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!
Although news hasn't been posted on our website for a couple of years now, we have been going strong on WordPress! We moved away from this platform and over to there shortly after out 2016 AGM when our new Communication's Officer then setup a WordPress blog due to the improved functionality over the blog system that is built into our site. Maybe we'll see the return to use using the home system as well but for now you can find out what we've been up to and what's going on here.
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 will be surveying the Experimental Ponds at Woodwalton Fen for newts (mainly gcn) on the 22nd of the month. We will meet at 7pm just over the bridge by the offices. If you want to get experience with potential referees for a gcn licence this will be good experience. If you have a licence and can help we will be grateful for your help. There are 20 small ponds of which we will look at 16, the other 4 are too dangerous and, because of the long walk, it will be a long evening but with every chance of hearing/seeing woodcock and owls and hearing long eared owls which were around us last year. Please reply to Terry Moore by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to join, quoting your experience or whether you are a licence holder and Terry will send you further details later in the week.
When: Saturday 16th April, 1pm.
Where: Orchard Park Community Centre, Central Ave, Cambridge CB4 2EZ
In the summer of 2015, CPARG confirmed the presence of common lizards (Zootoca vivipara) at Orchard Park in North Cambridge, you can read more here. On the discovery of the lizards, Steven Allain and Mark Goodman produced a short report for the Orchard Park Wildlife Project outlining an ongoing monitoring project to evaluate the overall lizard population and breeding success.
In mid-April Mark and Steven will be running a reptile monitoring workshop that is lizard specific and tailored to Orchard Park. Monitoring will begin shortly after running between April and May and again between July and September. The event is free to everyone whom is interested in monitoring the lizards at Orchard Park. We'd like to get families involved too but unfortunately the training and monitoring will not be suitable for children under 8 years old.
When: Saturday 9 April, 3pm until 9.15pm
Where: Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre, Ramsey Heights, PE26 2RS
Two CPARG members are running a Wildlife Training Workshop “An introduction to Amphibians” for the Wildlife Trust. Although billed as an introduction, the workshop will include information about the our 7 native amphibians, their identification, life history and habitats, find out about survey methods, their advantages and disadvantages, the importance of surveying and monitoring, legal problems and health and safety issues associated with surveying. Participants will also gain practical experience assessing habitats using Habitat Suitability Index and surveying ponds for amphibians especially great crested newts on the nature reserve which was a brickworks in Victorian times. This workshop is suitable as a first stage in obtaining a licence to survey for great crested newts. Further experience with licence holders and references will be needed to obtain a licence.
The cost of the workshop is £35. To book by phone Tel: 01604 774031 (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9am - 2.30pm) or by email.
Information about this and other Wildlife Training Workshops being run by the Wildlife Trust can be found here.
When: Wednesday 6th April, 6:30-7:30pm.
Where: Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, CB1 1PT, Room Hel110 (will be signposted)
Amphibian disease are one of the leading causes of declines seen in the group globally. Come along to a workshop run by CPARG Chairman Steven Allain whom will be covering everything you need to know about amphibian disease. He will also talk on the importance of biosecurity and demonstrate how to test amphibians for the presence of known diseases. The workshop is free to all but your attendance must be confirmed in advance, to do so please send Steven an email.
Help us safely transport toads to their breeding ponds TONIGHT! We'll be meeting at the corner of Stanley Road and Oyster Row in Central Cambridge at 9pm. Please wear warm clothing and appropriate footwear. Hope you can make it!
It's that time of year again for CPARG to host it's Annual General Meeting.
This year the AGM will be hosted at Romsey Mill, Mill Road, Cambridge on Sunday 28th February. The AGM will begin promptly at 3pm with a planned end at 4:45pm. During the AGM we will be given a talk by renowned herpetologist Professor Richard Griffiths, with the title Newting around the UK over four decades.
There is no parking available at the venue itself but there is in the streets surrounding it. More information will be available soon.
We will be working to remove dead leaves and overgrown pond plants from the four concrete-lined ornamental ponds at Cambridge City Crematorium on Saturday 9th January. The ponds are home to our common amphibian species as well as the rarer great crested newt. Please feel free to join us between 10am and 3pm. If you do plan on coming to lend a hand please wear warm clothes and bring stout footwear, make sure you bring a packed lunch. All tools will be supplied, there are toilets on site as well as a mess room with tea/coffee facilities.
The city crematorium is just outside of Cambridge to the north, off of the A14 before you reach Bar Hill.
Title: Camouflage and sexual signals in Aegean wall lizards (Podarcis erhardii), as seen by their mates and predators
Speaker: Kate Marshall
Location: Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge. Room LAB027.
Date & Time: Monday 30th March, 7:30pm.
Abstract: Aegean wall lizards (Podarcis erhardii) exhibit striking colour divergence among varying island environments, and Kate's PhD has explored why this variation has arisen. In this talk, Kate will present recent results from UV imaging and visual modelling showing that P. erhardii are conspicuous to their mates while simultaneously being camouflaged to hunting birds, and that this differs among varying local environments. Kate will discuss how the competing demands of camouflage and sexual signalling are reconciled by interactions between natural and sexual selection, and how this may contribute to diversification among populations of the same species and eventual speciation.
Terry and Helen Moore will be carrying out monitoring of great crested newts at Woodwalton Fen and the Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre at Ramsey Heights in March and April. If you would like more information, please contact them by emailing email@example.com
This year the CPARG AGM is going to be held at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. The AGM is expected to take approximately half an hour, commencing from 7:30pm. If you would like to join the committee and be more involved with the running of CPARG then maybe you would like to stand for one of the positions that will become open at the AGM. For more information, please see the latest edition of our newsletter.
After the AGM, there will be a talk from Tom Langton, the renowned ecologist who is currently the Herpetofauna Consultants Internationals Managing Director. He has extensive field experience in habitat management, herpetofauna and other vertebrates and has published a popular book on British reptiles titled 'Snakes and Lizards'.
Topic: What happened to our planning system and how can we respond?
When: Monday 2nd February, 7:30-9pm.
Where: Anglia Ruskin University, East Road. Room: LAB005. For your satnavs - CB1 1PT.
The event is free for CPARG Members.
The image above gives you a rough idea of the entrances to the university and where the room is. The room, LAB005, is on the ground floor of the Lord Ashcroft Building and is on the Broad Street side of the university. The closest available parking is at the Grafton centre further down on East Road.
Recent research as identified that urban ponds provide numerous and diverse roles including their ecological function with good quality ponds acting as stepping-stones and refuges for wildlife species within a suriunding of otherwise inhospitable habitat. With this in mind, we are currently looking to find out where all of Cambridge's urban ponds are in an attempt to learn more about the potential dispersal routes of the City's amphibians. It is important to know both where amphibians breed (in terms of public areas) but also where they may also hibernate, which is usually away from breeding ponds and in gardens. Of course amphibians will also breed in garden ponds too and this is useful additional information that we are hoping that you, the constituents of Cambridge will be able to help provide us with. If you're happy for us to make a visit to your garden to survey the pond or give you some advice on how to improve your pond or garden or amphibians then please also let us know of your address. If this is not the case, then please provide us with a grid reference of your pond's location which you can easily find using this free online tool.
Even small garden ponds like the one above can offer plentiful opportunities for amphibians to breed and feed. If you do have a garden pond, the please do get in contact and let us know what species of amphibians you find in it, whether it is stocked with any fish, how old the pond is and how big it is. It is hoped that this information will be used to help inform planning and management of urban areas within Cambridge to benefit amphibians and other wildlife which tend to share the same corridors.
Disclaimer: Any data you share with us will not be shared with any third party groups without your permission first.
CPARG prouds itself with the important conservation research that the group runs, below are short summaries of some of these projects and information on how you can get involved.
Information coming soon!
Information coming soon!
Toads on Roads
Toads on Roads is a national initiative which aims to help set up and manage toad crossing across the country. Roads are a huge issue for amphibians, with the main threat being that of cars. Roads bisect amphibian migration routes between breeding ponds and over-wintering sites and so the aim of a toad crossing is to help as many toads as possible make it to the other side of the road. There are a number of registered toad crossings within the county, with one of CPARG's most active ones is in central Cambridge. We are looking for volunteers to help organise other crossings in their towns and villages with CPARG helping to support them where we can. If you'd like to know more, please contact Sarah Coulson.
Cambridge Midwife Toads
Since 2015 CPARG has been monitoring the population of midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans) in central Cambridge. The study first started out as a population assessment but then quickly transformed into a disease monitoring exercise. It was feared that when the toads were introduced that they may have been infected with infectious diseases that are deadly to amphibians. These do not affect humans but they have caused huge declines in species around the world. Fortunately so far no toads have come back positive for the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). We'd like to thank the local residents for allowing us access to their gardens to carry out this important research. If you'd like to know more then please contact Steven Allain.
Dewsbury Trap Analysis
Information coming soon!
Wandlebury Slow Worms
Information coming soon!
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 Sarah Coulson, our Toads on Roads Officer.
Regular fixed sessions coming soon.
To submit photos of events, species or habitats to our gallery please email Mario Shimbov or alternatively 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 Steven Allain.
We have a small team dealing with possible wildlife crimes committed against herp species - please contact Steve Parnwell who will liaise with the team.
Upcoming events will be listed here.