Friends of Angus Herpetofauna (FAH) is a local Amphibian & Reptile Group (ARG) founded in 2007, serving Angus and surrounding areas. Affiliated to ARG-UK, the national umbrella group for local ARGs, FAH is a constituted, non-profit group of volunteers, involved particularly in various monitoring projects at a local level linking into schemes of national importance.
At present, FAH is conducting annual surveys throughout the county to monitor the presence and status of our widespread amphibian and reptile species. These surveys feed directly to the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (NARRS) coordinated by the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC Trust). Survey protocols are strictly controlled and training of voluntary surveyors is provided free at the beginning of each survey season.
Projects currently in progress include a study into the effectiveness of amphibian ladders in gulleypots (roadside drains). Migrating amphibians frequently fall into gulleypots and remain entrapped, unable to escape, eventually dying a lingering death. New ladders, designed by FAH (based on an idea from RAVON) are proving to be a viable sollution to this long-standing problem and are now installed in pioneering work in three locations across the county. FAH are also keen to identify amphibian migration crossing points and set up Toad Patrols, which involves the recruitment of volunteers to collect amphibians with torches and buckets to help them across busy roads where they might otherwise be killed by passing road traffic.
FAH can offer pond and habitat surveys on request either to an established protocol or to a tailored specification. FAH also provide the manpower to undertake a range of field work, including monitoring and habitat management, or offer help and advice as required. Experienced herpetologists are also on hand to provide training, presentations and guided field walks.
8th May 2011 - Despite the very wet weather at the weekend, which led to cancellation of 11 of the 14 places booked on the Guided Walk to Glen Esk, the local adders defied the odds and surprised us once again by appearing in numbers!
Within a few minutes of the walk beginning, two female adders were found laying out in light rain between the heavier showers. A slowworm was also found under refugia at lunch time, then during some respite from the rain and an outbreak of very welcome warm sunshine, 9 more adders were found. A very heavy rain storm caught the group on the return walk to the car park and gave everyone a thorough soaking. However, 4 more refugia were checked and 2 slowworms were added to the tally.
With sightings of cuckoo, wheatear, an osprey carrying prey and the call of a black grouse, the day was very rewarding and the rain did not dampen anyone’s spirits! We hope for similar success on the 21st May, but perhaps not the weather.
The destructive phases of the Kinnaber cycle path development north of Montrose are now complete.
FAH volunteers have been monitoring the site during construction in a bid to move as many common lizards as possible out of harm’s way. Kinnaber Moor is one of only a handful of lowland sites where the creatures can still be found in Angus.
On Wednesday 27th April 2011, contractors moved on to the site to skim the topsoil and gorse roots from the top of a disused railway embankment, which is to become the foundation of the cycle path. This phase of the construction was attended by Trevor Rose & Tim Castleton (FAH), Carol Littlewood (independent advisor), Sally Young (Angus Council – Roads), George Addison (Angus Council technician) and the construction staff headed by Alan Barnes.
There were only three lizards seen; one was captured for relocation and two were in the safety of the adjacent standing gorse. Two toads were also retrieved from the disturbed earth during digging. Trevor Rose said “Although this number is low, I think we can presume that most of the resident lizards had relocated themselves to the standing gorse and possibly beyond, due to the exposure they experienced over quite a long period after the gorse had been cut.” Predation by corvids and raptors was also raised as a concern after the gorse had been cut ten days earlier; although there is no direct evidence to suggest this was an issue, it remained a possibility.
Mr Rose continued, “We can be reasonably sure that few if any lizards came to harm during the excavation and it has certainly been a very worthwhile exercise. The site has the appearance of being fairly devastated now, but the contractor was very accommodating during the process and laid the spoils (which came off in large mats of turf and very loose composted gorse litter) carefully to the edge of the path, creating an embankment running the length of the site. These turf mats lay "folded" loosely on the cut gorse stumps and I am quite confident that any lizards hiding amongst the gorse stumps will be able to free themselves. We also had the opportunity to avoid burying some of the larger gorse root systems, leaving them exposed for lizard refuge and basking. When the new embankment has had chance to settle and vegetation returns, this will create an excellent habitat for future lizard generations.”
Angus Council are also considering the installation of an information notice for passers-by and users of the new path to bring to their attention the presence of the lizards and to acknowledge the effort that went into preserving them.
Refugia placed at the beginning of the rescue bid around three weeks earlier are to be left in place around the standing gorse, in the hope that this will help to retain the lizards in the safe, undisturbed area. When the final work is complete (installation of a new fence line on either side of the path), the refugia will then be removed.
“All in all, our efforts have been rewarded with very few or possibly no lizard deaths, due in the main to the vigilance of volunteers and monitoring of refugia, modified route of the path (biased westward) which reduced the gorse cutting by 50%, the avoidance of destruction of the recognised hibernaculum near the gate, and the careful cutting of topsoil and placement of spoils by the contractor in the final phase,” Mr. Rose said.
The rescue mission is now complete and FAH would like to thank all the volunteers who came forward to help with the mitigation measures. None of this work and the publicity it received would have been possible without your contribution.
Please visit our Gallery for pictures from the Kinnaber site.
FAH were pleased to be invited on to BBC Radio Scotland’s popular morning show, MacCaulay & Co to discuss adders.
No half measures though – BBC sent roving reporter Richard Cadey to Glen Esk in Angus, accompanied by Trevor Rose, to go in search of adders in readiness for the live mid-morning show.
Blessed by the weather, the pair found adders and slowworms in abundance. Armed with a portable studio, Richard quickly set up a satellite link to the studio in Glasgow, and despite the lack of pictures, host Fred MacCaulay and Richard set the scene beside the River North Esk, and with adders and slowworms to hand, Richard made good use of the opportunity to enthral the listeners with his new experience of seeing both species for the first time in his life.
Although the item lasted only 4 minutes, a considerable amount of information was imparted, including appearance, diet, predators, visual searching techniques, threats and declines, and envenomation, providing a fascinating insight into the lives of adders.
It was also a great opportunity for FAH to get air-time on national radio!
Hear the show on BBC iPlayer until 21st April.(http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0102fy2/MacAulay_and_Co_14_04_2011/)
Find the clip around 1hr 13mins in.
A new development north of the coastal town of Montrose is threatening the lives of a common lizard colony.
The cycle path, linking Montrose to Northwater viaduct cuts though prime common lizard habitat, one of the few remaining lowland populations of the species in Angus.
Work had already started near to the viaduct when Trevor Rose of Friends of Angus Herpetofauna noticed that construction worker’s storage units had been placed on the Kinnaber Moor section of the planned cycle path. Mr. Rose contacted the local Council’s Road’s Department and arranged to meet the engineer in charge of the works. Plans revealed the proposed route for the cycle path was the line of the old railway, a raised embankment covered in gorse scrub, long since abandoned and now home to hundreds of common lizards.
As common lizards are protected against intentional killing and injuring, the Council were obliged to accommodate mitigation measures. The use of refugia was discussed as was the possibility of monitoring for lizard movements when the excavators move in. However, there was no mention of delaying the project to allow for mitigation to take place over a suitable period of time and the contractors are due to begin clearing the gorse scrub on 11th April.
On the basis that the Council were unwilling to change their schedule or employ ecological professionals to undertake the work, FAH advised that refugia should be laid out immediately and offered to monitor the site on a daily basis in search of the resident lizards. A general plea for volunteers was sent out and over 40 respondents were enlisted.
A local Council Ranger was recruited by the Council to lay refugia on the proposed construction site, a strip approximately 500m long and 10m wide. Just sixty 1 metre square roof felt tiles were laid on the site. FAH volunteers acted quickly to cut each one into four 0.5 metre squares, quadrupling the number of refugia available for the lizards.
Mr. Rose commented “This is still not enough. The density of refugia needs to be much greater to have any chance of attracting the lizards. Frankly, they are also unlikely to help much in the short time allowed, as generally these roof felt tiles need to bed-in to the vegetation for at least a month before they become attractive to reptiles”.
With the refugia in place, Mr. Rose met with some of the volunteers over the weekend to offer help and instruction for searching and capturing the common lizards.
Kinnaber Moor is a large site of around 200 hectares, with populations of common lizards throughout. The proposed cycle path only affects a narrow tract of habitat across the moor, but the old railway embankment it is one of the most important features in the area.
“The resident lizards use the embankment as a hibernaculum and are just beginning to emerge at this time of year”, said Mr. Rose. “They will begin to disperse into the surrounding rank grass vegetation once it has grown on later in the year, but for now they are basking, feeding and preparing for courtship on and around the embankment. This is a very important feature on the landscape and the development is putting them at considerable risk”.
Mr. Rose continued, “Common lizards are numerous in the Glens and foothills of the nearby Cairngorms, but are fragmented and rare on the lowlands and coastal areas. This population is one of only four that are known to FAH in Angus, are therefore very precious, and need our protection”.
“Our short-term and emergency plan is to capture as many lizards as possible and move them to other areas of the moor, suitably far away that they won’t migrate back before the work on the cycle path has finished”, Mr. Rose said.
Please re-visit this webpage for updates on the progress of the project in the coming days and weeks.
For video of lizards seen at the site since the start of the mitigation project, please see the following YouTube links:
Upcoming events will be listed here.