HopGossip! Spring/Summer 2017 In this issueâ€Ś Ticked Off! Pool Frog Health Checks Dragons in your Garden & Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science!
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 Why is bare ground creation important on heathland?
In the Field Caught in the net. Ticked Off!
10 Focus on Amphibians Pool frog health checks.
11 Adventures with ARC Staff Walking in Durrell’s footsteps.
12 North Wales Amphibian and Reptile Master Class.
Telephone 01202 391319 Email email@example.com
14 Dragons in the Garden
Patrons: Earl of Malmesbury Chris Packham Iolo Williams Chair of Trustees: Jonathan Webster Chief Executive Officer: Dr Tony Gent Conservation Director: Jim Foster
Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science! Reptiles and amphibians of a village in Somerset.
16 Projects Sssuper news for Snakes in the Heather!
17 Overseas Reptile Amphibian Conservation Europe
Administration & Finance Manager: Helen Wraight (RACE): a new European foundation is Administrative Support Officer: Angela Reynolds established. Amphibian Conservation Officer: Yvette Martin 18 Species Profile Amphibian Conservation Officer (part time): John Buckley Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca). BLF Dragonscapes Habitat Officer: Peter Hill BLF Dragonscapes Species Officer: Mark Barber 19 Tail Enders Communications & Outreach Manager (part time): Dr Angie Julian What’s under the tin? Cumbria Natterjack Officer (part time): Ruth Popely Answers from the last issue. Database & GIS Officer: Arne Loth Dorset Field Officer: Richie Johnson If you would like to contribute to the Dorset Field Officer: James Anderson-Barr next edition please contact Angela Dorset Field Officer/Health & Safety Officer: Richard Sharp Reynolds at Friendship & E-Communications Officer (part time): Kim Boughey firstname.lastname@example.org. Fundraiser (part time consultant): Atul Srivastava GCN Conservation Officer/Species Coordinator: Dorothy Driver Cover image: Grass snake © GCN Detectives Project Officer: Dr Pete Minting Jim Foster. Gems in the Dunes Project Manager: Fiona Sunners Gems in the Dunes Project Officer: Andrew Hampson Hop Gossip is edited and New Forest Smooth Snake Survey Project Officer (part time): Ray Hamilton designed by Angela Reynolds. North Wales Officer: Mandy Cartwright Reptile Conservation Officer: Nick Moulton Regional, Training & Science Programmes Manager: Dr John Wilkinson Please note: the views Seasonal Field Officers: Bryony Davison, William Emmett-Mair, Stuart expressed in this newsletter are Handyside, Michael Jones, Paul Kitchen & Matthew Lockley not necessarily the views of Senior Dorset Field Officer: Chris Dresh Amphibian & Reptile Senior Reserves Manager: Gary Powell Conservation but those of the Snakes in the Heather Development Officer: Ben Limburn authors. Species Programme Manager: Dr Karen Haysom Wealden Field Officer (part time): John Gaughan Amphibian and Reptile Wealden Field Officer: Ralph Connelly Conservation is a Registered Wealden Field Officer & Volunteer Coordinator: Robin Bassett Charity. Wealden Reserves Manager: Rob Free England & Wales Charity number. 1130188. Scotland Charity number. 2 SC044097
From the Editor’s desk Welcome to the latest edition of Hop Gossip! We have a packed newsletter for you this summer and lots to tell you about! It has been great getting to know new members of the ARC team as we continue to expand. Back in June, staff and Trustees got together at our Surrey Office, to hear about all of the work we have been doing up and down the country. This was followed by a trip to one of the reserves we manage to spot some beasties! We don’t get to see a lot of each other, being so spread out, and it was a day I really enjoyed! A new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in May 2018, which means we will need ‘proactive’ consent from you in order to send you information. A basic version of the opt-in form is on our website at: www.arctrust/org/hopt-in or fill in the enclosed form and post back to us at the Bournemouth Office. Over the next few months we may need to request more detailed opt-in information in order to continue communicating with you in ways that are compliant with the new regulations. We want to ensure that we communicate with you using the channels that you prefer, and with the information that you wish to receive. Please look out for any further opt-in requests, let us know your preferences, and whenever prompted please remember to ‘H’Opt-In!’ I hope you are all having a great summer getting out and about, between rain showers, to see some of our great British wildlife! Be sure to let us know if you have any reptile or amphibian encounters through the Record Pool! www.recordpool.org.uk
Angela Reynolds Hop Gossip Editor email@example.com
C.E.O.’s Corner Dr Tony Gent Yesterday evening I was speaking to ARC’s Chairman and Senior Reserves Manger. They’d been out on some of our Dorset nature reserves all day but reported seeing no reptile species – it was just too hot. Such are the vagaries of the British weather and the dependency on it for seeing reptiles. So, it was with a little anticipation earlier in the year that I suggested to a fellow conservationist whose grandson had just become an ARC Friend, that we’d book a day to visit one of ARC’s nature reserves and set ourselves the challenge of seeing all the British species of reptile! They had to travel some distance, so the day had to be booked in advance. A prolonged spell of wet weather meant we cancelled the first attempt in April and penned a date in late May and agreed to go for it whatever. On the day of the visit the sky was filled with a light cloud and there was a strong probability of rain around lunch time. Possible, but unpredictable, conditions for looking for reptiles. It seemed to take a long while, but we managed to catch a glimpse of an adder. Then slowly, one by one, and as a result of a fair bit of walking, we managed to see all six species. Despite being avid reptile watchers, this provided most of the family with their first ever sightings of sand lizards and smooth snakes – those heathland species that just don’t occur in their patch and have a habit of hiding out of sight even where they are found. As promised, the rain appeared – but only while having an excellent pub lunch – and the sun soon came out again sufficiently to allow us to set a further challenge of finding the two non-native species of lizard found on the Bournemouth cliffs. This we managed – with the younger team members quickly spotting a superb, emerald-coloured male green lizard and their father locating a wall lizard that was just peeking out of a hole in a sandy cliff. These non-native lizards present us with something of a dilemma; they are undoubtedly beautiful and naturally occur as nearby as Jersey and France and, on the day, provided us with a few more species to add to our ‘reptile list’. But they have almost certainly impacted significantly on our native reptiles where they occur, possibly through competition, predation or spread of disease – you rarely see any of our native lizards on these parts of the cliffs where once both common and sand lizards would have been abundant. There is some debate about what we should do about such established non-native species and you will find a range of views between those who like the added variety and those who feel we should remove them to reduce the risk to our native wildlife. However, even with the questionable desirability of green and wall lizards, seeing 8 reptile species in the wild in Britain in one day provided a pretty fulfilling herpetological experience. Several weeks later I met with a university friend who has been living in Australia. She mentioned the goannas, blue-tongued skinks and other lizard (and occasional snake) species regularly seen in her garden; just a tiny fraction of the 900 or so reptile species that they have there. By comparison, what we have is minute – even adding in established non-native species we’re struggling to reach 1% of the species they have. But importantly this is what we have. This is our biodiversity and it’s important that we conserve it and have the opportunities to appreciate it. Our wildlife defines our countryside, it has shaped our history and our culture and is a key part in defining the country we live in. But then, so is the weather! 3
Show Your Kermitment! By Atul Srivastava - Fundraiser On Saturday 7 October 2017 I will be running 10Km at the Marathon Festival in Bournemouth to raise funds for ARC – doing the whole distance in a Kermit the Frog costume! In order to reach the ambitious target of £1,000, fellow runners are welcome to join in on the run and use the same fundraising link as I’m using. By combining forces we can help each other hop the distance and reach the target. Or if 10Km is a hop too far for you, simply donate and ask friends and family to do the same! If you’re connected to a local company that would benefit from having your logo pinned onto Kermit in front of the huge crowds that this event attracts, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Corporate donations will be also recognised on social media using #Kermitment. So show your #Kermitment to amphibians and reptiles by making a donation today! https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/ atulsrivastava2.
Introducing New Staff We are delighted to welcome Dr Karen Haysom to our team as Species Programmes Manager, a brand new role to better integrate our monitoring and species conservation work. Karen has over 20 years professional and volunteer experience in wildlife conservation and ecological research, most recently at Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust and Bat Conservation Trust. Following successful nationwide funding from the National Lottery ‘Back from the Brink’ programme, we are pleased to introduce Gems in the Dunes Project Manager Fiona Sunners and Project Officer Andrew Hampson. Andrew joins us from the Fylde dune system, where he was a Ranger, and has excellent experience with coastal habitat management and public engagement. Fiona has worked as a Ranger on the Sefton Coast, and recently managed the Heritage Lottery Fund Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership Project. We really couldn’t have asked for two more perfectly suited people to work on Gems in the Dunes! Ray Hamilton, an active volunteer for both ARG UK groups and ARC, has taken over from Ben Limburn as New Forest Smooth Snake Survey Project Officer. Ben moves over to the role of Snakes in the Heather Development Officer. With winter fast approaching, we have taken on six winter Seasonal Field Officers across Dorset and Surrey who will be working on our reserves from September until spring next year alongside our in-house field teams. And finally… We are sad to be saying goodbye to a popular member of the ARC team. Robin Bassett, Weald Field Officer and Volunteer Coordinator, will be leaving us at the end of August. Robin has worked enthusiastically and tirelessly over the past four years and built up a fantastic and loyal group of volunteers. Thanks for all of your hard work Robin. You will be missed.
Da vid r
Iolo Williams from BBC Springwatch is hosting a magical evening of food, entertainment and auction fundraising in aid of ARC on Tuesday 7 November 2017 in Bournemouth.
A Magical Dinner with Iolo By Atul Srivastava - Fundraiser
All proceeds from ticket sales, sponsorship and auction sales will go
towards supporting Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. The dinner will be held at the Green House Hotel in Bournemouth, one of the most environmentally sustainable hotels in the UK. Providing some of the entertainment will be Alfie the Magician, performing his routine and throwing in some amphibian and reptile related magic tricks! We will also have a short version of ARC’s infamous comedy quiz, Have I Got Newts For You.
ARC is now looking for corporate sponsors to support the event and benefit from the publicity that association with the event brings. If you or a company you are connected with have an auction prize to donate, would benefit from sponsoring the event, love to find bargains at auctions, or simply fancy a magical evening out for a great cause, please visit: www.arc-trust.org/arcdinner2017.
ARC Guardians By Atul Srivastava - Fundraiser ARC is launching a new giving club for individuals who are able and willing to donate £5,000 or more per year to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Charities of the size and ambition of ARC need to cater for individuals who have the ability and passion for the cause to donate £5,000+ of unrestricted or core funding. We want such donors to feel their major level of support is recognised. We are now looking for our first ARC Guardian, and would like them to feel they have a say in shaping the club going forwards. Natterjack toad © Howard Inns
Do you know someone who might be willing and able to join ARC Guardians, or perhaps you are in a position to do so yourself? Our founding ARC Guardian will be setting a great example for others to follow.
For more information and to join the club, please email: email@example.com
National Lottery awards funding to bring UK Species Back from the Brink! In one of the most ambitious conservation projects ever undertaken, 20 UK species facing extinction will be brought back from the brink thanks to £4.6 million from the National Lottery. ‘Back from the Brink’ is the first nationwide coordinated effort to bring a wide range of leading charities and conservation bodies together to save threatened species. Natural England, the government’s wildlife advisory body, will work in partnership with Amphibian and Reptile ConservationTrust, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and RSPB to pool expertise, develop new ways of working and inspire people across the country to discover, value and act for threatened animals, plants and fungi. The funding will also help a further 200 species that, while not facing extinction, are under threat including the grey long-eared bat, pine marten, willow tit, large garden bumblebee, lesser butterfly orchid and hedgehog. ARC received funding to employ two officers (see new staff story on pg 4) to work on the Sefton Coast on the ‘Gems in the Dunes’ project for the next three years.
Ralph Clifford-Smith By Gary Powell - Senior Reserves Manager
Ralph had worked as our on-site Town Common warden since his retirement in 1997 and was an almost constant presence on the Hill from then on. His easy going nature made him a well-liked and respected local figure. Very little happened that Ralph, using his large network of contacts, didn’t find out about! He tirelessly patrolled the Dorset site, keeping an eye out for fires and other damaging activity and also observing the wildlife, which he seemed to enjoy immensely. Although ill for a number of years before his death, Ralph showed little inclination to slow down or stop his duties. I have known him for nearly 20 years and got to know him well over the last 10 as it fell to me to try and supervise his activities. On numerous occasions I would have to remind him to take things a little easier! During this time he shared many stories from his past and reflections on the changes that he had witnessed at Town Common over the many years that he lived there. Ralph’s role as dedicated warden and on-site contact point for us, first as HCT and now as ARC, is almost impossible to replicate, but we have a worthy replacement in Ralph’s daughter-in-law, Kay, who spent many hours on the site over the years in the company of Ralph, and took on his role when he finally retired last summer. Ralph will be missed by all of us at ARC and by many people in the local area who knew him well.
Hop off the Press!
It was with great sadness ARC learned that, over the Easter period, of one of our longest serving contractors and friend of many years, Ralph Clifford-Smith, had passed away.
In the Field Why is bare ground creation important on heathland? By Chris Dresh - Senior Dorset Field Officer The creation of areas of bare sand within a heath is a fundamental part of its management, benefiting a whole host of rare and endangered flora and fauna. Without this process a uniform sward of dwarf shrubs would eventually drown out and dominate the open areas. Therefore, recreating open areas not only gives the obvious initial benefit but, over time, is allowed to ‘heal over’ and create a successional age structure. This in turn creates various specific niches such as basking edges, cover to escape predators and a new generation of pollen rich heathers for invertebrates.
What species rely on bare open sand? The list of invertebrates related to open ground on heaths is an extensive one, from colonies of solitary bees and wasps to beetles, some of which are now confined to those heaths of Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey which contain good, rotationally managed open ground. Sand lizards, probably the most well-known species in relation to bare ground, need these areas of open sand so that the females can create burrows with the correct levels of humidity and temperature in which to lay their eggs. Conditions inside the burrow allow the eggs to be incubated and the new generation to hatch out in the autumn.
In the Field
Sand lizard and burrow © Chris Dresh
The heath tiger beetle (Cicindela sylvatica), the largest of the six species of tiger beetle found in the UK, depend on open ground for its larvae to develop. This takes place in vertical burrows in which they sit and wait to ambush any passing prey item. Heath tiger beetles have declined drastically over the last 25 years; large scale heathland fragmentation, and therefore lack of bare ground connectivity over larger areas within the heath, could be a major factor.
Heath tiger beetle © Chris Dresh
One, possibly less glamorous, species is the mottled bee-fly (Thyridanthrax fenestratus), which has now become extremely rare and confined to the Dorset and Surrey heath complexes. This species parasitizes Ammophilla pubescens (a type of sand digger wasp) which in turn is a parasitic species on certain types of caterpillar; these are gathered and placed in burrows where its larvae develop. The mottled bee-fly will sit and wait for the sand wasp to return with a fresh host. Once egg laying has taken place, the bee-fly will enter the burrow and lay its egg on either the wasps’ larvae or the caterpillar, which acts as nourishment for the developing bee-fly.
How can bare ground be created?
Originally bare ground and successional habitats would have been created by natural erosion, peat cutting, grazing livestock and burning with each activity creating different niche habitats. More modern practices include military training, mineral extraction and
recreational activities. Some of these have adverse effects on other rare and endangered heathland species and the consistency of the substrate created is sometimes undesirable; nearly all of the target species require a compacted finish while 'fluffy’ sand or continually disturbed sand is of far less use. Conservation practices can be achieved in many different ways: the main technique is the simple sand patch; small areas of shrub removal by spade down to bare sand give an instant desirable habitat, leaving mature cover around the area and with south facing banks created from the turfs to add another level of variety.
Mottled Bee-fly © Chris Dresh
Connecting a number of sand patches to create sand strips create larger areas of bare ground to benefit species which require more space, such as the above mentioned tiger beetles. These larger areas also allow future manipulation of the successional habitat; we can leave some areas to 'heal over' while other parts are maintained as open ground.
Sand lizard digging a burrow © Nick Moulton
If the heathland area is large enough then mechanical techniques can be applied, usually done by digger/bulldozer creating long linear strips with south facing banks along an edge, with the added bonus of creating effective firebreaks. It doesn't matter how small or how large the area is, if assessed correctly to minimize impact on other species already present, then any sand is good sand!
Good quality established sand trace © Chris Dresh
Digging new sand strips mechanically © Chris Dresh 7
In the field Caught in the net By James Anderson-Barr - Dorset Field Officer James was called out last summer and confronted with a tangled up grass snake in some netting. Sadly, ARC has come across this issue numerous times and cannot stress enough the importance of choosing the right materials when it comes to gardens and allotments. At ARC we do our best to answer calls from the public about wildlife that has surprised them and appeared in often unsuspecting areas. In most cases we are able to reassure people on a course of action and not to be concerned that said wildlife will disappear of its own accord. However, occasionally there are times when it requires a member of the field team to visit a garden and conduct a reptile rescue in the local area. Last summer we had a call from a member of the public about an adder trapped by a garden fence amongst the tulips in Verwood, Dorset. Upon arrival I was relieved to find that it wasnâ€™t an adder but upset to discover a large exhausted grass snake, being strangled upright, having tangled itself up through countless squares of small synthetic mesh that were protecting the flowers. A helpful neighbour rushed to get some scissors and I managed to release the snake by holding it carefully and firmly, painstakingly snipping each tangled wire. Aside from being quite stressed, and now missing a handful of its scales, the grass snake looked in pretty good shape and after showing the owner and neighbour and taking a few pictures; I popped it into a bag and took it to our closest nature reserve to be released. In this instance the snake was relatively unharmed and the owner said she would remove the netting to prevent it happening in the future. However, this is a real concern for our native herps, particularly grass snakes, as it is often our unwitting actions in choosing the wrong materials in our gardens which can be detrimental to all kinds of wildlife, not realising how important they are to creatures passing through.
In the field
If you need to protect your pond life from birds or make it child safe, we recommend that a sturdy rigid grille or grating or taut braided cord netting, at least 3mm thick and 5cm wide, be used rather than flimsy synthetic mesh. For fruiting plants, position netting so that it is at least 15cm clear of the ground. This should keep snakes and hedgehogs safe from harm.
For more information on snakes in netting, including safer options and ideas and also how to remove a snake from netting, please see our advice note on the website (https://tinyurl.com/ snakes-netting) or contact the Bournemouth office to request a copy. Photos ÂŠ James Anderson-Barr. Above left: releasing the grass snake after the ordeal. Right: Grass snake well and truly tangled up in fine mesh netting before James was able to release it.
Ticked Off! By Richard Sharp - Dorset Field & Health & Safety Officer I am sure that if you are keen on the outdoors, at some point you will have “picked up” a tick, and as ARC’s resident tick magnet, I can attest to the fact that they are everywhere! There are several different species in the UK but we are really only concerned about hard bodied ticks from a health point of view. However, tick ID can be tricky and it’s best to remove any as soon as possible. Lyme disease (Borreliosis) is the main concern from tick bites and there is a lot of good information on the following web links: https://tinyurl.com/ydfyv58m www.bada-uk.org/lyme-disease-borreliosis With more people getting out in the countryside, cases of Lyme disease have risen to 2000 a year over the last decade, with hotspots in different parts of the country. Symptoms can vary greatly from the classic ‘Bulls Eye’ rash, less distinct rashes and mild flu (without the runny nose). These symptoms can be confused with other conditions so if you are bitten by a tick, and a rash develops or you start to feel unwell (24 hours – 4 weeks after the initial bite) it is advisable to visit your GP. Lyme disease is treated easily with antibiotics but diagnosis can be difficult. Ticks can be caught at any time of year, especially in the south of the UK. Your best defence is the highly fashionable trousers in socks look! Light coloured clothing is ideal to allow ticks to be seen quickly and a regular brush off should be sufficient to dislodge any hitch hikers. A good habit to get in to is a final brush off and check before getting back in the car or home, and again before bed. Target areas are: between toes and fingers, armpits, behind the knees and the waist band (basically anywhere warm and sweaty!) Children should be checked around the hairline and parting as their heads are closer to the vegetation. That goes for wildlife watchers too!
Classic ‘Bulls Eye’ rash. (Source CDC)
Removal is easy with a tick remover (available online or from your local veterinary practice) or long tweezers. To remove, get hold of the tick below the head close to the skin and gently and firmly pull out with a slight twisting action. Always check that the bite is clean and clear of debris afterwards and wipe with an antiseptic wipe. Photos above right, middle left and below: Tick © Chris Dresh
Tick removers used by ARC staff
Focus on amphibians Pool frog health checks By Yvette Martin - Amphibian Conservation Officer Back in May, ARC was lucky enough to meet up with Professor of Zoology at the University of Otago (New Zealand) Phil Bishop. Phil, who is also the Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, approached ARC just over a year ago when he was planning a sabbatical in the UK. Wanting to know a bit more about the pool frog reintroduction, he was keen to lend a hand in any way possible. Phil and his wife Debbie (IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group Administrator) kindly offered to spend a few weeks up in Norfolk carrying out some aquatic survey work and helping ARC to carry out spawn searches.
Focus on amphibians
We met at the first reintroduction site along with ARC’s other Amphibian Conservation Officer John Buckley, our longterm pool frog contractor John Baker and the team of Wildlife Veterinarians from the Institute of Zoology (IoZ), Zoological Society of London. The team at IoZ carried out health exams at the first reintroduction site and collected data to assess any potential disease risk to the pool frog population. Luckily, the weather was on our side and the pool frogs were out in full force! John Baker was on hand to photograph and identify the individual pool frogs whilst the team at IoZ weighed, measured, swabbed and had a listen to the pool frog’s hearts and lungs. This was a chance for Phil to make some close contact with our pool frog population and we think you will agree that they are a very charismatic bunch!
Photo above Left: Pool frog having heart rate monitored, Middle right: Health check station and below: The Bishops, ARC staff and IoZ Veterinarians © Institute of Zoology.
Adventures with ARC Staff Walking in Durrell’s footsteps By Mark Barber - Dragonscapes Species Officer Many of you will have read Gerald Durrell’s second book ‘Three tickets to Adventure’ published in 1954, if you haven’t then you really should! When the opportunity came to volunteer for the 11th year of a monitoring project on black caiman in Guyana, South America, I couldn’t say no. It was one of the many places that Durrell visited and I wanted to re-trace his footsteps. My friend, Vaughn Matthews (of Wildlife Trust of S&W Wales), and I stayed in the tribal village of Yupukari for just under a month during November and December 2016. It wasn’t the most relaxing of trips initially, the name on Vaughn’s plane ticket was incorrect, our luggage went missing for 5 days, and I had a nasty Mark with a Schneider’s dwarf case of food poisoning. caiman © Vaughan Matthews
Canoeing © Mark Barber
However, once everything fell into place, we soon realised we were surrounded by the most amazing biodiversity we had ever seen. The local community was friendly and welcoming. Highlights include many close encounters with giant river otters, a glimpse of an electric eel, freshwater stingrays, goliath bird-eating spiders, an ocelot, jaguar tracks, a crab-eating fox, proboscis bats, and common squirrel monkeys. The diversity of birds was incredible, including huge kingfisher species around every turn of the river and a committee of king vultures watching over a dead baby tapir. Not forgetting going out many nights on
the Rupununi river in a small boat, balancing on the bow with a noose and trying to catch black caiman. The biggest animal caught during our surveys was 3.3 metres! We spent some of our time looking after yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle hatchings, who are reared from eggs and released to boost the dwindling wild population. We headed deep into the pristine rainforest of Mapari to finish our trip, dragging our boat over, under and in between the many huge fallen trees and swimming in the cool crystal clear waters. It was a true adventure!
Giant gladiator frog © Mark Barber Above: Yellow spotted river turtle © Vaughan Matthews
Adventures with ARC Staff
School visit © Vaughan Matthews
North Wales Amphibian and Reptile Master Class By Manon Keir - Wildlife Connections Project Officer and Mandy Cartwright - North Wales Officer Wildlife Connections is a campaign led by Chester Zoo which encourages everybody to help make safe spaces for local wildlife in gardens and community spaces. As part of the campaign we’re helping to strengthen connections between community groups and conservation groups working locally so that they can work together to achieve more for people and wildlife. Using funding from Heritage Lottery Fund we run our Wildlife Champions course for community group or school representatives who want to learn how they can get the people they work with more involved with conservation and make changes in their local area that benefit wildlife. We also use this funding to work with conservation organisations/groups and local experts to arrange masterclasses which provide anybody with a particular interest to gain more in-depth knowledge about a particular subject.
As two of the key species we’re campaigning for through Wildlife Connections are the Common Toad and Slow worm, having an amphibian and reptile masterclass was high on our priority list when coming up with the series of masterclasses. Linking up with Mandy Cartwright from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation gave us the opportunity to introduce attendees to a conservation organisation that could provide them with additional support, advice and volunteering opportunities in the future. Manon Keir (Wildlife Connections project officer) said ‘Amphibians and reptiles are a group of species that most people know very little about so it was inevitably one of the most popular masterclasses we’ve arranged. Having the opportunity to learn about their fascinating lives, the threats facing certain species and how to help was of great interest’. Mandy Cartwright said ‘It was a fantastic day enjoyed by all that attended. It was a privilege to showcase our native amphibians and reptiles by teaming up with Chester Zoo where people from all ages and backgrounds enjoyed the day.
12 All photos © Manon Keir
Scotland Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science! By Dr Pete Minting - Great Crested Newt Detectives Officer ARC has received hundreds of entries for the Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science competition in Scotland. Children aged 8-18 have been asked to submit paintings, drawings or writing, to help create a book about how Scottish wildlife is being helped by DNA technology.
There are 15 species on the list for the competition, ranging from red deer and Scottish wildcats to great crested newts. I am running the competition as part of ARC's Great Crested Newt Detectives Project in Scotland and we have already had some fantastic entries. I have been Amy Oâ€™Kee fe working with schools across Scotland since April 2016 and so far, entries have been received from as far afield as Dunbar in the southeast, Stranraer in the south-west and the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Once the deadline (30 June 2017) has passed, a panel of judges will decide on the winning and highly commended entries. The winners will then be invited to an award ceremony at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in Edinburgh, to be held on Saturday 21st October 2017. The best of the entries will be used to help create an educational publication that will be printed and distributed in Scotland with the help of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage and ARC.
For more details on the Great Crested Newt Detectives Project, see www.arc-trust.org/gcn -detectives or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
13 Three pupils drawing ÂŠ Pete Minting
Dragons in the Garden Reptiles and amphibians of a village in Somerset. By Professor Trevor Beebee - ARC Trustee & Dr Angie Julian - Outreach & Communications Manager We often tell the visiting public at events and shows how important their gardens are as a refuge for wildlife in general, and especially for our native amphibians and reptiles. We ask people to create garden ponds to support common frogs, toads and newts; and compost heaps, rubble piles and overgrown grassy areas to shelter reptiles such as grass snakes and slowworms. Many folk are inspired by this and go home to create their own pond, or hibernation site, and we are always pleased to receive their amphibian and reptile records.
Grass snake ÂŠ Fred Holmes
But is there any evidence for this? Can we really find all of our widespread native species of amphibian and reptile in and around human habitations, or do they only exist in the large tracts of heathland, moorland, woodlands, copses, hedgerows and grasslands of the wider countryside?
Dragons in the Garden
A recent study by our Trustee and amphibian expert, Professor Trevor Beebee, answers some of these questions. Having recently retired to Westbury-sub-Mendip, a small Somerset village of around 280 households, Professor Beebee engaged local residents to help him survey the area to find out more about the amphibians and reptiles in their gardens, and the wider parish.
He set about the task by circulating appeals for amphibian and reptile sightings to local residents via the Westbury Society, a group of local residents who share an interest in the history, architecture and natural history of the parish; and with meetings in Westbury Village Hall, during 2013-14. Possible sightings were then followed up to verify which reptiles had been seen and where. Amphibians were investigated through a garden pond survey during the spring of 2014, which was also circulated through the Westbury Society, and promoted via a presentation in the village hall and a poster campaign. A total of 27 garden ponds were nominated by local householders, and these were surveyed twice during the spring: once for evidence of frog and toad spawn, and a few weeks later by torching at night and/or setting bottle traps, to find newts. Amazingly, the results showed that all four of the widespread British reptiles: grass snake, common lizard, adder and slow-worm were reported in Westbury, by a total of 15
Palmate newt ÂŠ Fred Holmes
contributors from the village. Grass snakes were most commonly observed, followed by slow-worms, adders and a single sighting of the elusive common lizard. Sadly, three of the four adder records were from dead animals found on local roads and generally, whilst slowworms were most likely to be seen in gardens in the more built up areas, the snakes tended to be found on the outskirts of the settlement. The pond surveys were equally informative, and all five of our widespread native amphibians (common frog, common toad, smooth newt, palmate newt Common frog © Chris Dresh
Smooth newt © Fred Holmes
and great crested newt) were recorded in at least some of the garden ponds surveyed, though they were less common in ponds containing fish. The most commonly recorded amphibians were palmate newts, followed by common frogs, and smooth newts. Common toads and great crested newts were least often observed, though anecdotal reports suggest that toads are usually more widespread in the area. Further investigation revealed that the great crested newts had in fact been introduced to two garden ponds several decades ago, and although the population had persisted, it had not spread beyond these initial ponds. Only two of the 27 ponds surveyed had no amphibians in them.
Acknowledgement: Profound thanks to everyone in and around Westbury-sub-Mendip who provided records and allowed me to survey their garden ponds; and in particular to the Westbury Society for promoting and advertising the investigation. The citation for the original paper can be found at: Beebee, T (2014), Reptiles and amphibians of a village in Somerset, England, The Herpetological Bulletin, 128, pp 16-19.
Slow-worm © Chris Dresh
Dragons in your garden
Overall, the results suggest that village gardens can provide a sanctuary for most of Britain’s widespread herpetofauna, which is encouraging news for our wildlife gardeners. Moreover, fish-free ponds and permeable garden barriers may play an important role in making gardens more amphibian and reptile friendly.
Projects Sssuper news for Snakes in the Heather! By Ben Limburn - Snakes in the Heather Development Officer Amphibian and Reptile Conservation are delighted to announce that our ‘Snakes in the Heather’ project has been awarded National Lottery funding. A grant of nearly £500,000 will allow the project to bring together key partners including Amphibian and Reptile Groups, NGOs and local Wildlife Trusts, to conserve the rare and secretive smooth snake. The smooth snake is Britain's rarest reptile, now only found naturally on the lowland heathlands of Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey. It is a very secretive creature, choosing to bask within heather vegetation and burrowing out of sight if disturbed. For this reason, its ecology, behaviour and distribution have been difficult to study in the past, and little is known about it. Tony Gent, CEO of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, commented “We are delighted to have secured National Lottery funding for this important project, which will enable us to help save the UK’s rarest native snake, now found at only a few locations in southern England, by restoring and connecting its dwindling habitats and engaging more people in its conservation”. The £467,100 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant will enable ARC to train volunteers to monitor and conserve smooth snakes by improving their habitat across Southern England. This information will be used to develop a targeted habitat management strategy by identifying the key target sites that will most benefit from practical habitat management, and will be most effective in linking smooth snake heathland habitats.
The project Development Phase will run from summer 2017, and will focus on developing these important partnerships, and planning an exciting range of events and volunteer opportunities for the next stage of the bid to HLF. If successful, the project will then run for a further four years.
Photo above © Dr Chris Gleed-Owen. Below © Stuart Woodley.
Overseas Reptile Amphibian Conservation Europe (RACE): a new European foundation is established By Dr Tony Gent - Chief Executive Officer ARC has had a long history working in Europe, and especially with the European Herpetological Society (Societas Europaea Herpetologica) and with other organisations that take forward the conservation of amphibains and reptiles in different countries across the continent. Through this, we have been able to influence policy, legislation and habitat management and exchange ideas and knowledge that has helped conserve herpetofauna species within the UK and further afield. Undoubtedly, we have seen some huge benefits through working together and, even though ‘Brexit’ may change the environment in which we work, we are keen to see this continue and develop further into the future. To help this, ARC together with four other European, non-Governmental amphibian and reptile conservation organisations (namely: Reptielen Amfibieën Vissen Onderzoek Nederland (RAVON, NL) Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU, Germany), Société Herpétologique de France (France), Info fauna – Centre Suisse de cartographie de la faune (CSCF) & Koordinationsstelle für Amphibienund Reptilienschutz in der Schweiz (KARCH; Switzerland)) set up a new foundation called the “Stichting Reptile Amphibian Conservation Europe (RACE)”. This was officially established on 17th July 2017 in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. RACE will allow us to promote and take forward initiatives to conserve reptiles and amphibians through coordinating partner organisation work and volunteers, developing survey and research, and raising awareness and advocacy. We will be involving other national herpetofauna conservation organisations across Europe to build up a network in a similar way to those associated with organisations like Butterfly Conservation Europe (BCE), BatLife Europe and BirdLife. RACE will provide a new organisation that can help us work effectively with other networks and conservation organisations and can also lead on projects on behalf of its members.
Although a new foundation, the current member organisations and other European herpetological organisations have known each other and worked together well over a long time. We are looking forward to more opportunities and even greater cooperation to help conserve our herpetofauna.
The R.A.C.E Team (L-R): Ronald Zollinger (RAVON), Silvia Zumbach (KARCH), Tony Gent (ARC)(Secretary RACE), Rob van Westrienen (RAVON)(Chair RACE), Jean-Pierre Vacher (Societé Herpetologique de France), Tom Kirschey (NABU)(Treasurer RACE) © Ronald Zollinger.
Species Profile Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca)
Male smooth snake © Fred Holmes
Habitat Restricted to well managed heathland in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey. Successful reintroductions have also taken place in Devon and West Sussex. Uses a range of habitats, from dry slopes to humid and wet heath areas. Prefers deep mature heather on south facing slopes amongst good populations of other reptiles.
Appearance/colour Small, slim, grey/brown snake with indistinct dorsal pattern. Both sexes have black heart shaped mark on the top of the head. Distinct black stripe that runs from nose, through the eye and beyond the head and neck. Back is marked with pairs of irregular spots, often joined and becoming less distinct towards the tail. Underside of the female is typically steel grey. Underside of the male is often ginger or yellow, especially on the throat. Scales are unkeeled and smooth, often with a rainbow sheen. Adults range from 45-70 cms long.
Female smooth snake © Fred Holmes
Two newborns © Angela Reynolds
Breeding and young Mating usually takes place in May but recent studies have shown that they can also be opportunistic. Young are born live in broods of 815 usually in late August or September. Young are between 8-15 cms long. Markings are the same as the adult but often dark. Groups of newborns can sometimes be observed basking together.
Behaviour Secretive species. Spend a lot of time in deep mature heather. Habitually hide under stones, logs and other debris exposed to the sun, rarely basking in the open. Sometimes found basking in hazy sun, entwined in old heather stems, where they are well camouflaged. Hibernation takes place from late September and emergence from underground occurs in late March to April. Prey is killed by constriction and swallowed. Feed mainly on small mammals with the occasional lizard and can tackle prey as big as an adult slow-worm.
Newborn © Fred Holmes
Common lizard forms part of the smooth snakes diet © Fred Holmes
Whatâ€™s under the tin?
Can you spot anything under this tin situated on one of our nature reserves in Dorset?
Here are the answers!
Did you correctly identify the snakes from 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: email@example.com
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