Secretary - Katy Perry
This time of year everyone gets quite excited about the near arrival of our beloved frogs and toads as they move to ponds and start breeding. Many toad patrols are active and well, helping common toads move safely to their breeding ponds.
If you have ponds and wetlands near you, or some amphibians have taken up refuge somewhere nearby - it is very useful to be able to understand what it is that you've found so that you can then report your findings to us! The more information we have about our frogs and toads, the better we can act to protect and preserve them.
As a result, we've put together some guidance to help you figure out whether you have fabulous frogs or tremendous toads in your local area. The two species are quite distinct when you know what you're looking for, so hopefully this will help.
So what are frogs and toads?
If you do find frogs, toads or spawn near you - make sure you report it via the RecordPool portal on our website - find it under the 'Record A Sighting' tab.
Note - We 100% encourage people to get out an about looking for our wonderful amphibians, but care is needed. Make sure you're aware of how to keep them safe from harm, make sure you're up to date on amphibian disease. We do not recommend that anyone handle any animals unless it is absolutely necessary.
After our 'Evening of Herpetology' event, we held our Annual General Meeting (AGM).
During this we reviewed our year, what progress we had made, the successes we had achieved, and we also discussed what we have planned for the upcoming year.
We also elected our new committee, which is as follows:
Chair - Amber Hopgood
Secretary - Katy Perry
Treasurer - Hannah Lewis
Records Officer - Charlene Jones
Website and Social Media Officer - Amber Hopgood
Training and Events Officer - Paul Wilkinson
Newsletter Editor - Tasha Cain
Black Country Project Officer - Piotr Koryl
Birmingham Project Officer - Charlene Jones
Records Assistant/Committee member - Shannon McCallion
Our Valentine's day 'frogs, sex and rock 'n' roll' Evening of Herpetology event was a huge success! In case you missed it... we had a series of three talks by local ARG members on a variety of herpetology topics!
First of all we had Ben Wood from the Warwickshire Amphibian and Reptile Team (WART) talking about the work the group is currently doing using amphibian drain ladders designed by Trevor Rose.
In and around Warwickshire (and most other urban areas) there is a large problem with amphibians getting trapped in roadside drains and not being able to make their way out again without help. As a result WART has been liaising with local councils, transport agencies and water companies to try and help these animals as best as practically possible and provide drain ladders.
These ladders act as a relatively simple way of ensuring that any amphibians that find themselves in a drain have a chance of escaping, which is particularly important when there is limited volunteer-power and restrictions on how quickly (and widely) people can volunteer their time to check drains.
The group is now monitoring how effective these drain ladders are, and are looking to expand the area in which they are running this project.
Second we had Dr Stuart Graham from the Shropshire and Staffordshire Amphibian and Reptile Group (SASARG) talk about Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) and their impacts on UK wildlife.
Stuart has done a lot of work investigating INNS, with there being at least 21 non-native species present in the UK, and explained what species are involved and how they are distributed across the country.
He talked about the fact that there are positives and negatives associated with INNS, and although the detrimental effects and risks of disease, hybridisation and even predation are concerning, the presence of Invasive Non-Native Species not only provides us - as Herpetologists - with extensive research and monitoring opportunities, it may also have a positive effect on the adaptive capabilities of our native species.
That said, the main thing that Stuart highlighted was that we do not yet know enough about the species present in the UK and the effects they may have on our native flora and fauna - and so much more research and monitoring is needed.
We ended the evening with a talk from our very own Records Manager - Amber Hopgood - and her work on native reptile micro-habitat preferences.
For her undergraduate dissertation Amber set out to try and fill the knowledge gap surrounding microhabitat and whether native species (adders Vipera berus, grass snakes Natrix helvetica, common lizards Zootoca vivipara, and slow worms Anguis fragilis) showed any preference for certain microhabitat features.
Amber talked about the reptile surveys she conducted throughout the field season and detailed the habitat assessment method she designed for her study. She also presented her findings so far and discussed how the different species occupied different microhabitat types - in regards to the habitat structure and the thermal properties of the area.
She highlighted that this is an under-researched but important area of species conservation and hopes to inform future habitat management with her findings.
We would like to extend a massive 'thank you!' to our speakers and to everyone that came along and supported the group for this event, hopefully we will see you all again at one of our next events!
Join us for a series of short herpetology talks followed by our Annual General Meeting, see the flyer below for more details.
The talks are as follows:
The widespread problem of amphibian mortality on roads is well-known, but the impacts of road drainage schemes on populations can only be guessed at. Warwickshire Amphibian and Reptile Team have been rescuing amphibians by hand from sites in Warwickshire and Solihull where large numbers of frogs, toads and newts were found trapped in gully pots after falling into road drains. In 2015 and 2016 WART trialled synthetic mesh ladders, which appeared to have some success in allowing amphibians to escape from the gully pots. More recently they installed some of the more robust aluminium and mesh ladders supplied by the British Herpetological Society which have proven to be successful elsewhere in the UK. Ben will talk about some of the challenges the group have encountered when accessing the drains and installing the ladders and their observations so far. Amphibian escape ladders are being used here as a last resort. Ultimately we will need to change the way we design road drainage schemes to prevent this problem from contributing to the decline of amphibian species not just in the UK but elsewhere in the world.
Dr Stuart Graham - Shropshire and Staffordshire ARG
Does the presence of all Invasive Non-Native Species have significant adverse impacts on native amphibian and reptile biodiversity? Over twenty-one invasive amphibian and reptile species have been recorded as being present in many locations across the UK, although more may be present, not having been detected. This paper provides a definition of Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) along with a discussion on potential pros and cons of individual species presence. Future trends and threats, with case examples of current scientific research and eradication programmes undertaken, are also presented.
Amber Hopgood - Birmingham and Black Country ARG
Reptile micro-habitat preference is a largely understudied area of conservation science, particularly for UK native species. As such, Amber dedicated her undergraduate dissertation to the topic, and spent the entirety of the 2018 season investigating this in relation to vegetation structure and temperature for four native species - adders (Vipera berus), common lizards (Zootoca vivipara), grass snakes (Natrix helvetica) and slow worms (Anguis fragilis) at a site in south Staffordshire, and is pleased to share some of her results.
*PAID MEMBERS ONLY*
Join us for a morning of habitat management for grass snakes! Please note that this event is only open for paid members to attend. If you are a member and would like to come, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tools will be provided,
Location: Baggeridge Country Park, Gospel End, Sedgley, South Staffordshire, DY3 4HB.
Date and Time: 9th March from 10am till 12pm noon.
Details: Tools provided and car parking available. Please wear appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear, bring work gloves if you have them.
We will be at the Sutton Park BioBlitz hosting a stall to talk to people about reptiles and amphibians, and will also be running a reptile walk between 10:00-12:00. Please see the attached poster for details.
Newt Tadpole Identification
When: Saturday 10th August
Where: Fens Pool SSSI - Wardens Base, Pensnett Road, DY5 4NE (by Junction with Bryce Road traffic lights)
What time: 10.30am - 12.30pm
What: Newt tadpole identification - please wear sturdy boots or wellies and weather appropriate clothing.
Please email us at email@example.com to book your space!
Join us for a guided reptile walk at Sutton Park led by two of our committee members!
When: Saturday 21st September
Where: Visitors Centre, Sutton Park
Time: 10am - 12pm
Details: Reptile survey with limited spaces. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to book a space.
All members are welcome, but it is a committee meeting in which we will be discussing and planning winter events so it's not the most exciting! We will send out meeting minutes and information about events after the meeting has taken place.
Details are as follows:
When? Friday 8th November from 18:30-20:30.
Where? Canal and River Trust Office, 22 Cambrian House, King Edwards Road, Birmingham, B1 2AN.
We are holding our AGM in March. There are no arranged speakers as we have the West Midlands Conference coming up soon, but we will be electing members into positions and discussing the successes of 2019 and planning the upcoming year.
When? Thursday 5th March, 6.30pm
Where? Aqua House, 20 Lionel St, Birmingham B3 1AQ - google maps here.
Due to COVID-19 this conference has been postponed. We are looking to reschedule it in the Autumn. Refunds will be issued to anyone who had paid for a ticket and details will be provided when a new date has been arranged.
The Birmingham and Black Country Amphibian and Reptile Group (BBCARG) are pleased to announce that we are organising the West Midlands Regional ARG Conference in conjunction with Amphibian and Reptile Groups UK (ARG UK), at Himley Hall, near Dudley, West Midlands on 4th April 2020.
The theme of the conference will be: ‘Managing reptile and amphibian conservation in a time of increasing public pressure on wildlife’. As we are all too aware in the Midlands, many local populations of our beloved amphibians and reptiles are in a precarious state, and in a time of increasing pressure on our native species and the habitats they depend on, they need all the help they can get. Public pressure can encompass any of the following: disturbance from recreational site users; housing or infrastructure development of important sites or green corridors reducing and fragmenting suitable habitat; the issue of biosecurity; and even the impact of herpetologists, photographers and the wider public, wanting to encounter our native reptiles and amphibians.
Greater public engagement in reptiles and amphibians is a welcome step to encouraging greater interest in the natural world and support for the conservation of what are sometimes classed as ‘less cuddly’ species , but it needs careful management to ensure that the balance between species conservation and public interest is maintained. This paradox is what we aim to explore with this conference - by looking at the different methods that our ARGs, land managers and other conservation professionals adopt to ensure the animals are protected and have the opportunity to thrive, whilst also educating and inspiring people to join us in doing so. We will aim to share our ideas and experiences to improve the work that we all do in the region, and find answers to some of these problematic questions.
The full speaker programme is now available on our website, and we are delighted to welcome Ewan Chapman of the National Trust at Kinver Edge, who will give a keynote presentation on the challenges and solutions of managing a reserve on the urban fringe. We will also be joined by Paul Edgar, Herpetofauna Species Specialist at Natural England, Natalie Norton, Senior Conservation Officer at BBCWT, ARG UK Coordinator, Angela Julian who will discuss some of the outcomes of the ARG UK Adders are Amazing! project, Jennifer Gilbert, Back from the Brink, Cotswolds Community Engagement Officer who will be telling us more about the challenges of managing multi-species conservation and public engagement at a landscape level, Paul Wilkinson from BBC ARG, Ian Tanner from WART, Andrew Nixon, Senior Conservation Manager at the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust who will be telling us about an exciting new Ice Age Pond project they are setting up with HART, and Nigel Hand plus David Dewsbury of GlosARG who will be telling us more about conserving amphibians and reptiles in the Forest of Dean. There will also be an afternoon workshop exploring the issues surrounding balancing balancing public access with conservation priorities. Ticket price will include entry to the conference and welcome refreshments, two tea/coffee breaks, and a buffet lunch. We can cater to any dietary preference.
Please note the deadline for ticket purchases will be Monday 23rd March 2020.
Programme available here.
Tickets available here.