Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN)
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About us

About Us

DARN is a network of people in Dorset interested in our native reptiles and amphibians. Its purpose is to promote the conservation, recording and appreciation of native amphibians and reptiles in the county of Dorset. DARN serves as a means of communication between volunteers, professionals and the general public. DARN members pay an annual fee of £6 and then when suitably trained they can  take part in our widespread reptile surveys. These can be viewed once reptile surveyor status has been achieved. DARN is also running the SliC project - Slow-worms in Churchyards. We have rare reptile survey sites on FE and MOD land and we are continually adding new transects as we expand our activities across the county.   

Dorset has 12 of the UK's 13 native amphibian and reptile species, and a handful of non-native species. Its internationally-important heathlands are famous as national strongholds for the rare reptiles - Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake - and southwest England's only populations of our second-rarest amphibian, the Natterjack Toad. With such an important wildlife heritage in Dorset, several wildlife NGOs have their headquarters in the county, including the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC). Together with the various statutory bodies and local authorities, this means Dorset has many wildlife professionals. DARN aims to form a link between all these people, and to nurture an appreciation among the general public for our herpetofaunal friends.

Sheila Dyason is Chair of DARN and you can email her at: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk with 'DARN' in the subject header. DARN Dispatches is a newsletter that is produced every two months, telling you of news, items of interest, and projects to get involved in; and there will be at least one annual meeting or event. Dorset is home to some of the most important reptile and amphibian populations in the country, with a high concentration of protected sites, and a buzz of conservation activities and research projects. There are endless opportunities for helping out by volunteering, and there are already many volunteers in the county who give their time towards projects helping to conserve our herpetofauna, and raise awareness.

The History of the DARN Group

DARN was set up as a surveying and recording group on 30/01/2020. Previously it had been an email and facebook group.

The founding members were Sheila Dyason as Chair, Catherine Dyason as Secretary, Pete Gillatt as Treasurer.

The Group started with rare reptile sites which Sheila had arranged with Forestry England to survey as part of HIWARG – the Hampshire Group. Some of them had been set up and monitored by David Tamarind who sadly died recently. There were not any widespread species surveys for members to get involved with so Sheila set up the SliC Project – Slow-worms in Churchyards - as a way to get members involved in surveying.  

As of July 2021 DARN has 8 widespread reptile transects set up in north Dorset and three more rare reptile transects including one on MOD land. DARN is working with land owners and managers such as Forestry England, Butterfly Conservation, the Dorset Wildlife Trust, the MOD, church communities and private land owners.

 

News

News

DARN Dispatches 12

Posted on Tuesday 4th October, 2022

DARN Dispatches 12

I hope you have all had a busy summer surveying and submitting lots of records on ARGWEB and Record Pool. Our GIS map is certainly becoming a multi-coloured patchwork of dots and diamonds.

Habitat management has just started with DARN undertaking a new research project to investigate if there is a better way for our volunteers to control Birch on our heathland sites.

Other new projects are FARM – Farming with Amphibians and Reptiles in Mind – where landowners are wilding their fields and woods; and CAMPAR – CAMPsites with Amphibians and Reptiles – which will add a new dimension to staycation holidays next year.

We are continuing to monitor the Wall Lizards at various sites with our NISER project – Non-native and Invasive Species, Escapees and Releases.

The SliC project – Slow-worms in Churchyards - is also ongoing as is our Allotment project.

David, our foreign correspondent in Greece, continues to send us wonderful photos of reptile sightings from his back garden and beyond and he is now trying to entice our surveyors to join him snake hunting.

We have just held another Committee Meeting to discuss plans for habitat management and how we are going to expand our range of activities next year. Thanks to all the Committee Members for their hard work and to our other reptile surveyors. Recruited another surveyor just a few days ago. Thanks also to our friends at HIWARG – the Hampshire Group – who continue to help us in so many ways.

As I have said in previous Dispatches, if you are interested in becoming a DARN reptile surveyor, email me and we will arrange for ARGWEB and field survey training if it is needed and then you will be given access to our widespread transect sites.

As usual casual sightings of amphibians and reptiles can be added to Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk. Historic records are fine as well. If you are not sure just email or message me.

I look forward to hearing from you

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 11

Posted on Monday 11th July, 2022

DARN Dispatches 11

16 Smooth Snakes on one transect

It has been a while since the last DARN Dispatches but we have not been idle! We are continuing to survey our existing DARN sites and 12 more rare reptile sites are planned. The first ones will be set up on Friday. As mentioned above, 16 Smooth Snakes were found at one of our sites recently which was amazing.

We are continuing to monitor the expanding range of the Wall Lizards at various sites with our NISER project – Non-native and Invasive Species, Escapees and Releases.

The SliC project – Slow-worms in Churchyards - is also ongoing with Slow-worms being found at most sites with an occasional Grass Snake and Common Lizard.

The Allotment project is still gathering records and we are beginning to build up a map of how amphibians and reptiles use the sites.

A new project is BASH – Birch Alleviation on Sensitive Heathland. Birch is increasingly and continually shading the heathland areas so DARN is going to trial different methods to control the Birch to see which is most effective and suitable for volunteers to undertake.

We have also set up a DARN Headshot Library so that we can identify old friends and follow their progress and also see who else is living in the area. This will also, over time, help with gauging population sizes.

David, our foreign correspondent in Greece, continues to send us wonderful photos of reptile sightings from his back garden and beyond including fabulous blue skies and deserted beaches. Thanks David. Keep them coming! Gordon Burch has also been giving us live updates of his trip to Dorset and other countries. Joe Kaplonek seems to have found a good site to explore his photographic skills.

We have just held another Committee Meeting to discuss plans for habitat management later in the year and to catch-up on all our successes so far this year. Thanks to all the Committee Members for their hard work and to our other reptile surveyors. Thanks also to our friends at HIWARG – the Hampshire Group – who have helped us in so many ways and who enjoy the occasional trip over the border to Dorset to enjoy our wildlife as well.

As I have said in previous Dispatches, if you are interested in becoming a DARN reptile surveyor, email me and we will arrange for ARGWEB and field survey training if it is needed and then you will be given access to our widespread transect sites.

As usual casual sightings of amphibians and reptiles can be added to Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk. Historic records are fine as well. If you are not sure just email or message me.

I look forward to hearing from you

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 10

Posted on Thursday 6th January, 2022

DARN Dispatches 10

Happy New Year!

IMG 1869a

One of the three Wall Lizards Cathy and I found on 5th January at Boscombe. Having just read a paper on ‘Predator-elicited foot shakes in Wall Lizards’ I was delighted to see one of the Wall Lizards demonstrating this. I will be looking for other Wall Lizards along the cliffs and for Wall Lizards on Portland.

So this year DARN will be continuing with the SliC Project – Slow-worms in Churchyards. Cathy will also be co-ordinating the NISER Project - Non-native Invasive Species Escapees and Releases. Starting off with Wall Lizards and then anything else that is encountered along the way. Therefore we are interested in sightings of any non-native species as well as native ones. This will help us to better understand the herps of Dorset.

A very successful habitat management task was carried out just before Christmas at Hurn Forest. A massive thank you to all the DARN and HIWARG volunteers who came to help.

With the mild weather amphibians started to return to their breeding ponds in December including 5 Palmate Newts and a frog in my ponds. Spawn counts will be the first major survey of the year. Any spawn found can be recorded as usual on Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk. Historic records are fine as well. So if you normally have frogspawn in your pond and there is not any this year, last year’s sighting can still be added. If you are not sure just email or message me.

David, our foreign correspondent in Greece, continues to send us wonderful photos of reptile sightings from his back garden and beyond including fabulous blue skies and deserted beaches. Thanks David. Keep them coming!

We are going to hold another zoom Committee Meeting next month to discuss plans for the new survey season. Warren is still busy organising and setting up more transects across Dorset. We are hoping to attend a couple of public engagement events this year – have gazebo will travel.

As I’ve said in previous Dispatches, if you are interested in becoming a DARN reptile surveyor, email me and we will arrange for ARGWEB and field survey training if it is needed and then you will be given access to our widespread transect sites.

I look forward to hearing from you

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 9

Posted on Thursday 6th January, 2022

DARN Dispatches 9 October 2021

A big THANK YOU to Tina, Warren, Cathy, Paul, Pete G, Pete W and friends at HIWARG for your continued support with surveys, habitat management and advice.

I know I say this every time but DARN does continue to expand its activities with more surveyors, more transects, more sightings. So, thank you to everyone for continuing to make DARN so successful!

Habitat management season has just started and we have completed two tasks in Ringwood Forest with more planned here and in Hurn Forest and on other sites.

Pond surveys will be a new feature for next year and we will also be looking for non-native herp species in the county.

The SliC surveys – Slow-worms in Churchyards – are also continuing to expand in Dorset and there are also now 6 sites in the New Forest. Thank you to the New Forest Park Authority for their generous grant to fund these.

David, our foreign correspondent in Greece, continues to send us wonderful photos of sightings from his back garden and beyond. Thanks David. Keep them coming!

We held a face-to-face Committee Meeting last month and we will be having a zoom Committee Meeting next month. Thanks to Pete Gillatt for organising the zoom session.

Warren and Tina have been busy setting up more transects across Dorset with rare reptiles being found on many of them. Cathy and I have also set up transects on a wildlife friendly farm, a SANG, a Common, and we are planning visual surveys along disused railway tracks.

With Halloween approaching I was interested to read that ‘Eye of newt’ referred not to an amphibian but to a plant! Mustard seed. Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” describes a concoction that consists of:

“Eye of newt (mustard seed) and toe of frog (buttercup leaves),

Wool of bat (moss) and tongue of dog (hounds tooth),

Adder’s fork (violet), and blind-worm’s sting (knotweed),

Lizard’s leg (ivy), and howlet’s wing (garlic)

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

    

As usual, if you have any herp records (not plants), historic ones are fine as well especially as I have just found out how to add them to ARGWEB when there isn’t a grid reference, send them to me or add them to Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk

Also, if you are interested in becoming a DARN reptile surveyor, email me and we will arrange for ARGWEB and field survey training if it is needed and then you will be given access to our widespread transect sites.

I look forward to hearing from you

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 8

Posted on Saturday 17th July, 2021

I am sure that many of you would have known David Tamarind as he had been herping in Dorset for many decades. He sadly passed away recently. He was collecting data on rare reptiles right up to the end even though mobility problems were slowing him down. He will be sadly missed.

DARN continues to expand its activities with more surveyors, more transects, more sightings. So, thank you to everyone for continuing to make DARN so successful!

The SliC surveys – Slow-worms in Churchyards – are also continuing to expand and we soon hope to have sites across Dorset. Slow-worms have been found in all the Dorset burial ground sites that we are surveying and Warren Port and Tina-Louise Gower have also found a Grass Snake and a Great Crested Newt at one churchyard which was particularly exciting. If you know of other churchyards that might like to participate then please let me know.

David, our foreign correspondent in Greece, continues to send us wonderful photos of sightings from his back garden and beyond. Thanks David. Keep them coming!

A zoom Committee meeting was held recently and plans for the future discussed.

Warren has reminded us that it was International Snake Day yesterday and he shared some photos of Dorset snakes to celebrate.

   adder1  grass snake1smooth snake1

Thanks Warren!

As usual, if you have any records, historic ones are fine as well, add them to Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk

Also, if you are interested in becoming a DARN reptile surveyor, email me and we will arrange for ARGWEB and field survey training if it is needed and then you will be given access to our widespread transect sites and you can help us to record reptiles in Dorset.

I look forward to hearing from you

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


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