KRAG is helping to develop a reptile habitat suitability Index. This new HSI will attempt to provide a broad assessment of habitats for the four widespread reptile species. Whilst piloting the project, we are focussing on adder with our Interreg project partners (KWT and Conservatoire d'espaces naturels). Three members of KRAG (myself included) have just returned from an exchange visit to northern France where we had the opportunity to talk with French volunteers about surveying for reptiles, review several adder sites and visit a sand dune nature reserve that had several stunning amphibian ponds.
We saw several species during the three day venture including viviparous lizard, slow-worm and adder. During our nocturnal field trip to the sand dune ponds we help to catch parsley frogs for a DNA research project. After the parsley frogs were mouth swabbed they were released unharmed back into their pond. Other amphibians encountered included common frog, common toad, natterjack toad, spadefoot toad, European treefrog, smooth newt, palmate newt, great crested newt and alpine newt. Not a bad haul!
Here's a few photos from the trip.
Mike Phillips discussing HSI data collection with KRAG's Rick Hodges and our French partners
Collecting HSI data at a heathland site
Measuring angle of slope at a chalk grassland site
Researchers on Golem Grad Island, Macedonia, stumbled upon a rather intriguing and wholly disgusting find whilst looking for snakes - a dead young viper with the head of a huge centipede protruding through its body. What a way to go! The report has been briefly described in the journal Ecologica Montenegrina.
“Sadly there are indications of a decline in UK adder numbers,” adds Foster. “We have lost populations to habitat destruction, lack of management and persecution. Our last major survey, via our National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme, found adders in only 7% of survey areas.
I believe we can if we protect all its remaining breeding sites, supplement small colonies with snakes from elsewhere, prevent adverse predation and learn to love the adder. Otherwise when historians come to write the epitaph of the adder in middle England it will read like a Shakespearian tragedy.
There are quite a few rumblings of amphibian movement over the past few days. The mild wet conditions have even brought out toads on roads. Smooth newts have been active in garden ponds since January and great crested newt eggs were observed in a pond near Challock yesterday afternoon. Have you seen any amphibians this year? Is there frogspawn in your garden pond? If so, please submit your observations to your local reptile and amphibian group:
Actually this is not such a surprise. Isolated sites often display higher than expected populations of newts. Juveniles have nowhere else to disperse to so local densities can be higher than would normally be anticipated. Detectability issues in finding adult newts at breeding ponds also needs to be carefully considered (example). Low counts of adult newts in a murky pond, do not necessarily mean that the population size is small.
Until now, conservationists have used plastic bottles to catch the slippery pond dwellers for four nights in a row. But the trust has devised a laboratory test that can detect if newts are present through DNA traces in pond water.
This could cause more headaches for developers who already face a raft of tests from the impact on historic buildings, overseen by English Heritage, to flood risks set by The Environment Agency.
The weather over North America has been hitting the headlines over the last few days with record breaking cold conditions spreading south from the Arctic. This has been linked to a ‘polar vortex’, but what is this and what could it mean for the UK?
Future incentive schemes should focus on improving habitat connectivity, enhancing pasture condition and increasing woody debris in the agricultural matrix to dissolve dispersal barriers and mitigate the legacy of historical land-use practices. We propose that AES which manage mosaics of intergrading vegetation types at multiple spatial scales will protect maximum herpetofaunal diversity.
Although habitat management can be beneficial, herpetofaunal diversity may still be restricted by the presence of dispersal barriers. Dispersal barriers are not always as simplistic as the presence of a linear feature such as a road and can be difficult to detect by land managers who are not sufficiently experienced with the ecology of target species.
Although this particular study was undertaken in Australia, there are lessons here for herpetofauna conservation work in the UK.
As principal ecologist for Calumma Ecological Services, I am able to put my interest in reptiles and amphibians to good effect. Like most folks that work with wildlife, my activities extend beyond just 'the job' and I am also involved with several local conservation groups. Being the county recorder for reptiles and amphibians in Kent certainly helps me to fill in those spare moments when I'm not busy with the kids!
Calumma Ecological Services is a Kent based ecological consultancy that specialises in protected species surveys and habitat assessments.
Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group
For more information about Kent's reptiles and amphibians visit the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group's website.
Submit a Record Have you seen a frog in your garden pond? Better yet an adder while out walking?! If you would like to let KRAG know about an amphibian or reptile observation, please complete the online recording card.
Recording Diary KRAG organises a full programme of events throughout the year. For more details about forthcoming attractions, visit the KRAG web site.
Old Blog Posts Still Available Archived posts in the old blog are still available - and will be for ever if I don't work out how to import them into this new site!
Amphibian and Reptile Group of South Lancashire
For more information about the reptiles and amphibians found in Lancashire, visit the ARGSL website.