Welcome to CPARG - Cambridgeshire and Peterborough's local Amphibian and Reptile Group. ARGs are local, grassroots amphibian and reptile conservation groups spread out throughout the UK, usually organised by county. As a volunteer run group we get up to a whole range of activities – newt surveys, frogspawn counts, advice service, liaison with planning authorities and consultancies, data collection/collation, training, chytrid swabbing, talks and presentations. The opportunities are endless! Events are held on nature reserves and throughout the wider landscape, and while our focus is on Cambridgeshire there are good links between neighbouring ARGs with access to shared away-days, conferences and training available.
We are run by and for volunteers, and we'd like you to join. We're looking for members – people who might be interested in surveying, receiving training, attending talks, sharing their knowledge and experience, or getting involved in any way with amphibian and reptile conservation locally. We're also looking for new committee members to help with the running of the group, most importantly in organising and/or running events (surveys, training, talks, habitat management etc).
Map of some sites we work on:
Before you download and fill out your membership form, please read the ARG UK Generic Risk Assessment and ARG UK Lone Working Procedures. The membership fee is £5 and payment instructions can be found on the membership document below.
ARG UK Generic Risk Assessment - Click Here
ARG UK Lone Working Procedures - Click Here
CPARG Membership Form - Click Here
To find our about how CPARG is operated, please feel free to read the CPARG Constitution.
CPARG Constitution - Click Here
Please join our Facebook for discussions with other members.
Please follow us on Twitter for all of our latest updates.
Please follow our blog for updates on our events and activities!
It’s that time of year again – soon many garden ponds across the country will be bubbling with hundreds of croaking toads and frogs, and your help is needed to record all that spawn!
Amphibians are commonly found breeding in garden ponds, and data gathered by volunteers is vital in better understanding just how important gardens are for these species. Spawn counts can be used to estimate population sizes and species distributions, an important way of monitoring the status of our amphibians and identifying ways to better conserve them!
It’s really simple, all you have to do is fill in some basic information online; the size and depth of your pond, whether the pond has fish in it, and how much spawn (frog or toad) you can see!
Check out the Fresh Water Habitats website here for more details!
As the evenings are very slowly getting warmer, toads have been awakening from their sleepy slumber and are now on the move! Their migration from hibernacula to natal spawning ponds can however be lengthy and pretty treacherous. Unfortunately many breeding ponds are now surrounded by an urban environment, making road crossing a necessary, but perilous task.
Toads on Roads and Toad Size are two projects aiming to alleviate and better understand the risk of roads on toad populations. Volunteers collect toads from road sides and help them safely reach their pond for breeding. The level of traffic flow and number of deceased individuals found is also recorded. The Toad Size project involves the measuring of male toads at these road sites to determine whether road mortality is influencing the age structure of populations. Preliminary results show the importance of frequent toad patrols for reducing mortality and enabling a more varied age structure, and the impact of crossing distance on toad size. Further research is however needed from more sites across the country.
So we at CPARG have just begun Toad Patrol and Toad Size activities for the year, with three outings so far. This is the second year of Toad on Road activities at this specific site, and the first year we have been collecting data for Toad Size. Our first visit resulted in 152 males safely delivered to the pond. Visit two was on a fairly cold night and resulted in a much more modest number of 19, with 1 of these being scooped out from the depths of a drain, whilst visit number 3 saved 119 toads.
Have you been out helping toads cross roads? Or have you seen sites that could do with some assistance? Let us know! For more information about these projects, check out the website links below, or for more specific Cambridge related queries, contact our Toads on Roads Officer Mark Goodman at email@example.com.
Careful pond and land management is needed to ensure the persistence of amphibian populations in the UK, especially for the Great crested newt (GCN), a species that has seen rapid declines in the past 50 years. Threats facing amphibians in the UK are largely linked to agricultural intensification, pollution, disease and the introduction of non-native species such as ornamental fish. Great crested newts have been largely effected by these changes due to their specialist habitat requirements.
The cement-lined ponds at Cambridge city crematorium have been monitored for amphibians since 2013. It was then that CPARG investigated a possible GCN sighting and were pleased to confirm a breeding population of the species, as well as a healthy population of smooth newts.
As appropriate management of remaining GCN populations is important, in early January CPARG volunteers gathered at this GCN site to give the ponds some TLC. An ideal pond for GCN has both extensive submerged and floating aquatic vegetation as well as more open areas for males to woo the ladies with their mating displays. To improve these ponds we therefore dragged out dead vegetation that had been clogging them up, reducing the quality of the habitat and making population monitoring difficult.
We carefully checked and recorded all the material being removed from the pond for life; we found an array of invertebrates including water boatmen and dragonfly larvae, as well as two GCN, three smooth newts and one common frog.
Now the dead vegetation has been removed and the live vegetation trimmed a little, the plants needed for newt egg laying will be able to better flourish and hopefully we’ll see the benefits of our labour later this year during the survey season!
Do you know of any great crested newt populations? Let us know! For more information about how to effectively manage your garden pond for amphibians, check out the Froglife website here.
Do you have a garden pond? Do you ever see frogs in your garden?
Lots of people would answer yes to at least one of these questions but unfortunately conservation organisations know very little about where frogs are found or how well they’re doing. But as urban dwellers as well as rural, frogs offer a great opportunity for the public to get face-to-face with wildlife and to contribute to its wellbeing. For two years the Freshwater Habitats Trust (formerly Pond Conservation) has been running a simple project to make this link.
Members of the public who are lucky enough to spot frog spawn in their ponds are asked to fill in a simple online record form which then gets logged with others across the country to help answer these questions! This survey will also pick up on any toadspawn present…but it doesn’t look out for newts so we should still promote either Record Pool or CPERC to capture these records:
The data from this survey will then be shared with county-based organisations to help fill in some of the gaps on their local frog maps.
This year Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (CPARG) will be promoting this project within our Cambridgeshire patch, contributing both to answering the big questions nationally (e.g. what sort of ponds do frogs like) and providing our partners at CPERC with up-to-date records of breeding frogs.
We’re looking for a team of confident volunteers to send out press releases to local media (online, papers, radio and TV) and to be available for interview to promote this project, CPARG’s other survey opportunities, and amphibian and reptile conservation generally.
If you might be interested in pitching this conservation message to local media please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and CC in email@example.com or call Paul for an informal chat on 07508020437.
This project would suit confident, friendly-sounding people either with or who would like to get some media experience.
Frogs could start breeding as early as February – or even sooner if we have a mild winter/early spring – so we’d like to have people signed up and ready to be interviewed by the end of January if possible. Good luck spreading the frog-count word!
CPARG is looking for one or two dedicated volunteer to co-ordinate the Castor Palmate Newt Project – aiming to see how far beyond the known population at Castor Hanglands National Nature Reserve (NNR) this species’ distribution might reach.
Palmate newts are very rare in Cambridgeshire with only two records showing on the CPERC database from 1950-2012! One of the few sites this species is known at is Castor Hanglands NNR, managed by Natural England. In 2012 CPARG led an amphibian ID and survey session which inspired a group of us to go on and survey all the ponds here for palmates. Castor Hanglands once again earned its reputation as a top site, with all five widespread amphibians found and several ponds showing palmates, even on these late-season surveys.
Palmate newts are easily overlooked and can be mistaken for the more common smooth newt, but we know they’re present in the area and a skilled or trained eye can pick out the differences easily. This year we’d like to spread our net wider than the nature reserve and see whether the newts are surviving in the wider countryside.
The co-ordinator post would involve the following jobs. These can be split between individuals either by stage or within each stage. CPARG or the CPARG Committee can advise and assist with any of the actions listed – and of course, if as you get into the project you find that there are further avenues you’d like to pursue then the project can evolve under your direction.
In the last weekend of this November we shall be assisting Paul Doran and Guy Belcher from Cambridge City Council in restoring two of the concrete lined ponds at Cambridge City Crematorium (just off of the A14). The work will take us two days and will draining the old ponds, carefully removing all of the pond life, ripping up the old concrete before re-profiling the ponds before a new liner is laid (if time permits.
Please bring a packed lunch and wrap up sensibly depending on the weather, ensuring that you wear appropriate footwear.
We intend to start for 10am on both the Saturday and Sunday so please aim to be on site for 9:30am. If you do intend to attend and volunteer your time - please email firstname.lastname@example.org so that we have a rough indication of numbers.
CPARG Chairman Steven Allain will be giving a joint talk between CPARG and the Cambridge Natural History Society titled 'Amphibian Conservation and Midwife Toads'. The talk will take place in the David Attenborough Building on Pembroke Street, Cambridge between 6:45 and 8:30pm. Steve will talk about the threats posed to amphibians by the chytrid fungus and his research regarding the Cambridge population of midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans). Entry to the talk costs £1.50.
To join our email list please email:
To join CPARG please contact Helen Moore, our Membership Secretary.
Please see contact details for specific volunteering opportunities in the Events tab. Alternatively, for regular fixed sessions see contacts below.
For information about local toad crossings or any toad crossing related queries please contact Mark Goodman, our Toads on Roads Officer.
Regular fixed sessions coming soon.
To submit photos of events, species or habitats to our gallery please email Ali North or upload them to our Facebook page and make it clear you'd like to see the photos posted on the website.
For general herp advice please check these excellent FAQs:
If the answer you need is not there please contact our Advice Officer, Malcolm Busby.
If you've seen what you suspect to be a non-native species then please contact Gary Miller.
We have a small team dealing with possible wildlife crimes committed against herp species - please contact Steve Parnwell who will liaise with the team.