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HopGossip! Spring/Summer 2015 In this issue ‌ Amphibian disease update New species discovered! Woolmer natterjack day/ Friends’ Day 2014 Surveying in Guatemala

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 Telephone 01202 391319 Email enquiries@arc-trust.org

www.arc-trust.org Patrons: Earl of Malmesbury Chris Packham Iolo Williams Chair of Trustees: Jonathan Webster Chief Executive Officer: Dr Tony Gent Conservation Director: Jim Foster Administration & Finance Manager: Helen Wraight Administrative Support Officer: Angela Reynolds Amphibian Conservation Officer: Yvette Martin Assistant Amphibian Conservation Officer: John Buckley BLF Dragonscapes Habitat Officer: Peter Hill BLF Dragonscapes Species Officer: Mark Barber Cumbria Natterjack Officer: Ruth Popely Dorset Field Officer/Health & Safety Officer: Richard Sharp Dorset Field Officer: Richie Johnson Dorset Field Officer: Tamlyn Blasdale-Holmes Dorset Field Officer: James Anderson-Barr Flintshire Countryside Ranger: Mandy Cartwright Friendship & E-Communications Officer: Kim Boughey GCN Conservation Officer/ Species Coordinator: Dorothy Driver GIS & Data Officer: Thom Starnes New Forest Smooth Snake Survey Project Officer: Ben Limburn Reptile Conservation Officer: Nick Moulton Research Officer: Liam Russell Science Programme Manager: Dr John Wilkinson Scottish Officer: Dr Peter Minting Senior Dorset Field Officer: Chris Dresh Senior Reserves Manager: Gary Powell Weald Field Officer: John Gaughan Weald Field Officer & Volunteer Coordinator: Robin Bassett Weald Reserves Manager: Rob Free



Hop off the Press ARC News.


In the field - Overseas Cloudy with a chance of herps.


Science & Research Amphibian Disease. New species discovered! The Jersey or Western common toad (Bufo spinosus).

10 Feature Woolmer natterjack day/ Friends’ Day 2014.

12 Flintshire Sand lizard re-introduction on the North Wales coastline.

13 Dorset Melanistic Smooth snake.

14 Amphibian & Reptile Groups The Cyril Diver Project at Studland Peninsula. Training with the Jersey ARG.

15 Volunteers Volunteering opportunities.

16 Species Profile Western or Jersey common toad (Bufo spinosus).

17 Young Supporters Success and adventure for Dominik’s Wildlife Fund! Scotland’s youngest herpetologist?

18 Tail Enders Easy origami jumping frog!

If you would like to contribute to the next edition please contact Angela Reynolds at angela.reynolds@arc-trust.org

Cover image: Scrub bashing at Woolmer Forest © Angela Reynolds. Hop Gossip is edited and designed by Angela Reynolds. Please note: the views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of Amphibian & Reptile Conservation but those of the authors. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is a Registered Charity. England & Wales Charity number. 1130188. Scotland Charity number. SC044097

From the Editors desk Welcome to the latest edition of Hop Gossip! Well, what a year we have had! Highlights for me included the Friends’ Day we had back in September. Almost 60 people attended with gloves and loppers in hand and got stuck in to cutting back huge amounts of young birch. The results were impressive and I’m sure the Woolmer Forest natterjacks appreciated the hard work everyone put in! Read the story in the centre pages. The Herpetofauna Workers Meeting always keeps me very busy! Held in Newcastle earlier this year, it was well attended with the usual great mix of presentations, workshops and Gala Dinner evening. We have some new additions to the ARC family. Thom Starnes joined us in August to take on the post of GIS and Data Officer and has had lots of fun with a recent LiDAR project! John Buckley has taken semi retirement, and over the next two and a half years will be passing on his knowledge to Yvette Martin who joins the team in April as our new Amphibian Conservation Officer. Ben Limburn has a new job title and Liam Russell has taken on the role of Research Officer. Funding successes from the Big Lottery Fund and The New Forest National Park Authority and Forestry Commission, has enabled us to start three new projects this year, two in Wales and one in Hampshire. You can read about them in our news pages. Take a look at Tail-Enders and have a go at making our origami frog, it’s lots of fun! Finally, I’d like to wish you all a herpy spring and summer. Don’t forget to record your sightings in the newly relaunched Record Pool! With best wishes,

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

C.E.O.’s Corner Dr Tony Gent “Eye of newt and toe of frog….”. A line familiar to many of us, but not through our herpetological training. It comes, of course, from William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. Uttered by the three ugly witches as they stirred a boiling cauldron, it is perhaps one of the most familiar passages in English literature and perhaps also the best known phrase associated with traditional witchcraft. This passage is interesting for other reasons. As the witches work through their spell, they add “fillet of a fenny snake” (grass snake), an “adder’s fork and a blind-worm’s (slow-worm) sting” shortly followed by a “lizard’s leg”. The poisoned entrails of a venomous toad had already found their way into the “charmed pot”. Given that smooth snakes weren’t discovered in the UK until the 1850s and ‘lizards’ and ‘newts’ would have been difficulty to separate to species level, then it appears that Shakespeare added the entire known British herpetofauna into the evil cauldron. Although we can’t reliably use this information to provide a confirmed Scottish record for grass snakes (even if we could definitively locate the ‘heath’ in question), it does firmly place all of our amphibians and reptiles firmly in the ’something unpleasant’ category in the minds of the theatre going public! Another interesting observation is that the witches were using these animals to help develop their predictive skill and power. Winding the clock forward some 400 years we’re increasingly using science and technology to ‘predict’ the presence of amphibians and reptiles and, thereby help conserve them. In particular, we are looking to ‘predict’ where our different species of reptiles and amphibians will be found by using a range of environmental, climatic and habitat related measures and seeing how these correlate with actual observations of the species. You’ll be pleased to hear that the technology we’re using is different; the old cauldron has been replaced by computers, an increasing amount of quality accessible environmental information and computer modelling programs are providing scope for ever more accurate and reliable models. Not only can these techniques help us understand distributions, they can also inform us of the impacts, of for example a road or building interrupting a migration path. Accurate ‘remote sensing’ data, collected by satellite or by small drones, allows us to see vegetation heights and structures – features that are known to influence herpetofauna habitat use. Not only can this be completed in great detail, it also allows large areas of land to be covered quickly. We are, though, aware that it is early days and highly conscious that errors can get built into models. We see this as a process that will always need to be supported by a programme of field work. But for those who are concerned that this is just modern day ‘hocus pocus’, it may be some comfort that we are in fact only mimicking what naturalists have been doing for years. In order to help plan their amphibian survey work, they would consult a map, look to find ponds, select those with the right soils and geology, and often target those near known populations. For reptiles, the aspect and slope of the ground is important. All we are doing is training a computer to do this work for us. From my perspective, and doing a bit of crystal ball gazing of my own, I think this is going to be a valuable set of tools for the future and it is great that ARC is taking the initiative to see how we might develop them to help conserve amphibians and reptiles in the UK and abroad. 3

Putting Amphibian & Reptile Conservation on the map By Thom Starnes - GIS & Data Officer I started working for ARC in the Boscombe office last August having recently graduated with a degree in Environmental Science from Plymouth University. I’ve already made some great working relationships and learned a lot about the conservation of British amphibians and reptiles. In my role as GIS and Data Officer I am primarily responsible for maps used and produced by ARC in our line of work. GIS, short for Geographic Information Systems, is a ubiquitous facet of environmental science and conservation and the discipline is rapidly developing. GIS allows us to analyse the whereabouts of wildlife based on species records, citizen science projects and environmental data collected by government and space agencies. Then there are the many applications of GIS such as coordinating field surveys, determining habitat suitability for translocations and monitoring population trends to name but a few. Since beginning the job I’ve been working on several projects involving all sorts of interesting exercises from counting biological records within national parks to using remotely sensed LiDAR data to identify potential newt breeding ponds. Every day I travel all around the country from the comfort of my desktop through the medium of maps. It’s always great to get outside and back in December our Dorset Field Officer Rick Sharp took me on a tour of some of our reserves. Luckily the sun was shining on us! In this line of work it’s useful to have a basic understanding of maths, geometry and computer logic, as well as ecology and environmental processes. This is what makes working in GIS for a conservation NGO so interesting. So much of the work that I do relies on species records sent in by Friends of ARC and our many volunteers. The more precise the location, the more useful that record becomes for conservation. So thank you and please, continue sending in your records for the benefit of amphibians and reptiles nationwide! Don’t forget you can record your sightings at www.recordpool.org.uk.

SNAKES ALIVE! New Funding for New Forest Survey! By Ben Limburn - New Forest Smooth Snake Survey Project Officer The New Forest is well known as a national stronghold for reptiles; it is the largest unspoilt tract of lowland heathland in the UK and home to specialist heathland species such as the smooth snake and sand lizard. Last year, a steering group called New Forest Amphibian & Reptile Monitoring & Survey Group (NF-ARMS) was set up with the aim of recording and monitoring all reptiles and amphibians in the New Forest. In conjunction with the NF-ARMS partnership, ARC has recently been awarded funding from the New Forest Sustainable Communities Fund (New Forest National Park Authority) and Forestry Commission to oversee the implementation of the New Forest Smooth Snake Survey project. By carrying out targeted surveys in areas where the species has not previously been recorded, the project aims to increase knowledge of smooth snake distribution in the New Forest National Park. The project will engage volunteers to look for the species (and other reptiles) within areas of the New Forest that haven’t previously been surveyed. Due to the cryptic nature of the species, the only realistic way to determine its presence on a given site is to use ‘artificial refugia’ – placing materials, such as roofing ounduline, in the snakes’ habitat, which are warmed by the sun and so encourage the animals to bask underneath. Many key stakeholders are involved in the project, including land owners, land managers, conservation organisations, volunteer groups and interested individuals. The project also aims to promote awareness of the smooth snake and all our native reptile species through the media and local events. In building close relationships and collaboration with all stakeholders, the project will benefit the conservation of not only reptile species, but all species affected by land management regimes in the New Forest National Park.


If you would like more information or to get involved please contact ben.limburn@arc-trust.org. Photo above: Smooth snake, right: Ben surveying © Ben Limburm.

Diolch yn fawr Big Lottery Fund!

ARG UK and ARC would like to announce the launch the revamped Record Pool! The Record Pool is an online recording tool. It collects information on reptiles and amphibians in the UK and makes it available, locally and nationally, for conservation purposes. The Record Pool is a collaboration between Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK. It is not designed to replace existing recording mechanisms, but rather to capture data that would otherwise be lost to the conservation community. Our online recording forms make it easy to report your sightings using your computer, tablet or phone. The Record Pool has been specifically designed to meet the needs of the herp conservation community. It now includes great new features such as mapping, data downloads and verification by local experts. For scientists and professional ecologists, there is an innovative “embargo” function to delay public access to your records. To find out more and to enter your records, visit www.recordpool.org.uk

The project aims to re-engage the people of South Wales with the natural environment, providing them with opportunities to make a positive difference to the declining wildlife on their doorstep. These new experiences will encourage outdoor exercise, improve mental wellbeing and provide skills to help communities to live healthier happier lives in harmony with the natural world. This will include amphibian and reptile surveying and monitoring, improving their local patch for wildlife and working with nature to grow food for communities. The grant, over three years, will fund two full-time posts of Habitat and Species Officer, purchase of a vehicle to transport equipment and volunteers to tasks, staff and volunteer expenses, training, marketing and monitoring & evaluation costs as well as equipment and lots of habitat creation and restoration! ARC will build on our experience from other recent projects in Wales to ensure the Dragonscape remains a place where local communities can engage with biodiversity for generations to come!

Hop off the Press!

Revamped Record Pool goes live!

ARC are delighted to announce that our forthcoming “Dragonscapes” project – involving local communities in habitat creation and restoration, and monitoring of amphibians and reptiles across South Wales – has received support totalling £249,935 from the Big Lottery Fund People and Places grant scheme.

Thanks Iolo! By Pete Hill - South Wales Habitat Creation Officer A big thank you to Iolo Williams who got up at 4am on a cold January morning and travelled through snow and ice so that we could be at a school in the south Valleys for 8.20am! Iolo is passionate about two things; effecting positive change for wildlife and enthusing and inspiring the next generation. Well, that day he did both, and helped sew the seeds of positive attitude change towards adders where it is very much needed. Top man! Photo © Pete Hill.


In the field - Overseas Cloudy with a chance of Herps! By Gary Powell - Senior Reserves Manager In May 2014 I joined up with my Project Chicchan colleagues Rowland Griffin and Bruce Edley, to carry out a rapid herpetofaunal assessment of an area of cloud forest in the Central Highlands of Guatemala. The area consists of a mix of cloud forest and pine-oak forest; habitat that at this relatively low elevation (c 1500 metres above sea level) is considered highly threatened due to increased human encroachment and pressure compared to cloud forest at higher elevations.

In the field - Overseas

The signs were good right from the start – the very first log we looked under, not far from our rooms, housed a salamander, Bolitoglossa mulleri as well as a red-backed coffee snake Ninia sebae! Before our brief stay was up we had found a total of 21 species including a number of anurans (amphibians characterised by the absence of a tail) that are endemic and classed as Critical by the IUCN. Many of the frogs were juveniles; and very difficult to identify! Long hours were spent looking through an eyeglass while using dichotomous keys (detailed professional identification guides). Some of these species (for example Plectrohyla quecchi) only reach a maximum adult size of less than 50mm, while the specimens we had were between 10-20 mm – making it tricky to assess features such as ‘extent of webbing’ and comparison of toe length!


Some spectacular animals turned up in the camp itself (the site of an old Mayan city); the stunning emerald spiny lizard (Sceloporus taeniocnemis), a very large milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) and a blunt -headed tree snake (Imantodes cenchoa) – the two snakes being found in the building site of the new facilities that are being constructed. Our big success story was the discovery of the Critically Endangered Morelet’s tree frog (Agalychnis moreletii). We found this on the last night when checking an old outdoor sink that we had found during the day! The sink, full of water, had vegetation behind it and hanging over it and looked like a possible site for egg deposition. Sure enough, when checking it we found the distinctive, vertical tadpoles of Agalychnis hanging vertically in the water and an egg mass on some leaves. Shortly after this we heard some calling and then found two frogs close by! There is the potential to enhance some other areas nearby to increase the available habitat for this species. We had one more treat to come, as we waited, bags packed,

to leave the site – a beautiful speckled racer (Drymobius margaritiferus) was found just outside our rooms! With the appearance of my favourite snake as a leaving present we left for the next stage of our trip as very happy herpers! It was obvious from our few days that the cloud forest, a truly majestic and inspiring place in itself, has a lot more to be discovered and requires a lot more survey effort to fully describe the assemblage of species present; and in particular for the various stream breeding amphibians to be assessed in light of the disease threat to species with similar ecologies in other parts of Central America. For more information see: www.project-chicchan.co.uk For information on future expeditions contact: rowland@project-chicchan.co.uk Photos page left: Top - Bolitoglossa mulleri, middle Plectrohyla quecchi, bottom - Ninia sebae © Rowland Griffin. This page: Top right - Lampropeltis Triangulum, top left Imantodes cenchoa © Gary Powell. Middle left Plectrohyla cf. pokomchi, middle right - Drymobius margaritiferus, bottom left - Agalychnis moreletii © Rowland Griffin. Bottom right - Sceloporus taeniocnemis © Gary Powell.


Science & Research Amphibian Disease By Jim Foster - Conservation Director Research in the Netherlands has identified a new amphibian disease. ARC’s Conservation Director, Jim Foster, asks if we’re suitably prepared. In 2013 scientists in the Netherlands reported a 96% decline in fire salamanders. The culprit is a newly described fungus, with the catchy scientific name Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (helpfully abbreviated to B sal). The species name is apt: it literally means “devourer of newts”, and that is pretty much what the fungus does. Infected salamanders and newts can develop noticeable skin ulcers, and some species die within weeks. Research published in October 2014 caused a stir among conservationists and the media. Here the scientists showed that B sal is most likely newly introduced to Europe via the amphibian pet trade. They found that the fungus has little effect on Asian newts, but that it is harmful and sometimes lethal to European and North American species. This latest research was especially worrying for us because it showed that the great crested newt was highly susceptible: all infected animals died. No one has yet found the fungus here in Britain. So, you might ask, what is ARC doing about all this? We have good links with the scientists, and well before the research was published we were urging the government to prepare a plan of action. Then on 9 December 2014 we participated in a meeting at the Zoological Society of London to discuss the threat. There, we set out the case for trying to prevent the fungus getting here, largely through better control of pet movements. We also stated that there should be better surveillance, a rapid response protocol, biosecurity, awareness-raising, and joining up of policy on introduced species and disease. Tests on our native species have all been in the laboratory, and it is feasible that in the wild the effects would be much less worrying. However, we think it’s better to take some precautions whilst the threat is investigated further.

Science & Research

Photo: A great crested newt is swabbed to test for fungal infection. © Jim Foster.


Science & Research New species discovered! The Jersey or Western Common Toad (Bufo spinosus) By Dr John Wilkinson - Science Programme Manager It’s long been known that Jersey toads grow to an impressive size – this was previously thought to be because of the relatively long, warm activity season in Jersey. We now know, though, that Jersey toads are an entirely different species than common toads found in mainland Britain. Whilst working with colleagues in the Netherlands and Portugal, and conservationists from Jersey, we found that the Jersey species split from Bufo bufo around nine million years ago with the formation of the Pyrenees, after which their ancestors were isolated in the Iberian Peninsula. During subsequent millennia they have gradually spread north, through western France as far as Jersey, and south into North Africa too. So, the toads of Algeria and the Algarve also belong to the “new” species Bufo spinosus! The colour and pattern of British and Jersey toads are both very similar. The Jersey species can grow much larger though, irrespective of where they come from (I found a 123 mm female toad in Jersey during some previous Photo: The Western common toad (Bufo spinosus) now research!). Large Jersey toads can recognised as an entirely new species © Dr John Wilkinson. also appear very rough skinned, similar to Mediterranean animals. The two species can be distinguished by the size and shape of their metatarsal tubercles (one or more small (usually rounded) lumps at the base of the foot on their hind feet) and, more obviously, the angle of their parotoid glands (raised lump behind the eye). The two species are, however, genetically very different and have different ecologies. Common toads in Britain prefer to breed in large water bodies surrounded by woodland. As well as using small ponds, Jersey toads live mainly in urban areas where they can find garden ponds, and on the dunes and maritime heathlands of Jersey’s west coast. These much more open habitats are very cold and exposed during winter, and often hot and dry in summer. Nevertheless, radio tracking of the Jersey species has shown that they spend most of the year fairly near their heathland breeding ponds, sheltering in rabbit and rodent burrows from the sometimes extreme conditions. British toads usually breed a few weeks after frogs in March or April, whereas Jersey toads regularly breed in January! It seems they have evolved to utilize the small, temporary (and garden) ponds in Jersey that often dry up over the summer. Tadpoles can take several weeks to hatch in cold winter temperatures and metamorphosis occurs in early summer before the ponds dry up. As with common toads, Jersey animals will inflate themselves with air and rise up on their legs if threatened by a predator. One of their main predators in Jersey would have been the grass snake – but Jersey snakes are now extremely rare and are themselves being studied by a student from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, supervised by ARC Trustee Prof Richard Griffiths. Other toad predators in Jersey include herons and marsh harriers. The toads themselves consume a variety of invertebrates, especially hard-bodied ones such as ants and beetles, and can learn to exploit garden ants’ nests, emerging during daylight to feed on summer days when flying ants are leaving their nest.


Feature Woolmer natterjack day/ Friends’ Day 2014 By Claire Buckley & John Buckley - Assistant Amphibian Conservation Officer September saw an encouraging turnout for the annual scrub bash at Woolmer Forest and Friends Day. As part of ARC’s 25 year celebrations, for the first time, ARC Friends joined forces with South Downs National Park volunteers, ARC volunteers, staff, family and personal friends, everyone keen to help the habitat of southern England’s only native natterjack colony. Up until 2008 our target area had consisted mostly of pine trees. Then, cleared by Defence Estates, the area began to slowly recover. By 2011 heathers started to regrow and we set ourselves the task of removing small birch. There was plenty of it to tackle this year with bow saws and loppers and the c.60 strong work party got stuck right in! We cut and dragged and burned scrub until lunchtime when, because of very dry conditions, we decided to stack instead of burn. The rest of the material was burned on site in early November. It proved to be a good event for all ages with plenty of time to relax in the garden of Sheridan’s Cottage,

Woolmer natterjack—ask JB


chat over lunch and find interesting species to examine: Jonty Denton caught some water beetles including the spangled water beetle Graphoderus zonatus; Carrie Glanville found a specimen of strawberry spider Araneus alsine; and some of us, of course, uncovered the occasional natterjack toad!




Photos page left: Top right - Strawberry spider (Araneus alsine) © Chris Dresh. Middle left - a Woolmer natterjack © ARC. Middle right - Scrub bashing © Jim Foster. Bottom - The work party © John Buckley. This page: top left - photo call! Top right - Spangled water beetle (Graphoderus zonatus), Middle right & left Before and after © John Buckley.


Flintshire Sand lizard re-introduction on the North Wales coastline By Mandy Cartwright - Flintshire Countryside Ranger In my role as ARC / Flintshire Ranger I get involved in herp projects throughout the Flintshire County such as improving ponds for great crested newts and natterjack toad and sand lizard re-introduction projects. The sand lizard project is something I was involved with prior to joining ARC and its a project very close to my heart. In September 2014, 74 juvenile sand lizards were released into prime habitat in the Talacre sand dune system. The re-introduction was the second batch of young lizards to be released as part of a three year re-introduction programme, the third of its kind in North East Wales with two other sites in Flintshire and Denbighshire. In the UK sand lizards live in two rare habitats; sand-dune and lowland dry heath. Due to vast historic losses, and fragmentation of these habitats via development and land use change, the species has become extinct in much of its previous range including North Wales. Native populations now only remain in Merseyside, Surrey and Dorset although even here losses of over 90% have occurred. Due to their rarity, sand lizards are listed as a European protected species and a priority species for conservation, which means they are highly protected.


A local partnership project has been addressing aims locally. The existing sites have been part of an intense monitoring programme for the last seven years led by Denbighshire and Flintshire biodiversity officers, local reptile expert Mick Brummage and supported by a team of dedicated volunteers, ARC and local businesses. Each year volunteers have attended training and then joined licenced surveyors out in the field through the survey season between April and October. Once volunteers have gained enough experience they are added to our list of accredited surveyors.


Because of the limited range of the populations there has been concern that our existing populations have been threatened, particularly by dune fires. A further reintroduction was seen as an opportunity to safeguard our populations in North East Wales into the future. The juvenile lizards that are released are bred by private breeders; Ray Lynch, John Newton, Paul Hudson and locally at Chester Zoo. The captive breeding stocks originate from Merseyside dune populations and undergo a comprehensive health screening prior to release. It is hoped that this new population will colonise the dune system and eventually join with existing populations from previous releases. If you would like to get involved with our ongoing local monitoring programme then contact Biodiversity Officers Lizzy Webster or Sarah Slater elizabeth.webster@denbighshire.gov.uk, sarah.slater@flintshire.gov.uk If you want to get involved in amphibian and /or reptile conservation in North Wales contact Mandy Cartwright at Photo top left: Mandy’s van. Above: Releasing sand mandy.cartwright@arc-trust.org lizards Š Mandy Cartwright (ARC).

Dorset Melanistic smooth snake By Stuart Woodley - ARC Volunteer Melanism is an occurrence whereby an animal is uncharacteristically dark in colouration. In reptiles this is not an unusual occurrence, and an individual can appear totally black, or in some cases some patterning can still be slightly visible. Melanistic forms are known from all the UK’s reptile species. Of all our reptiles, melanism is most frequent in adders and is not unusual in common lizards, whereas it is very rare in sand lizards. There are only two published records of melanistic smooth snakes from the UK, and there are only a handful of published records from Europe. The most recent UK record concerns two specimens (both male), seen in Dorset in 2004, which was subsequently published in Acta Herpetologica by Angelo Pernetta and Chris Reading in 2009. This lack of records suggests melanism in smooth snakes is rare, although it should be noted that smooth snakes are themselves quite a rarity and their behaviour is famously cryptic.

In the UK, the smooth snake inhabits the lowland heaths of England. As any good herpetologist will know, finding a smooth snake in the open is a difficult art, so artificial refugia are often employed to gauge presence. I discovered this smooth snake (pictured) under a corrugated metal refuge on a lowland heathland site in Dorset managed by ARC, whilst undertaking fieldwork. It was a sunny and warm day at about midday in early June 2014. The local habitat was dry heath, consisting of ling, bell heather and dwarf gorse. This particular individual, a female, was first seen on site by ARC’s Reserves Manager Gary Powell in April 2014. This smooth snake record is from a different site to the two sightings published by Pernetta and Reading and it would be very interesting to Photo top right: Stuart with a smooth snake © see if any further records come up as Stuart Woodley. I continue to monitor the site in the Bottom: The melanistic smooth snake as spotted by future. Gary Powell and later by Stuart © Gary Powell.


Melanism has a thermoregulatory benefit as melanistic individuals can absorb the sun’s energy more effectively, equating to quicker heating in cold conditions. Melanistic animals can be active on days that would be too cool for those that are normally coloured and, unsurprisingly, it is known that melanistic reptiles (and amphibians) are more likely to be found in species’ northern ranges, where the weather is often more variable and the climate cooler. Indeed, this means that gravid (pregnant) female melanistic snakes can therefore spend less time basking. Conversely, melanism can be disadvantageous as it makes animals more conspicuous to predators.


Amphibian & Reptile Groups The Cyril Diver Project at Studland Peninsula By Nick Moulton - Reptile Conservation Officer The National Trust, working with ARC, other professional ecologists and local volunteers are carrying out an in depth ecological survey of the Studland peninsula as part of the three year Cyril Diver Project. These findings will be compared with Cyril Diver´s pioneering work from the 1930s to build a picture of how things have changed over time. An important part of the project is reptile monitoring. Early this year ARC and Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN) assisted the National Trust with training of local volunteers and set in place several areas and dune ridges to be monitored on a weekly basis. The findings from the reptile monitoring are being used to investigate the species composition across the different aged ridges and habitat types, allowing comparison to the original Photo: ARC’s Nick Moulton checking under a 1930’s data. tin for reptiles © David Brown (National Trust.) Although the majority of the transect monitoring is being done by trained and licensed National Trust volunteers, ARC have additionally assisted with a repeat 6 year cycle of monitoring on both Studland & Godlingston NNR to look at habitat condition and species range and status. All of this data also feeds into the Project.


To find your local ARG visit www.arguk.org/local-groups

Amphibian & Reptile Groups

All the UK reptile species were found in 2014 and these sites are exceptional (compared to national levels) for both sand lizards and smooth snakes. In June ARC and National Trust carried out additional training for mapping sand lizard “test” egg-burrows. Over 180 burrows were recorded, again showing exceptional levels. Further research is being carried out to discover where the eggs were finally laid. This excellent partnership will continue into 2015 when we will continue reptile monitoring and hope to create a similar scheme for amphibians. If you would like to find out more about the Cyril Diver Project visit the National Trust website or follow on Facebook www.facebook.com/CyrilDiverProject.

Training with the Jersey ARG By Angela Reynolds - Hop Gossip Editor In February, ARC staff Dr John Wilkinson, John Buckley and Pete Hill travelled over to Jersey to do some amphibian and reptile NARRS training with an enthusiastic group of volunteers. The States of Jersey Environment Department has recruited around 40 volunteers to survey the island in order to better protect its rare species. Many scientists consider loss of suitable habitat to be the largest single factor contributing to the drop in amphibian numbers. This can be caused by development, pollution incidents, invasive plants and animals, and more extreme weather. The weekend was spent looking at how the habitat is measured and practising pond dipping techniques, so that when surveys happen for real in the spring time, volunteers can recognise the kinds of places to look for toad spawn and can survey with nets. With better data, intervention can take place by doing conservation management or putting in conservation measures in the wild where it’s needed.

Photo: Dr John Wilkinson demonstrating netting techniques. © Pete Hill

Volunteers Volunteering opportunities By Richard Sharp - Dorset Field & Health & Safety Officer/ Volunteer Coordinator Volunteers at ARC can get involved in every aspect of our work and operations and are greatly valued by the Trust. From administration to events, habitat management to surveying there is something for everyone. The main activity our volunteers can get involved in is reserve management with weekday and weekend tasks running in Dorset and Surrey. Habitat management work directly benefits reptiles and amphibians on our sites and it’s a great way to get out and explore your local area and meet likeminded people. Tea, biscuits and tools are all provided and a bonfire to warm yourselves around at lunch time; you just need to turn up and get cracking!

Photo top right: Surrey volunteers © ARC, bottom: Dorset volunteers © Richard Sharp.

All the volunteering information you need is on our website at www.arc-trust.org/get-involved/ volunteering. Alternatively call Richard Sharp (Dorset) on 07810 770565 or Robin Bassett (Surrey) 07810 770566 Surveying is always a popular activity and we have specific projects that local experienced volunteers can get involved with. With training, volunteers can set up their own surveys in a local area through NARRS (National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme) supplying ARC with valuable national long term data allowing us to plot long term population trends in reptiles and amphibians. For more information visit www.narrs.org.uk.


Every year ARC has opportunities for school and university students to undertake short term placements which usually involve activities shadowing members of staff. Recently however, we have introduced longer term Internships generated by ARC or the volunteers themselves. Internships are for specific projects and are managed alongside staff. Our first has just been completed by Kat Green; quantifying habitat assessment methods for sand lizards. Please get in touch if you have any ideas for projects.


Species Profile Western common toad (Bufo spinosus) Habitat  Live mainly in urban areas where they can find garden ponds.  Dunes and maritime heathlands of Jersey’s west coast.  Spend most of the year fairly near their breeding ponds.  Shelter in rabbit and rodent burrows from extreme weather conditions.

Species Profile

Behaviour  Inflate themselves with air and rise up on their legs if threatened by a predator.  Eat a variety of invertebrates including hard bodied ones such as beetles.  Can learn to exploit garden ant nests in summer Appearance/ colour by coming out in daylight to capture flying ants  Very similar colours and markings to leaving their nest. the common toad found in Britain.  Jersey toads can grow much bigger than the common toad. Average female common toad measures 7090mm, and on Jersey, western common toads have been found measuring 123mm.  Metamorphosis from a tadpole to a toadlet takes place in early summer before temporary ponds dry up.  Larger toads can appear to be very rough skinned, similar to Mediterranean animals.


Photos: Top left - close up of Jersey toad showing divergent paratoid glands. Top right toad spawn. Middle - Both Bufo species are significantly similar. Bottom right - Mating occurs in very early spring. © Dr John Wilkinson.

Breeding  Regularly breed in January.  Garden ponds, even very small ones, are used frequently.  The female lays two strings of spawn which they wrap around aquatic vegetation.  Tadpoles can take several weeks to hatch in cold winter temperatures.

Young Supporters Success and adventure for Dominik's Wildlife Fund! By Angela Reynolds - Hop Gossip Editor Our regular readers of Hop Gossip will already be familiar with Dominik Reynolds and the hard work he does raising awareness on conservation issues and fundraising for worthy causes. From the moment I met him as a 12 year old boy in 2012 he has continued to impress me with his knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for animals. In the Autumn, Dominik’s Wildlife Fund brought to an end the second year of fundraising for ARC and the RSPB. Dom and his mum Kerry ran a series of events including a barn dance, football stadium trek and a Karate Club Forest Fun Day. The Wildlife Fund raised a very commendable £400.00 for both ARC and the RSPB and Dom was itching to present us with a massive cheque (See below) which takes pride of place in the Bournemouth office foyer! Perhaps the most exciting way to end last year though, was to win the Daily Mirror/ RSPCA Animal Hero Award for Young Animal Enthusiast 2014! We can’t thank Dom enough and behind every successful man is a good woman (I think that’s how the saying goes anyway!) and Kerry surely gets the prize for most dedicated and supportive Mum. They make a great team and I hope to remain friends with them for a long time to come. I’m sure that we will work on many things together in the future.

Scotland’s youngest herpetologist? By Dr Pete Minting - Scottish Project Officer Cally Ullman-Smith (11), possibly Scotland’s youngest herpetologist, had a very busy 2014. He has been collecting data on the salinity of brackish ponds used by palmate newts. Cally has found palmate newts breeding in several ponds on the shores of Scottish sea lochs. He has previously published a report on this in The Highland Naturalist (May 2012, No.8, p7-8). This year he is continuing to take conductivity readings to try and establish the levels of salinity that can be tolerated by this species. Nice work Cally! We would be interested to hear more about what you find out.

Young Supporters

Photo top right: Dominik & Kerry at the Animal Hero Awards, left: Dominik presenting ARC with a cheque for the money he raised with Dominik’s Wildlife Fund © Kerry Reynolds.

Cally’s mum Janet also runs the Highland Seashore Project. To find out more, see: www.highlandbiodiversity.com/seashore.asp Photo: Cally surveying a pond near Kyle of Lochalsh. © Janet Ulman-Smith.


Tail-Enders Easy origami jumping frog! TAIL-ENDERS 1. Take an A4 piece of paper and fold the top corners down.

A wonderfully fun activity that everyone can take part in. Get your friends round, get folding and have a race! You could even decorate them with go faster stripes! 2. Turn the sheet of paper over and fold the top part of the paper down through the middle of your cross.

3. Turn the paper over again and flatten the folds as shown in the picture to make a triangular flap.


6. Fold the bottom corners up to make the back legs.


4. Fold the bottom corners of the triangle upwards as pictured.

5. Fold the sides in to the centre.

7. Fold in half bringing the bottom to the top leaving the nose and front legs poking out of the top.

8. Fold the top flap back to reveal the feet. Pop it the right way up and you’re ready to go!

Your finished frog! Tap here

Tail-Enders There are many ways you can help us to help amphibians and reptiles up and down the country. You can make purchases through our shop www.arc-trust.org/support-us/shop or raise money using one of the methods below.

Join us as a volunteer. For more information on volunteering see page 15 or visit our website www.arc-trust.org/get-involved/volunteering.

Hold a fundraising dress-down day at work or install a naughty box and drop in a coin whenever you have been naughty! You and your friends could organise a sponsored swim or bike ride. It’s a great way to get exercise and fresh air, raise awareness and give you a warm glow inside! We are running a Jewellery Recycling Collection scheme via Recycling for Good Causes. If you have unwanted or broken jewellery just get in touch and we will send you a recycling envelope. Everything you send is turned in to cash for ARC. GiveACar is a social enterprise that raises money for charity by accepting donations of old cars. If you have an old car that you don’t want, just give GiveACar a call. Every car has a value, whether it’s roadworthy or only good for scrap. They take your details, arrange the collection, send round a tow truck, either scrap the car or sell it at auction, and make a donation to the charity of your choice. It’s a free service and it’s that simple – they do all the work for you. Don’t forget to use the revamped Record Pool to record your amphibian & reptile sightings. Find out more at www.recordpool.org.uk


Did you spot the basking reptile in the last issue?


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.

To find out more or to support Amphibian and Reptile Conservation contact: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 655A Christchurch Road Boscombe Bournemouth Dorset BH1 4AP Tel: 01202 391319 Fax: 01202 392785 Email: 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 £15 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! Spring/Summer 2015  

HopGossip! Spring/Summer 2015  

Profile for arc-trust

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