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:
Please join our Facebook for discussions with other members.
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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!
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 prides itself with the important conservation research that the group runs throughout the county. Below are short summaries of some of these projects and information on how you can get involved.
CPARG monitors a number of amphibian populations around the county with the majority of the committee being great crested newt licence holders. There are sites of interest throughout Cambridgeshire which are home to the four most widespread amphibian species, common frog, common toad, smooth newt and great crested newt. A small number of sites are also home to some rarer species (for Cambridgeshire at least), such as the palmate newt. These are generally surveyed at night using a combination of methods such as torchlight surveys and bottle trapping. To get involved, keep an eye on our blog and our events.
CPARG opportunistically monitors a small number of reptile populations around the county, with the focus being populations in or around Cambridge. These include the monitoring of slow worms at Wandlebury Country Park (see below) and of common lizards at Bramblefields Local Nature Reserve. To get involved, please keep an eye on our blog and our events.
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. Every year we are on the lookout for volunteers to help us with toad patrols throughout the county.
Toads have declined around 70% in the UK in the last thirty years, and being hit by cars is one of the main causes. The toad patrol is one way of making a real difference to protecting these remarkable amphibians. The toad patrol is active through the toad breeding season, usually from mid-February until April. Volunteers give the toads a helping hand, so that as many as possible make it safely across the roads to their breeding pond to spawn. Each patrol has it's own coordinator who helps to organise a rota, with volunteers signing up for between one and three hours around dusk, on nights when the toads are active. All you need is a bucket and a torch.
To find out more about the Stanley Road Toad Crossing, please contact the crossing coordinator Suzanne Little on 07957 179 993. If you'd like to know more about Toads on Roads in general, please contact Mark Goodman.
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.
Wandlebury Slow Worms
Since 2017, CPARG has been monitoring the population of slow worms (Anguis fragilis) at Wandlebury Country Park. We have been working to establish the demography of the population and the extent of which they use the site. This has been achieved through the use of structured surveys, which are ongoing. If you'd like to get involved, please get in touch.
Falling Through The Cracks
Burial grounds are a haven for wildlife given that they are generally safe from development, and are managed in a way that provides both plentiful food and shelter for wildlife. Given the number of burial grounds in Cambridgeshire and the lack of information regarding the presence or absence of absence of amphibians or reptile species, we've developed a package of materials to assist volunteers and burial grounds managers to help fill in these gaps. If you would like to take on the monitoring of a burial ground near you, please get in touch with Terry Moore, who will be able to assist you with this.
Dewsbury Trap Analysis
Information coming soon!
CPARG is always happy to welcome new members whether they be amateur amphibian and reptile enthusiasts or professional ecologists. This mix of backgrounds helps to give CPARG it's strong dynamic. If you'd like to know more about membership and the benefits provided, please feel free to contact us before you join. To find our about how CPARG is operated, please feel free to read the CPARG Constitution (available here). If you've got a membership query, please contact Helen Moore, our Membership Secretary.
You can become a member of CPARG by using the 'Subscribe' button below and paying via PayPal. Our membership fees are £5 per year and membership runs until the 31st December. When joining through PayPal, please use the login details sent to your email address to access ARGWEB and complete the details found under 'My CPARG Account', including the volunteer agreement. Alternatively, you can fill out a membership form and pay via bank transfer or cheque. Please read the ARG UK Generic Risk Assessment and ARG UK Lone Working Procedures (below) before becoming a member.
ARG UK Generic Risk Assessment - Click Here
ARG UK Lone Working Procedures - Click Here
CPARG Membership Form - Click Here
ARGWEB is the online system that CPARG uses to monitor sites, manage it's data and assist in various administrative roles. You can log-in using the button below and record your sightings and us ARGWEB's many other features.
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 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.