Hampshire is fortunate that the county covers a huge geographic area and a very diverse breadth of habitat including: the Isle of Wight, the New Forest National Park, the South Downs National Park, as well as many other unspoiled areas, including Woolmer Forest.
It is therefore unsurprising that we are host to 12 out of the 13 native amphibians and reptiles in UK, including rarities such as the Natterjack Toad, Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake, and wherever you live in the county there will be opportunities to survey and monitor an assemblage of amphibian and reptile species.
HIWARG formed in the Autumn of 2018 and is an affiliated independent ARG-UK group. The group focus is conservation of native UK species essentially around habitat management, surveying, public engagement, volunteer training & doing as much as possible to understand & protect the native species in the county.
All members are volunteers with a common interest.
If you have some spare time and would like to be involved with HIWARG, maybe you have taken a photo of a reptile or amphibian and would like it identified or maybe you have some other query, then please do get in contact firstname.lastname@example.org
CONSERVATION THROUGH EMPATHY BY ENGAGEMENT
Midwife Toads are a non native species to the UK, but have been found in several colonies in parts of the country. Hampshire has been named as one of these locations in several sources, but there are no actual records that we are aware of. Despite the lack of records, there is an anecdotal comment on a website to suggest that Midwife Toads were known from the Littleton area and so we are reaching out to residents for their help in recording these elusive toads.
Midwife Toads are smaller than our native toads, with adults reaching around 5cm in length. They can also be distinguished by their eyes, if you are lucky enough to spot one, which have vertical pupils as opposed to horizontal/oval pupils of our two native toads. By far the best way to identify the presence of Midwife Toads is by their calls, which has been likened to “an electronic beep, like a smoke alarm with a dying battery or a New Age car alarm” by Steve Allain, one of the lead national researchers of Midwife Toads. A big difference with these toads is that they are not as reliant on ponds for breeding, as the male toads carry the eggs wrapped around their back legs, hence their name. Breeding usually takes place between April and June so they should have been calling for a few weeks now.
We are hoping that residents of Littleton, Weeke and Sparsholt areas in particular, as well as the surrounding areas will be willing to help both Steve Allain and HIWARG, by listening out on warm damp nights for the “beeping” toads. If you do hear these calls it would be really helpful if you can record the calls on your phone, or take photos if you manage to see one. We will be arranging surveys of the Littleton area in the coming weeks, so you may see us walking the roads in small listening for calls. We will be walking at night with torches, HIWARG branded clothing (group leaders) and maybe hi vis, so feel free to come and chat to us.
HIWARG will be organising surveys of these areas to listen for calling toads and will also be surveying Littleton Pond for amphibians and other freshwater species. We are reaching out to other parishes and Winchester Council for permission to survey other ponds to give us, and the relevant authorities, a better understanding of biodiversity in the area.
CALLING MIDWIFE TOADS
Visit Steve’s blog to hear a sample of several Midwife Toads calling http://stevenallain.co.uk/Blog/scifri-whats-that-beeping-in-my-garden
A pair of midwife toads calling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVPK899UwV8&t=37s
For all sightings/recordings, please contact us on:
Water or Green Frogs (Marsh F278874032_10160272623883057_2741040197175943514_n.jpgrog, Southern Clade Pool Frog and Edible Frog) have started calling in earnest again and are now entering their breeding period.
If you want to help us understand their distribution, which enables us to monitor their spread and potential impact if any, they are one of the easiest species to survey for. All you do is go for a walk alongside canals, ponds and other wetland areas on really sunny days and just listen out for their easily recognised calls. With a bit of patience you can get fairly close to take photos which also help with any IDs.
The map below shows the known locations of water frogs in Hampshire and across the borders into Dorset, Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire and Wiltshire. You can use this map to plan your trip. Areas with good access for parking and walking and for hearing water frogs are Basingstoke Canal between Fleet and Farnborough, the Denny Wood area of the New Forest, the RSPB reserves near Selsey, W Sussex and the Alice Holt/Frensham Ponds area. Two other spots that would be good to clarify records are the Haverstock Road area of Bournemouth for DARN and the Afton area on the Isle of Wight.
Check out the videos of calling Marsh Frog and Pool Frogs which show the two vocal sacs that all of the Water Frogs have. The native Common Frog has a single, less obvious vocal sac in its throat.
Marsh Frog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyEhHLlVuQ8
Pool Frog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lGMvBj4mvE
You can also download the ARGUK/ARC amphibian ID guide which has a useful section on the Water Frogs https://www.arguk.org/info-advice/id-guides/441-amphibian-id-guide-revised-2019-pdf
Key ID features to differentiate from Common Frogs:
Pics have been added below to show the range of colouration and ID features.
I hope to arrange a couple of open events in a few weeks to survey targeted areas once we get a few records in so get recording on Record Pool and watch this space. https://www.recordpool.org.uk/
Help us to map the distribution of water frogs in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Visit our website, click on the "Record a Sighting" tab and log your observation. Unless your sighting has been ID'd by a specialist to species level, it is always best to record them as "water frogs" https://groups.arguk.org/hiwarg
Water frogs (also known as Green Frogs) are a complex of three non-native frogs:
Southern Pool frogs (Note: Northern Pool frogs are considered native and are a protected species, but are not found in Hampshire)
Edible frogs (hybrid of the above two species)
They are found in several locations around Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, but our knowledge of their exact distribution or their impact on native species is poor. They have been known to carry the amphibian disease, Chytridiomycosis, but grass snake populations in particular seem to benefit anecdotally. We would like to understand more about the water frogs in Hampshire, IoW and in neighbouring counties. See the map below for where we have had one or more records and help us to expand on what we know.
You can listen to their calls, along with other amphibians here: https://www.froglife.org/drag.../animals/adults/adult-calls/
You can read more information on Water/Green frogs here: https://www.froglife.org/.../amphibians-and.../green-frogs/
Or read up on their interbreeding dynamics on SARGs website here https://surrey-arg.org.uk/SARGWEB.php?app=WaterFrogs and their genetics here https://surrey-arg.org.uk/SARGWEB.php?app=WaterFrogGenetics
Pit Stop Pond Surveys are a citizen science activity that anyone can take part in. The idea is to pre plan a route with maps to help identify ponds that are publicly accessible and within a short easy walk from your parked car. Ideally you can make a list of 3-5 ponds that you can visit in around an hour or so, getting to the first pond about twenty minutes after sunset. It is normally still a little too light for torching at this time, but it should only be about 20-30 minutes before it is optimum for torching. It is important to only survey when you have a buddy to accompany you and also let others know where you will be. Google Maps, Magic, or OS Maps are all good for planning your journey and identifying possible ponds. If you do turn up to the pond and you find that its on private land, do not be tempted to trespass. You can often find that ponds are dried up, no longer exist or are not suitable for wildlife, so don't feel too disappointed if this is the case.
At the pond, check the ground and surrounding area for hazards, such as weak edges, trip hazards, etc and make sure that you can easily see the edge of the pond. Also check that you will not be disturbing residents when you are shining torches about... ponds do reflect torchlight up, so angle your torch appropriately. It is also wise to not torch too late as this will upset residents and can cause friction, around 11pm should be late enough for surveying near houses.
When you have completed your Pit Stop Pond Survey, you can add your sightings to https://www.recordpool.org.uk/ or ARGWEB if you are a HIWARG/local ARG member. If you need help identifying your sightings, try to take photographs or video where possible and use the guides on this website, under "Info and ID Guides". Alternatively, post the images and your questions on our Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/455730808110700 and we will try to help ID them for you.
If you are interested in amphibian survey training in April, email email@example.com and we will get back to you.
Training is limited to members only, but this is only £6 a year so a real bargain for what you can get out of your membership.