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 email@example.com
CONSERVATION THROUGH EMPATHY BY ENGAGEMENT
We received a kind donation by a member of the group of a few 100 old journals, bulletins & news letters, some dating back to 1952. Along with some lovely historical pieces such as the registration form for Herp Workers Meeting 1997 (some of the wording still identical today 😊 ) and others.
Look at some of the tours available in 1989…. interesting when one sees how little things have changed and virtually the identical headlines are still featuring now some 30-50 years later e.g. Declining Amphibian Populations, Pool Frog populations in UK, Adder declines etc.
One day when we have a “club house” these will make up part of our library.
About ten days ago, a toad was discovered in Devon with leeches completely covering both eyes and a few attached to it's limb joints. A photo was posted on ARG UK's Facebook discussion group asking for advice, but nobody had seen anything similar. A few of the forum members started investigating and Steve Allain discovered a similar photo posted on an RSPB forum, which had been taken on the Isle of Wight eight years ago. A natural history note reporting on leeches in Tunisia, showed remarkable similarities with the feeding behaviour. This prompted HIWARG to follow this up with the Non Native Species Secretariat, ARC, ARG UK and Garden Wildlife Health (who investigate wildlife disease etc). Samples were collected of the Devon leech and were sent off for identification, which we are waiting for currently.
As the 2012 sighting was in HIWARG's area, we posted the story on HIWARG and DARN's FB page, along with a couple of other local FB pages in the hope the groups would do their thing and spread the news... We didn't think it would work so quickly, but in less than 24 hours we were tagged in two photos from the Isle of Wight, which showed two frogs covered in leeches. One of the frogs had been caught and kept in captivity and samples of leeches were collected to send off to GWH. Unfortunately, the frog died a couple of days ago so will be sent to GWH for post-mortem.
We don't know if this is an unrecorded behaviour of a native leech or a new non-native species of leech, but hopefully we will get a confirmed identification soon. HIWARG has also teamed up with IoW organisations to identify locations of these leeches. We will update this story as we get further news.
A sad but very intriguing case. #Scienceinaction.
If you find any similar cases, please contact us via our Facebook group if possible as we will be able to respond to this much faster, if you are not a Facebook user, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
HIWARG's Facebook group can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/455730808110700/
Please be advised that in accordance with the Govt requested virus limiting actions and in the interests of our members, their friends, families and the public in general we are postponing our HIWARG "group" activities until further notice.
This is inline with the decisions taken by a wide range of volunteer reliant organisations, trusts, councils etc. Fortunately many of our activities such as surveys etc. are geared around being individual activities, so I’m sure we will still see posts on the group as some folks may still undertake solo surveys, nature walks etc. and share photo’s & details of these.
Fresh air, sunlight & maintaining activity levels remain healthy activities where & while possible and the outdoors and nature are valuable stress relief measures.
We are wishing everyone the very best through these troubling times and for those who might be infected, we hope you experience a very speedy recovery.
Looking forward to catching up with you all again at the end of the social distancing period.
Stay safe and and healthy.
The HIWARG Panel
Just a reminder about the habitat management event on Saturday 8 Feb from 10.00 – 14.00.
The meeting place is:
Drove End FE Car Park
Coming from Ringwood direction, continue along Harbridge Drove until you see the Alderholt village sign. Car park is on the left.
A continuation of the scrub clearance in Ringwood Forest clearing saplings and thinning gorse from the track verges.
Please bring boots, warm clothes, something to drink, lunch and gloves, loppers, bow saw, if you have them.
I’ll be travelling down from Basingstoke, so if anyone would like a lift, please let me know. 2 seats available. 😊
Toad crossing patrols have already been quite active and we are expecting them to get even busier over the next few weeks with the weather looking wetter over the next week. Folks are welcome to join the regular patrollers. It’s a very rewarding and quite sociable affair.
There is bound to be a crossing near to you.
We are also looking for some folks to help in Hook on 19th Feb at an Animal & Wildlife Half Term Fun Day. 10.00 – 17.00 (That includes set up & break down)
Any help appreciated, even if only for a few hours. Help enthuse a load of kids about the local herpetofauna in their area.
Hook Community Centre
We are going to be looking for many more reptile transect surveyors this coming season & I’ll be planning some training days soon and announcing them.
These will in incorporate some “class” sessions before & after a field session thereby providing coverage of both the Member’s Portal survey section and field craft.
Surveyors need to have a GPS or app installed on their phone. It seems the best app for use at the moment is View Ranger.
I can certainly help wrt GPS, but suggest if you are interested in surveying & using the app, that you have the app set up before the training sessions and some idea about how to use it as trying to do this on the day takes up too much time.
Once the training is completed I will activate surveyor’s “Reptile surveyor” access & you’ll have dozens of transects available across the county to survey & hone your skills.
This is open to experienced and new folk as the process is designed to be simple & help you gain valuable surveying skills in you own time with help available if needed.
And of course, there is a bit of friendly competition to see you can log the most records 😊
Please remember to keep an eye on our Facebook group. Just type HIWARG into your Facebook.
We love getting updates & photo’s of the various Hants & IoW herp conservation things that you are up to.
Edited by Sheila Dyason
Happy New Year!!!
I hope that at the top of your New Year’s Resolution list this year is to get more involved with HIWARG activities. There will be habitat management, surveys, toad patrols, training opportunities and much more.
Sheila Dyason: 7th December.
Attended an excellent Venom Day talks at Bangor. Thank you to all the organisers. The Students were fantastic as usual!
Venomous mammals, fish, insects, amphibians and reptiles.
Carol Trim's talk - Venom: kill or cure - highlighted research into venoms that can target cancer cells and inhibit the spread of cancer.
Pete West: 8th December
Waiting to start the Christmas tree cutting conservation task at Yateley Common with Hampshire Countryside
Pete West: 21st December
Opened an early Xmas pressie from my daughter and her husband as they are flying abroad for Xmas Day. A bucket of chocolate toads, complete with road sign
Sheila Dyason: 23rd December
Just finished the large frog for the top of the tree.
Pete Gillatt: 24th December
Just stepped outside and found Pond Frog poking his head out to wish everyone a wonderfully merry Christmas.
There's loads for us to do in the coming season.
Looking forward to seeing you all at a toad patrol in your neighbourhood soon. Don't forget, frog spawning season will be upon us soon too and we need all the sightings logged so we can track trends and locations.
Who will find & record the first spawn of the season? Will anyone be able to find some before Paul?
The challenge is real!!!
Pete Gillatt: 31st December
Pete Gillatt: 1st January
Warm sun, dry ground... would have been poor form not to visit a few local hibernacula in the hopes of a New Year adder ;-) At least the newts were heaving in the ponds.
Jayne Chapman: 2nd January
A few pics taken today by my son in the cellar of the pub where he works. He sees them every day scuttling between the beer barrels.
Pete West: 9th January
Visited three toad crossings and stopped off at a couple of ponds tonight. No toads, but one pond had quite a few palmate and smooth newts, including the one in the pics, and the other pond had just one smooth newt.
Pete Gillatt: 12th January – Clearing Toad Tunnels
Thanks so much to all the folk who came along today to the toad tunnel preparation event. What a super turnout. Everyone literally “mucked” in and made such a difference.
This crossing has had zero maintenance for many years now & we found the tunnels themselves were completely blocked and took a huge about of effort to unblock & open them using drain cleaners, bucket loads of water & loads of ingenuity.
Pete West: 12th January
Adder sighting today in Dorset. Guess we need to get as many people out surveying as much as possible. So many early sightings the last couple of weeks.
Nick Dobbs to UK Amphibian and Reptile Groups Discussion Forum
12 January at 15:02
SQUARE SCALE BEATS HIS OWN RECORD
Alpha male adder - Square Scale has broken his own earliest out and about record on my primary research site here in Dorset. None of the other males in this hibernaculum were out. Today 12-01-20
Sheila Dyason: 14th January
26 toads helped across the road last night at Gorley Road, Ringwood!
Pete West: 14th January
First toad (and the only one tonight) at Wildmoor. Also crossing were two frogs, a muntjac and a weasel... although the muntjac and weasel refused to let me put them in my bucket. Ungrateful.
And we're off in Hampshire again. Found my first frog spawn of 2020 today (11 clumps) in exactly the same New Forest pool they start in every year. They always spawn here on 15th January, although they did once break tradition and spawn on 16th January. Mind you that was following a leap year! There'll be a gap now as the rest of the local frogs don't usually start spawning until 4th February, even in pools and ditches within 50m of this one. No idea why - perhaps someone once introduced some Scottish tadpoles to this pool and their descendants find it a bit too warm down here in February!
Pete Gillatt: 18th January
Decidedly cold & frosty start to the day which soon warmed up once the sun broke through allowing us to enjoy the time spent clearing a few 100m of heathery woodland edge bank of assorted scrub at Drove End in Ringwood Forest. Treated to two Kingfishers hunting in the small pool below them.
Thanks to Pete and Tim for your help at Drove End today. A good start was made on one side of the track. Hope to do another session in February.
Sheila Dyason: 21st January
Gwiber has slithered to the Hawthorns, Southampton Common. Quite a trek from Basingstoke. Causing quite a stir and loved by all!
Pete Gillatt: Looks awesome. Well done to Ian's jigsaw skills. It really is more visible than I thought it would be. That'll certainly draw attention :-)
Sam Langdon: Ah so wonderful to see Gwiber again!!
Josh Phangurha 25th January
I recently went out to Romsey with the Test Valley Council to set up a refugia transect. There are 4 of these lovely ponds, all of which are home to great crested newts and there have been grass snakes seen swimming across them. To my and the council's knowledge, Adders have not yet been recorded here. Hopefully we can change that this year.
I'll be heading to Hedge End next week to set up another transect where grass snakes are known to occur, but haven't been seen in two years. I'm hoping HIWARG will rediscover them this season!
Pete Gillatt 25th January
Long HIWARG day. Started on-site at 10.00 this morning laying out transects and doing habitat management and got home at 20.00 after wrapping up the daylight activities with a supper meeting discussing some interesting prospects for the upcoming season with one of our partners.
Pete Gillatt 26th January
Lovely session out today with Hampshire Countryside Services teamed up with some of the local Yateley volunteers clearing a large chunk of gorse, bramble & birch. Lovely sociable event and some super conversation about Hants historic herp site.
Pete West 26th January
A few more toads on the move tonight. Checked out the registered Wildmoor Lane crossing and also two possible crossings at Rotherwick and Hook Common tonight. Toads at all three... I might just be a tad stretched when they move in numbers.
Good news at Wildmoor, 4 toads and one frog were seen tonight, but all were crossing a golf course access road to a pond on the course rather than crossing Wildmoor Lane. Hopefully this will mean a little pressure off on this crossing.
Rotherwick we are still monitoring as it is just a hunch they are crossing here after I found a huge breeding pond nearby last year... only one crossing tonight though. This could potentially be a high priority crossing as it is a commuter rat run at rush hour.
Last off, we found a big momma toad crossing a narrow lane leading to a council depot. This was a very busy toad spot up until 5 years ago according to the depot staff, but many toads were killed crossing every year. We will keep an eye on it this year.
If you are a member and want to help, log in to your portal on our website and update your volunteer preferences, or anyone can comment below and we'll add you to the contact list... no need to be a paid up member.
As always, our core communication methods remains via the HIWARG Facebook Group & the HIWARG website. I encourage you if you have not yet done so to please bookmark & visit both for the latest news & events information.
And if you have not yet don’t so, please subscribe to HIWARG as a member via the website. Your subscription donation helps us acquire much needed equipment for use during our planned activities and will help to broaden the range of activities & events we can offer.
Final note – please keep up any herp related activities, get out onto the heathlands & commons, spend time outdoors and keep looking for animals & logging those records.