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!
A team of ARU student members are co-ordinating 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-ordinators will contact members closer to the survey period with details on volunteer survey sessions. The project itself will follow two stages:
On Sunday December 15th we'll be teaming up with Peterborough Conservation Volunteers (PCV) to help deliver a habitat management session at Stanground Newt Ponds, a Wildlife Trust site. The session will start at 10AM and continue until we get tired and want to go home, probably around 3PM before it gets too dark.
Some of you will know the site from surveys we did earlier this year and will remember that getting around the pond perimeter was tricky/impossible in places due to scrub growth. Also, despite being night-time surveys, it was clear that both ponds were quite over-shaded by trees and scrub.
Having now had a site-visit with the Wildlife Trust warden I confirm that we’ve been authorised to remove as much scrub as possible from around the south side of the ponds in particular. This will result in better access for surveys in 2014 and warmer ponds in which larvae can develop to a larger size more quickly.
We have also confirmed we can have a fire, and therefore potatoes are on the menu! Please bring sausages, bacon or marshmallows if you’d like to cook more exotic bonfire foods too!
Tools and gloves will be provided, as will hot drinks and biscuits, but please bring weather appropriate clothes, cold drinks and a packed lunch. If you've got a camping chair please bring that for lunch-time too.
PCV have a map to the site here:
If you'd like to come please email me to book on so that I can co-ordinate numbers with PCV: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event is free, though you would need to either be a member or sign up on the day (membership is £5, and as we'll be into the quiet season for herps will last until March 2015).
Sunday 8th December 2013, 0930-1700
Lecture Hall, Bournemouth Natural Science Society.
9am until 5pm
This meeting is a chance to listen to a wide range of talks given on herpetology that cover every aspect.
Registration is essential.
Date: Friday15th November
Time: 7.30PM (open from 7)
Where: Methodist Church, Drummingwell Lane, Oundle, PE8 4AA
What: Local Amphibians and Reptiles
Cost: uncertain, probably small donation (to OWT)
Booking: I think not required
Paul Furnborough will give a short presentation covering amphibians and reptiles which you might expect to see in our local patch.
Date: Saturday 17th August
Time: all day
Location: Surrey (precise location tbc)
Cost: Free, barring travel costs - although a donation to SARG would be appreciated.
Host: Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group (SARG)
Cambridgeshire offers many gems - especially on the amphibian front - but unfortunately we're outside of the distribution range and lack the specialist habitat requirements for two of our countrys' rarest reptiles: the sand lizard and the smooth snake.
Surrey ARG have kindly invited us to join them for a day of surveys on one of the sites they monitor, hopefully providing us with an opportunity to see and experience these animals in the wild. They will provide an experienced, fully licensed guide to show us round. This is a good educational opportunity to explore our wider herpetofauna.
Despite their scarcity and habitat specialisation, surveys for these rarer reptiles use the same techniques and skills as their more widespread cousins, so you can get your eye practicing (and recording) on local surveys in advance of this trip.
This visit may be numbers limited as we need to be in a small enough group that we all get to see the animals without causing them undue disturbance, so please do book early to avoid disappointment.
This event is open to all CPARG members - you can become a member at any of our events by filling in our form and handing it in with a fiver to the designated committee member present.
To book please email email@example.com
Save the date - Wicken Fen Bioblitz Friday 12th July 4pm - Saturday 13th July 2013. Details to follow - anyone fancy representing amphibians and reptiles with CPARG?
What: Amphibian Surveys and Training – Hunt for the Palmate Newt (Phase I)
Where: Castor Hanglands NNR, near Peterborough (detailed meeting point tbc on RSVP)
When: Saturday 1st June, 8PM-11PM; surveys will then continue weekly (dates to be arranged to suit surveyors) until July, please contact me to book on either training and/or further surveys.
Cost: Free to members (or £5 membership to join for the year)
What to bring: newt torch and pond dipping nets, headtorch/handtorch, ID sheets/books and a clipboard if you have them (I can provide some basic kit and we’ll share if there isn’t enough), wellies (easier to disinfect than shoes) and weather appropriate clothing.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP or for more details (booking essential)
Event Leader: Paul Furnborough
Castor Hanglands is one of the few sites in Peterborough known to have all five species of widespread amphibian: common frog, common toad, smooth newt, great crested newt and, rarest of all in these parts, the palmate newt.
We will meet at the gates (more precise location to be confirmed to attendees closer the time – it’s tricky to describe) and spend about three hours doing spawn and egg-searches, netting and torching. If there’s demand we might do some sample bottle trapping, removing bottles before we leave. It will include only practical work – no worksheets or theory – although I will be on hand to answer questions if he can. It is a natural follow-up from the GCN training at Hampton or the amphibian training in Cambourne earlier this year, but will be equally accessible to complete novices. This site allows us to practice identifying palmate newts and also reminds the newt obsessives (like me) to look and listen out for frogs and toads too.
There are three objectives to this event:
1) ID and survey training covering all widespread amphibian species
2) to kick off regular, weekly surveys of the site until 6 visits have been recorded for each pond; this will help monitor the amphibian populations on the site
3) to prepare volunteers for a widening circle of pond surveys around this known Palmate site to try and find more Palmate Ponds next year
There are about 10 ponds on the site so there’s plenty of ground to cover and we’ll need as many volunteers as are able to commit to at least one survey this year. Please don’t be shy to sign up even if you lack experience – this training event should see you right and if you’re not confident we can buddy you up with a more experienced surveyor.
Please RSVP to email@example.com if you’d like to book onto either the training or the follow-up surveys, and please say what kit you are able to bring.
Hopefully see lots of you there,
REPTILE SURVEY NEAR PETERBOROUGH
Date: Saturday 18th May 2013 (continuing until end September 2013).
Time: 10am Saturday 18th May 2013. Subsequent visits to be agreed with coordinator and survey team members.
Location: East Holmes - Nene Flood Meadows, near Castor Old Mill
Meet at south end of Mill Lane, Castor: Location is to the northwest of Peterborough adjacent to and on the River Nene flood plain between Alwalton and Castor. Access by road is via the A47 and Castor village, down Mill Lane which is a no through road ending at The Old Mill (private house) PE5 7BT. This is the nearest house address in Google maps. http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Castor+PE5+7BT,+United+Kingdom&hl=en&ll=52.563152,-0.33534&spn=0.028227,0.084543&sll=52.557593,-0.337741&sspn=0.02823,0.084543&oq=Castor+PE5+7Bt,+United+Kingdom&t=h&hnear=Castor+PE5+7BT,+United+Kingdom&z=14 The
This event is open to all CPARG members - you can become a member at any of our events by filling in our form and handing it in with a fiver to the designated committee member present. PLEASE NOTE - Persons volunteering for this site need a good level of fitness as you will need to walk substantial distances when putting out ACOs (artificial cover objects) prior to survey and for the actual survey visits, due to the extent of the site. We may have to do surveys of partial areas and rotate on successive visits (estimated survey time 2 to 2.5 hrs).
Site Description: Extensive semi-improved neutral grassland site of approx 22ha; larger central portion bounded by two channels of River Nene, with smaller portion on higher ground to northeast of flood plain. Expect to find Grass snakes across whole site and Common lizards on smaller drier section to north east, but we may be surprised regarding species and range!
· Volunteer surveyors are invited to participate in setting up artificial cover objects (ACOs), i.e., placement of up to 200 roofing felt squares for 'presence/absence' survey, commencing Saturday 18th May 2013 and to assist in data gathering by making regular visits to record sightings of reptiles.
· Survey work will commence 10 to 14 days after placement of ACOs and continue through to end September 2013, subject to an agreed number of survey visits under suitable conditions.
Equipment / Clothing / Food and Drink: This is a rural site with no facilities, so you will need to bring a packed lunch and adequate liquid refreshment!
Gloves and stout boots are essential and a jacket / waterproof are recommended in case of inclement weather. Please also bring a large, sturdy bag or two, for carrying felts, such as an ‘Ikea’ carry bag and a clip board and pencil for the site plan and to make notes.
PLEASE CONTACT ANDREW SLATER IF INTERESTED:
Andrew Slater, on 07754 682876 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Saturday 20th April
Location: Holme Dunes (NWT), Norfolk
Cost: free to NWT members, possible charge/donation (tbc) of £4 for non-NWT members
Whilst Cambridgeshire hosts all of our widespread herpetofauna species we're sadly just over the border from these little guys - Natterjack Toads. A species which specialises in shallow, temporary dune ponds or heathlands, populations can be found in Norfolk and I gather (oddly enough) at RSPB Sandy, in Bedfordshire.
As part of our remit to enthuse and educate the public about amphibians - and because we'd like to share in that experience - we've organised a field trip with a Norfolk naturalist Karl Charters to see these beautiful creatures. Karl knows the site well and is fully licensed to work with Natterjacks so this promises to be a fine opportunity to catch a rare glimpse of these threatened amphibians.
We’re also grateful to Norfolk Wildlife Trust who manage the site for granting us access. http://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/holme.aspx
As with all wildlife expeditions it will be highly weather dependent; if the event needs to be cancelled due to poor weather it will instead go ahead the following weekend on Saturday 27th April.
Please wear wellies which are easy to wash down to minimize the biohazard of transfering Chytrid between sites.
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.
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.