each year for three consecutive years. On-going monitoring is essential to see how the animals are doing, and management, such as sand management, is often required to enhance their status” said Mike.

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Photo top right and bottom: Juvenile sand lizard © ARC.


Species UK’s rarest amphibian given a head-start By Dr Karen Haysom - Species Programme Manager & Yvette Martin - Amphibian Conservation Officer The pool frog (Pelophylax lessonae) is the UK’s rarest amphibian. Our UK native animals belong to the species’ northern clade, which has small populations in UK, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Estonia. Tragically, the original English population went extinct in 1995, partly because of agricultural management practices such as land drainage. Since 2005, ARC has been working with partners to bring the species back and help it flourish in its native East Anglia once again. Two small populations of northern clade pool frogs now exist in the wild in the UK. The first reintroduction took place between 2005 and 2008, using wild-to-wild translocation of tadpoles and adults that were collected under special licence from Sweden. While still a small population, by 2015 there were enough animals for some to be translocated to a second site, Thompson Common. This Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve is the last place where native pool frogs occurred before their extinction. Due to low numbers, populations at both sites are vulnerable to climatic events or the introduction of a disease. To help secure the Thompson Common population, ARC fundraised to establish a “head-starting” facility, in which to hatch and rear wild-caught spawn and grow tadpoles, as these are the riskiest stages of the life-cycle, Funding and in-kind support from Natural England, Forestry Commission, Anglian Water, London Zoo, Institute of Zoology, Amphibian Ark, Anglian Water Flourishing Environment Fund, British Herpetological Society amongst other generous donors enabled us to adapt and equip an operational building as a bio -secure facility in 2019. Two batches of tadpoles were released at Thompson Common this summer.

Photo top right: Adult pool frog © John Baker. Middle left: Pool frog tadpoles were raised to the two leg stage before being released into the wild © Yvette Martin (ARC). Bottom: Inside head-starting facility. Each tank has its own unique set of equipment, one of many measures taken to maintain biosecurity © Alice Pawlik (ARC).

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Feature The Official opening of ARC’s new Pad! By Anju Sarpal - Communications & Outreach Manager & Angela Reynolds - Hop Gossip Editor After more than twenty years in rented accommodation, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) completed the move to a new Head Office in the heart of Dorset in July, funded from investment as a result of a generous legacy. The new office based on the ground floor of 744 Christchurch Road in Boscombe, Bournemouth has been refurbished throughout by the Trust and the official opening in November was marked by guests, comprising of ARC Trustees, staff and volunteers. All were thrilled to welcome ARC Patron, zoologist and BBC Springwatch presenter, Lucy Cooke who opened the new office by cutting a ribbon with a pair of loppers!

Feature

Dr Tony Gent, ARC’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Our new Head Office provides a modern and inspiring space in which our staff, Trustees and volunteers can flourish and thrive. Celebrating our official opening with the help of ARC patron, Lucy Cooke was a fitting start to this new era. Thank you to Lucy for her enthusiastic support and we look forward to working closely with her in the future.”

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The afternoon event featured a presentation delivered by Dr Gent about ARC’s humble beginnings as The Herpetological Conservation Trust (HCT), and the events which led to its creation. The PowerPoint included photos from times gone by of conservation work parties consisting of some of our current Trustees! A testament to the enthusiasm and loyalty of their lifelong passion towards the conservation of our British amphibians and reptiles. Lucy followed with an inspiring speech about how she came to be obsessed and enamoured with amphibians through watching David Attenborough’s documentaries and poking around in a ditch where she grew up! A real driver to a successful career was to tell the story of nature’s original and greatest explorers and highlight the real issues behind their decline worldwide.


A passion for exploration and research has taken Lucy all over the world to get up close and personal with some pretty spectacular amphibian specimens. The fascinating speech concluded with a promise to raise awareness at every opportunity to encourage support both for ARC and our very special native species. After some delicious food and a bit of bubbly, our Senior Reserves Manager, Gary Powell took Lucy on a tour of one of ARC’s flagship reserves, St. Catherine’s Hill, to round off the day. Thank you to everyone who joined us in marking this momentous occasion, which was the second highest trending story in Dorset that week!. "My passion for conservation comes from my childhood love of frogs, which led me as a graduate to travel the world in search of rare species as a documentary maker. Essentially I’m a storyteller and would love the opportunity to tell the story of our native amphibian and reptiles and raise the profile of those working on the frontline so am looking forward to visiting ARC’s habitats next spring" said Lucy. Photos page 10 - Top right: Lucy gave an engaging presentation. Middle: Inside the new office. Page 11 - top right: Lucy officially opened the office by cutting a ribbon with a pair of loppers! Middle: Inside the new office. Bottom: Lucy with ARC Trustees. © ARC.

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Species monitoring State of Nature 2019 By Dr Karen Haysom - Species Programmes Manager ARC joined with more than 70 leading wildlife organisations to report on how wildlife is faring in the UK and its overseas territories. State of Nature 2019 was published in October and is the third and largest of a series of influential reports, the first of which was published in 2013. This time the contributors included both nongovernment organisations and government agencies and covered both terrestrial and marine nature. As well as analysing changes in the distribution and abundance of species, the report considered the pressures on wildlife and what conservationists are doing to counter the threats. Abundance and distribution of UK species has declined on average by 13% since 1970 and many measures show declines that have continued during the last ten years.

Species monitoring

ARC has participated in the State of Nature initiative since its beginnings in 2013. Many of the pressures featured, such as agricultural management, climate change, urbanisation, changes in hydrology and pollution are also of concern for our amphibians and reptiles. The report also describes positive examples of how some species have responded to help and what everybody, from individuals to organisations can do to ensure a brighter future for our wildlife.

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15%

of species are threatened with extinction from Great Britain

Between 2006 and 2018

1,600

miles of road were constructed in Great Britain

70,000

As many as volunteers submit biological records to National Recording Schemes (NRS) or to Local Environmental Record Centres (LERCs)

44%

of our woodland is managed sustainably

Time donated by volunteers has increased by

46% since 2000

To download a copy of State of Nature 2019 go to www.nbn.org.uk/stateofnature2019


Projects Smooth Operation By Owain Masters - Snakes in the Heather Public Engagement & Education Officer Good news! Snakes in the Heather, our new project to help conserve the smooth snake, is underway. Snakes in the Heather (SitH) is a large-scale, four-year project across the snake’s distribution range in southern England to increase our knowledge of the species for better coordination of conservation efforts essential for its longterm survival. We are working with numerous partners to develop a national monitoring programme for the species. With coordination we will gather data necessary to deepen our knowledge of smooth snake habitat preferences, how this changes over the year, how land management affects this and more. This information will be shared with partners including wildlife NGOs, land managers and Natural England to strengthen conservation of our rarest snake. Through Snakes in the Heather we are supporting the species monitoring programme with education and habitat enhancement programmes. We are working with volunteers and our field teams to manage heathland, using what we already know, and building in the new information we gather, to ensure heathland is in optimal condition for smooth snakes, and our other reptiles. We are also working with schools and communities to celebrate our native species, and shout about what makes the smooth snake special!

Public input is invaluable to our work at ARC and there are several great ways to get involved. For more information please visit: https:// www.arc-trust.org/snakes-in-theheather Photo top right: juvenile smooth snakes © Angela Reynolds. Photo bottom left: smooth snake © Chris Dresh.

Snakes in the Heather is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bannister Trust and Love the Forest (New Forest Trust).

Projects

Two Project Officers have been employed for the project. Ben Limburn, the Citizen Science and Project Operations Officer, is leading the development of the monitoring programme, and working with ARC staff and external partners to ensure data is used to inform conservation. Owain Masters, the Public Engagement and Education Officer, is leading the delivery of an engagement programme which includes giving lessons in schools, providing presentations to community groups and leading guided walks.

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South Wales Carry on Connecting! By Mark Barber - Connecting the Dragons Project Officer Following a successful application to the National Lottery Heritage fund, ARC’s Connecting the Dragons project is now underway. The four-year large-scale project employs two officers operating across southern Wales, focusing on three main aims to restore and raise awareness of its declining and fragmented amphibian and reptile populations. The first aim is to increase habitat connectivity and colony robustness of our target species. This will be achieved by creating and restoring ponds for great crested newts and common toads, influencing how protected sites are managed for adders (their hibernation sites in particular), and creating and restoring sand lizard sand patches and grass snake egg laying sites. The second is to create a network of skilled, motivated volunteers and partners to undertake pond and reptile surveying and monitoring of those target species. This will take place through a tailored programme of training and volunteer mentoring throughout their journey. Our final aim is to improve the image and increase understanding of our target species in the public eye, targeting existing and new, including hard to reach, audiences. Much of our time will be spent reversing the negative image around adders in various key areas across southern Wales.

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Photo : Some of the species and activities taking place throughout the project Š Mark Barber and Pete Hill (ARC)

South Wales

If you live in our project area (see the map above) and would like to get involved, please contact us on HLFDragons@arc-trust.org


North Wales

Biodiversity award for ARC reserve! By Mandy Cartwright - North Wales Officer A North Wales nature reserve managed by ARC has won the small-scale ‘Project of the Year’ 2019 at the biodiversity awards run by the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA). The White Lion Nature Reserve in Penymynydd, Flintshire, was created in partnership with housing developer Redrow and is home to great crested newts among other species. The Big Biodiversity Challenge and its Awards is in its sixth year. The award judges were impressed with ARC’s partnership approach, community focus, ecological output and legacy of the project. At the award ceremony a keynote speaker from the British Ecological Society chose it as one of their stand-out projects. The White Lion Reserve is a 0.8 hectare site maintained by ARC with wildlife and people in mind. It is located within a Redrow development of 85 family homes. The development was shaped by the natural environment and carefully landscaped to preserve habitats and enhance biodiversity. The Reserve is home to five native amphibian species, including the great crested newt, whose population has increased six-fold in the first three years since the development’s launch, along with mammals, birds and invertebrates such as the rare mud snail.

North Wales

Guided walks, species surveys and pond-dipping sessions delivered by ARC on the reserve are a popular feature of life for the local community.

Photos: The opening of the new notice board followed by a guided walk © Mandy Cartwright (ARC)

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Europe European Congress of Herpetology By Jim Foster - Conservation Director ARC’s Conservation Director, Jim Foster reports on our attendance at this important conference. In September 2019 Dr John Wilkinson and I represented ARC at the 20th European Congress of Herpetology in Milan, organised by the SEH (Societas Europaea Herpetologica). This conference happens every two years and is a chance for those working on reptiles and amphibians to get together and share their research; whilst mainly aimed at an academic audience, there is a growing interest in conservation issues at the conference. ARC attends these conferences to help ensure that our work is grounded in good conservation evidence, and to communicate our own projects. We are also involved in business meetings that coincide with the conference – in this case a Board Meeting of Reptile and Amphibian Conservation Europe, and an SEH Conservation Committee meeting. For the main conference, we were co-authors on a poster outlining work on “Important Herpetofauna Areas”, a project to map the key places in Europe of importance for reptiles and amphibians, on which we collaborate with European partners including RAVON in the Netherlands. I gave a presentation on ARC’s work on pool frog reintroductions, highlighting the progress and challenges we have faced when undertaking translocations to re-establish this species in the UK.

Europe

As always, the conference proved to be a great place to learn about new discoveries and projects happening across Europe. Highlights included an initiative to produce new assessment methods for pesticides that will take into account the particular issues facing reptiles and amphibians. A session on agriculture showcased new research into how species including sand lizard and common toad use farmed landscapes. Several talks highlighted the risks posed by introduced non-native species, especially crayfish, which are now a serious decline factor for some European newts, as well as the advancing threats posed by disease. Learning from the conference is being factored into ARC’s work on herpetofauna in the UK.

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Photo: The SEH meeting featured a session on herps in agricultural landscapes, and this European tree frog (Hyla arborea) was found in an arable field during an excursion © Jim Foster (ARC)


Fundraising Ferndown needs Bags of Help! By Atul Srivastava - Fundraising Coordinator

Photo: Fire damaged Ferndown Common © ARC

ARC has been selected as one of three charities competing for public votes in five Tesco stores in the Ferndown area of Dorset. Following the heath fire at Ferndown Common in 2018, ARC applied to the Tesco Bags of Help scheme for funding to manage the site to reduce the likelihood of future fires, benefitting amphibians, reptiles, and many other species that live on and use the heath. You can help ARC to win the top prize of £2,000 by shopping at any of the five Tesco stores below, placing blue tokens in the box for ARC, and encouraging others to vote for ARC. Tesco Superstore, Ferndown: BH22 9TH ~ Tesco Express, Butlers Lane, Poulner: BH24 1UB Tesco Express, Glenmoor Road: BH22 8QE ~ Tesco Express, West Moors: BH22 0JB and Tesco Express, Verwood: BH31 7AQ Available from New Years Day until the 31 March 2020.

Photo: Adder © ARC

Fundraising

Funding for Scotland By Atul Srivastava - Fundraising Coordinator

We are back in action in Scotland! ARC has received £15,000 from the RS Macdonald Trust for conservation and education work in Scotland. The project will focus initially on adders, great crested newts and natterjack toads. These three species have particular animal welfare issues that are a shared concern with the RS Macdonald Trust. The funder has also allocated £4,900 towards dedicated fundraising in Scotland to continue the work in future years, and broaden the remit of ARC’s practical conservation beyond the initial three species. In the longer term the aim is for ARC to establish a more permanent presence in Scotland.

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Species Profile Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata)

Species Profile

© Chris Dresh.

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Appearance/Colour  Small, long tailed, large-headed birds.  12-13cms long.  Wingspan 13-18cms.  Male has a grey back and head, reddish underparts, and a red eye. The reddish throat is spotted with white. The sides are a dull greyish tone.  Female is paler below, especially on the throat, and a browner grey above. The female's throat also has white spots, although they are smaller and less marked than in the male.  Juveniles are similar in colour to females.  Often seen as a small flying shape bobbing between bushes.

Behaviour & Breeding  Like to sing from the top of gorse bushes in spring with a distinctive rattling warble.  Insectivores - eat caterpillars, spiders, beetles and butterflies.  First breed when they are one year old.  Usually monogamous.  Both birds usually participate in constructing the breeding nest which is shaped like a cup and made mainly from grasses about 60cms from the ground in dense bushes.  The male sometimes builds several simple nests (cock nests) of which one is chosen by the female.  Eggs are laid from mid-April in clutches of 3-5 and incubated mainly by the female for 12-14 © Chris Dresh. days.  Chicks are fed by both parents and fledge Habitat/Where to find them after 10-14 days. They continue to be fed by  Confined to stable populations in the parents for 2 weeks. south of the UK.  Usually two and occasionally three broods are  Lowland heathland - dry heath and raised in a year. acidic grassland mosaics with gorse and heather.  It is widespread on the Dorset heaths but it is not common.  Can be seen all year round.  Populations are known to reduce significantly during harsh winters and are sensitive to drought affecting breeding success or producing heath fires.

© Chris Dresh.

Conservation Status  Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

© Chris Dresh.


Tail-Enders TAIL-ENDERS We’ve been going crackers this December with amphibian and reptile themed jokes! Here are some of the sure fire winners when it comes to entertaining at your festive dinner tables! How do snakes celebrate Christmas? They hiss under the mistletoe! What do lizards like to eat with their hamburgers? French flies! Where do amphibians get the headlines? Newts at Ten!

What do you call a frog with no back legs? Unhoppy!

Tail-Enders

Can you guess what’s going on in this photo? Find out in the next issue of Hop Gossip!

© William Emmett-Mair (ARC)

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Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is a national wildlife charity striving for a world where amphibians and reptiles are safeguarded for future generations. With over 30 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.

To find out more or to support Amphibian and Reptile Conservation contact: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 744 Christchurch Road Boscombe Bournemouth Dorset BH7 6BZ Tel: Fax: Email:

01202 391319 01202 392785 enquiries@arc-trust.org

www.arc-trust.org Follow us on Twitter - www.twitter.com/ARC_bytes Find us on Facebook - www.facebook.com/ARCTrust Watch videos on YouTube - www.youtube.com/ARCTrust

Become a Friend! Join Amphibian and Reptile Conservation today and help us give a voice to the UK’s amphibians and reptiles - saving species, improving habitats and enhancing lives in the process. It costs as little as £24 a year.

Join online: www.arc-trust.org/support Or call 01202 391319 (9:00am - 5:00pm, Monday - Friday)

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is a Registered Charity: England & Wales number 1130188. Scotland number SC044097.

Profile for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Hopgossip! Autumn/Winter 2019  

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