Relocation, habitat creation, management and monitoring for newts is strictly controlled through a licensing system maintained by Natural England. No such system exists for the more widespread reptile species. But evidence is emerging which shows that all these reptiles – particularly the adder – would benefit from legal protection of their habitat. Your article yesterday, on the population slump of Britain's only venomous snake, reinforced this
Published last year but still of interest. Perhaps mitigation work for widespread reptiles should be more rigorously reviewed by Local Planning Authorities. However, if the Standing Advice linked to previously is anything to go by, bucketing reptiles across the countryside is likely to remain the default mitigation action deployed by ecological consultants.
One of the commentors at the bottom of the linked article makes the very valid point that the emphasis should be on habitat conservation, and not relocation. Of course preserving existing habitat can be important in many situations (particularly when the habitat is rare and/or takes many years to reach maturity). But conserving habitat may include protecting or creating new habitat at other less threatened locations (i.e. habitat compensation or offsetting), whilst allowing some areas to disappear. After all, natural systems are dynamic and habitats can and do change over time.
Defining reptile habitat is problematic. The adder seen basking on my client's development site may actually hunt and hibernate elsewhere. How do we implement habitat conservation if we don't fully understand the habitat that is utilised by a species (in terms of type, quality and area)?
Amphibians (including newts) are easy. They breed in landscape features that are easy to identify - ponds.
KRAG has undertaken work to create a tool that determines priority areas for great crested newt pond creation.
The KRAG tool attempts to determine the ecological value of a pond in terms of whether it will reinforce an existing population or help to expand range. Creating new ponds in areas of poor terrestrial habitat isn't necessarily a priority, but nor is creating ponds in areas that already include many existing ponds. Whilst the KRAG work represents a conservation project designed to promote new pond creation, a similar approach may well be justified for development based projects.
Since the translocation of newts is now restricted due to the risk of chytrid, allowing some populations to be lost may soon be considered acceptable, providing that new ponds are created elsewhere to allow the targeted reinforcement, expansion or establishment of new populations. In light of the government's upcoming review of the Habitat Regs, this may even be considered a cost effective solution for many developers.
Similar approaches may also be achievable for other species, including reptiles. But we need a much better understanding of what habitat is utilised and how the quality of available habitat influences occupancy and dispersal. We need something akin to the great crested newt habitat suitability index, but for reptiles.
For adder, perhaps we could start with identifying topographical features with a well understood usage - think hole in the ground (aka hibernaculum). Adder hibernacula are critical landscape features, yet a definition that can be used to reliably identify a hibernaculum in the field remains elusive. Certainly, this is something that I will be giving some thought to over the coming season. A field observation of an animal at the right time of year is surely a good start and something that we can illustrate through the collection of records.
Understanding where species occur is critical to their conservation. You can contribute to this by submitting your observations to your local recording scheme. In Kent, records can be submitted to KRAG. Elsewhere in the country, records of amphibians and reptiles can be submitted either to your local ARG or to ARG UK through the Recording Pool.
As many folks will know I have been associated with KRAG for many years. Along with Anne Riddell and Renata (Betty) Platenberg, I helped to relaunch the group back in 1996. Managing one's time is always a difficut prospect, particularly when you have a young family and run your own business.
With some regret I have therefore taken the decision to step down from the KRAG Committee. I alerted the rest of the committee to this decision a little while ago, but the time has now come to make the announcement public. Don't worry, it's an amicable parting and I wish the group well with its future endeavours.
New Email Addresses
From 2012 I will no longer be able to offer advice relating to reptile and amphibian matters on behalf of KRAG. Emails sent to me using one of the KRAG email addresses will either go unanswered or you will receive a response from somebody else. Any future correspondence must use one of my work addresses. To help the transition I have created two new email addresses that can be used for relevant enquiries:
The latter address should be used only for queries relating to database search requests and development of the recording database.
KRAG is becoming an effective campaining organisation, which is fantastic - but not something I can really get involved with. Matters that concern KRAG should therefore be sent to KRAG, not me. The KRAG website has a list of relevant email addresses for various folks.
So where does that leave herpetofauna recording in Kent and development of the recording database? Pretty much the same as before! My passion is recording and conservation of reptiles and amphibians and ensuring that their needs are taken into consideration during works that involve development and conservation. The only real change is that I will now be speaking about these matters on behalf of either myself (county recorder for reptiles and amphibians) or Calumma Ecological Services, rather than on behalf of a voluntary group. This transition has been underway for a little while now, but will be complete in January 2012 at the KRAG AGM.
Database Search Enquiries
I currently manage three sets of records. These include county collections for Kent and Lancashire, as well as the dataset that belongs to Calumma Ecological Services. The data all sits in the same pot, but is accessed through different portals that are appropriate to the relevant organisations. Some data is flagged as sensitive or confidential and not released as part of a database search enquiry report.
Calumma currently manages the Kent and Lancashire data for free, but this may change in the future for queries that involve a service fee to end users. Free searches will always be free.
Just because Calumma doesn't currently charge for managing data doesn't mean that other groups will provide record searches for free though. Details of applicable fees are available from KRAG, Kent and Medway Biological Records Centre and Lancashire Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project. Note that any fees currently go directly to these other organisations - not to Calumma. Please also be aware that KRAG no longer offers a discount to users who are directed to the group from KMBRC.
Access to the Kent records by KMBRC is also free but subject to a data sharing agreement. Details of the data sharing agreement are determined by KRAG and KMBRC and do not involve Calumma. Of course KMBRC do charge users a service fee (as indicated above). Record searches via KMBRC or KRAG use exactly the same database and produce exactly the same results. So why go to KRAG?
Various other data providers have also contributed records to the system. These include records from conservation organisations as well as a small number of other ecological consultancies. KRAG has therefore developed a system by which commercial users can receive search reports for free. Corporate Members that contribute records to the system are entitled to free reports. Search reports (free or otherwise) include a summary detailing the species recorded within the area of interest, a risk assessment that highlights the liklihood of different species being present and files that allow species and pond records to be viewed in Google Earth. That's quite a lot of value. Why wouldn't you want to include your records in this system and receive free search reports?! All you need to do is sign up to the scheme and contribute your records. I understand that LARA is now considering a similar system.
Consultants who are members of IEEM and/or undertake licensed survey work should be submitting records to local ARGs and/or record centres anyway. I really hope that ARG UK are pushing for this.
Over the past year I have undertaken the following db search enquiries:
KMBRC - 243
KRAG - 168
LARA - 10
TOTAL - 421 Database Search Enquiries
Each user received the same quality of report whether they accessed the data from KMBRC, KRAG or LARA and whether or not they actually paid for the service.
Calumma has the capacity to manage data for other local ARGs or other organisations (including ecological consultancies). Charges would only ever apply when search fees are applied to end users. If you would like to discuss inclusion of your data in the Calumma system please get in touch.
The 13-mile Leigh Guided Busway will carry passengers from Leigh to Manchester via Tyldesley, Ellenbrook and Salford.
It includes a four-mile section on guided concrete ‘tracks’ along a disused railway that only specially-adapted buses will be able to use – allowing them to avoid busy traffic.
The remainder of the route follows the East Lancashire Road and will include measures such as dedicated bus lanes and bus priority junctions to help buses avoid delays. Workmen will start cutting back trees along the guided section – between Leigh and Ellenbrook, Salford – from January 2.
Ecological surveys have already been carried out and great crested newts relocated to a purpose-built pond nearby.
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.