Bedfordshire Reptile & Amphibian Group

About us

About Us

We are a small informal group. We welcome both people who prefer to work as individuals but sometimes feel the Group can help in some way and people who prefer to work in cooperation with others. We occasionally organise outings and training sessions particularly for people who wish to qualify for a GCN license.

There is no subscription but members who sign up are covered by the ARG insurance scheme. We are affiliated to the Bedfordshire Natural History Society. We are also members of the Beds Heathland Forum. We have helped draft SAPS for both Bedfordshire Adders and Great Crested Newt.

At present much of our activity has been concentrated on specific sites in the south of the county. We are only too aware of how little we know about North Bedfordshire. In spite of large areas of arable desert Bedfordshire is richer in herps than one might expect. We have all the common species with the exception of the palmate newt. There are two introduced species: Midwife Toads and Pool Frogs, and one re-introduction: Natterjack Toads. The county is a stronghold for the Great Crested Newt. Much of Bedfordshire is very poorly surveyed. We simply do not know what is there. Parts of the county are under severe development pressure and there are not enough of us. If are interested please get in touch.

News

News

Toads, Toadlifts and Toadsize

Posted on Saturday 9th February, 2013

We have just received forms for a new ARG UK project aimed at gathering as much data as possible about the size of toads. If you would like to take part, but have not received the forms, we suggest you email info@arguk.org. Angie Julian, Secretary of ARG UK, says:

‘Thank you for your enthusiasm, and patience with this. We are now able to attach a two sided form for ToadSize 2013 – this has the methods on one side, and the recording form on the other. We are hoping that you will be able to print this out, and take it out into the field with you, as a means of recording the toadsize data. I am also attaching a longer protocol document, which sets out the methodology in greater detail, plus an excel sheet which you can use to send your answers back electronically, if that is easiest.

As this is a very new project we haven’t yet set up the web-based recording, but we are keen to get as many results as possible from this season, so would ask that you either email the results back to myself at info@arguk.org and John Wilkinson at ARC on John.Wilkinson@arc-trust.org, or post them straight to John at ARC Trust, 655a Christchurch Rd, Boscombe, Bournemouth, BH1 4AP. Once the web-site is up and running, we will of course let you know straight away.

We are trying to gather as much data as possible, so even if you are not part of a toad patrol but know of a site where toads cross, then we would very much like to hear from you, as this will also provide important comparative information about the impact of toad patrolling and road mortalities. If you have any problems or concerns at all, then please do get straight in touch and we’ll endeavour to sort things out with you. However, all of your data is welcome so, even if you can only manage a few toads on a few nights, this will add greatly to the body of knowledge and will be very helpful, so please do not feel put off if you are unable to complete it in full.

We’ll let you know how it goes, of course, and in the meantime – good luck with this, and many thanks again for your time and efforts.’

See Picture Gallery for a pair of toads rescued, then released, at Saxon Gate.


Adder sightings

Posted on Thursday 7th February, 2013

Has anyone seen a Bedfordshire adder yet? There have been a few sunny days but we have not managed to get to our nearest site. They should be coming out of hibernation and warming up in a sheltered, sunny, spot. See Photo Gallery for a picture of one which almost looks as if it has been run over – it is so flat! Let us know when you see your first Bedfordshire adder.


Midwife Toads on TV: A Curious Hoax

Posted on Monday 28th January, 2013
BRAG member and County Recorder for herps, Helen Muir-Howie, is the expert on Midwife Toads in Britain. She is the person who is always asked for advice on anything to do with Midwife Toads, especially in Bedfordshire. Last year she was asked to help Humblebee Films in the production of the series 'David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities', for Eden TV. Sir David wanted to film and discuss Midwife Toads and Helen was able to find a suitable garden in High Wycombe. This was an easier location for the film crew and Sir David than Bedfordshire. Helen will not be on screen, but the toads will, in the second episode of the series called 'A Curious Hoax', on February 5th at 8pm on Sky 532 and Virgin 208.
Helen comments:
'The programme tells the story of Paul Kammerer, who tried to disprove Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and showing that Lamarck’s theory of organisms developing or losing features, by use or disuse, was right. He used midwife toads to demonstrate that he could induce the males to grow nuptial pads if forced to mate in water.
Kammerer was accused of falsifying his results, but now that more is understood about gene silencing and epigenetics, it could be that he did get the result that he claimed.'
Anyone interested in finding out more about Kammerer’s ideas should read Arthur Koestler's, The Case of the Midwife Toad, originally published in 1971.
See Picture Gallery for images of Sir David during a pause in the filming and with Helen. More information is on the BNHS website http://www.bnhs.co.uk/main/docs/wab163.pdf

Saxon Gate News

Posted on Sunday 27th January, 2013

We did not visit Richard’s Pond during the recent cold spell but today's sunny and warm weather tempted us out. The water was still fairly high, but not as high as on 30 December 2012. There was still a little floating ice. We saw a few dead fish but, fortunately, no dead amphibians.

The toad tunnel has a little earth at the bottom, accumulated during the past 14 years, but there is still plenty of room for and toads and other animals should they want to use it. It has never been cleaned out.

The ‘Bomb Crater’ balancing pond on the west side of Saxon Drive has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Compare the photo taken in 1994 (with colour distortion) when the pond was surrounded by a collapsing wooden fence with the later ones. By 1999 the concrete in- and out-flows had been constructed and the pond was surrounded by a strong metal fence. The banks had little tall vegetation and the pond was very sunny. Since then some trees have grown up, though those on the south side have been cut this winter. We cannot easily survey the pond now but in past years the frog spawn has been spectacular. [See Photo Gallery for accompanying pictures.]


Toad Tunnels

Posted on Wednesday 9th January, 2013

We were recently looking at the Froglife map of known toad tunnels and realised that our local one in Biggleswade was not marked (http://www.froglife.org/toadsonroads/maps_tunnels.htm). This was probably our fault. We have now let them know the location of the tunnel.

Our Biggleswade tunnel (see Photo Gallery) is concrete and the larger of the two sizes available from ACO when it was installed in May 1999. The tunnel itself is still in good condition but the ACO fencing has deteriorated badly and is now almost useless.

We know toads used to use the tunnel – we have seen them in it (see Photo Gallery – this is genuine not posed!). We have not seen any in the tunnel during the last few years though. That could be because there have been less toads using the crossing because of the dry, cold spring weather. Also a new pond, Richard’s Pond, was dug in 2003 (see Photo Gallery). There is therefore less need for so many toads to cross the road to the original ‘bomb crater’ balancing pond.

The toad tunnel was installed by developers when they built a new road, now called Saxon Drive, leading to their housing etc. development. They only installed the fencing alongside their new road and refused to put anything beside the old road – so one side of the tunnel, at one end, never had any fencing. Since then the fencing has broken up. Some of this is because of vandalism but mostly is seems to have happened ‘naturally’ in the areas where people do not go (see Photo Gallery).

Badgers seem to have stopped using the tunnel since a new path was made near the pond and a wooden fence installed. There used to be a badger track from the tunnel to Richard’s Pond. We know there is a badger sett the other side of the road from Richard’s Pond. It is difficult for the badgers to get to the ‘bomb crater’ pond as it is surrounded by a strong metal fence with no gaps for a badger to squeeze through. They now seem to cross the road above ground, in a slightly different place, in order to get to Richard's Pond, possibly influenced by the droppping of the kerb for a cycle track on the sett side of the road.

Unfortunately the state of our toad fencing is not unusual. In an email to us Froglife say ‘we couldn’t identify a single toad tunnel that is in good condition and functioning in England’. If their idea of using camera traps is put into operation it will be very interesting to see the results.

We intend to monitor our tunnel more closely during the season this year to see if we can spot any toads in it.


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Marcus and Susan Phillips

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01767 312112
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Link to Saxon Gate Toad lift: http://www.toadlift.webs.com

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