Hampshire And Isle of Wight Amphibian and Reptile Group (HIWARG)
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About us

About Us

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  info@hiwarg.org.uk 



Visit HIWARG's Redbubble Shop to support our work www.redbubble.com/people/HIWARG/shop



Suckers for Amphibians update

Posted on Friday 12th August, 2022

There have been a few big steps in the #suckers4amphibians project since #HIWARG and #reptilariumIOW began their investigations into a very specific leech feeding behaviour in 2020.

Last year ARG UK promoted the project which led to several organisations joining us on our journey. Angela also gave a presentation on the project last Sunday to the First Global Amphibian and Reptile Disease Conference #GARD2022 in Tennessee, USA.

We can also for the first time, give a name to the "unknown leech". We have had suspicions for some time, but thanks to an initial ID by Buglife which was confirmed by DNA tests by Garden Wildlife Health and the University of Silesia four of the cases we hav received are a non-native leech from the Genus Batracobdella.

Yesterday, we had another report come in of a toad with leeches on its eyes, throat and limbs... but this time outside of the two known clusters in South Devon and the Isle of Wight. Hopefully we will get a sample off soon for ID.

Screenshot 2022 08 12 231505

How you can help

Handling and the collection of samples

Please wear gloves when handling an infected animal for biosecurity purposes - and wash any containers or other materials that have held the amphibian with disinfectant. The target leech is also known to attach to humans!

Do not try to remove leeches yourself, contact us in the first instance and we will guide further. However, the following points detail some basic steps:

  • Place the amphibian in a container with water to encourage some of the leeches to detach themselves. These can be collected and isolated for sampling. It is best to place something in the tank for the amphibian to leave the water if it wishes or to avoid drowning.
  • You could ask a local vet or wildlife hospital to remove leeches for you, but inform them that we need the leeches preserved in good condition for ID purposes.
  • We will send you a vial of 70% ethanol to preserve the leeches for analysis, but very strong vodka can also be used to preserve them if you don’t have or receive ethanol.
  • Please note, this project is not intended to persecute leeches. We are investigating a specific type of feeding behaviour, species identification and distribution of the leeches involved to better understand the dynamics and impacts. Leeches are an important component of biodiversity and form an important part of the food chain themselves.

Visit the following websites for more information:





Midwife Toads in Winchester

Posted on Wednesday 1st June, 2022

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.Screenshot 2022 06 01 125644

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.


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:

HIWARG: info@hiwarg.org.uk or www.facebook.com/groups/455730808110700

Steve Allain: www.facebook.com/SJRAllain or https://twitter.com/stevoallain

Big Green Frog Hunt 2022

Posted on Monday 2nd May, 2022

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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:

  • Marsh Frogs and Edible Frogs are larger than Common Frogs, but Pool Frogs are roughly the same size.
  • A much more pointed, conical nose
  • Eyes are closer together and more prominent
  • two obvious raised lines on the sides of the back
  • Sometimes has a green/yellow line down its spine
  • Lacking the dark patch behind the eyes
  • Very long back legs and can jump a considerable distance.
  • Calling very loudly during the day (watch above vids)

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/


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Posted on Saturday 24th July, 2021

225002896 10159749361593057 4280276566754689222 n

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:

  • Marsh 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/

More info

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

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Pit Stop Pond Surveys

Posted on Friday 18th June, 2021

PitstopPS web

Short fast torch surveys of easily accessible, public access ponds

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.






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          Members sign in here

Membership costs just £6.00 per year as a subscription that can be cancelled at any time. 
Your membership will help HIWARG to protect the amphibians & reptile of Hampshire. 
Be aware of and take part in conservation opportunities, surveys and many other activities across the county.


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Donate to HIWARG

Donate to HIWARG

You can help HIWARG achieve its goals by a simple donation towards our activities.
Donations are put towards equipment used for habitat management, surveys and public engagement such as printed material and fact sheets to hand out during educational events.




Info & ID guides

Info & ID guides

Policies/Health & Safety                                                              

pdfHIWARG Safeguarding Policy and Protocols June 2020

Buddy System/Lone Working Procedures

pdfARG UK Generic Risk Assessment July2020


Identification Guides

Amphibian Identification - downloadable colour cards

Newt Eggs & Larvae - downloadable colour cards  

Reptile Identification - downloadable colour cards

Non-Native Species ID Sheets (NNSS Website)

Alien Amphibian and Reptile Species in the UK


Advice and Information

ARC's "Dogs and Adders" Advice Sheet

"There is a Snake in my Garden - What can I do?" (ARG UK)


Projects & Citizen Science

pdfDARN's 'Slow Worms in Churchyards' project

pdf'Amphibians & Reptiles on Allotments' Introduction Leaflet

pdf"Spawn Spotters" presentation 12 Jan 2021

pdfToad Patrol presentation 12 Jan 2021

pdfGotta love a larva  presentation 9 July 2021

HIWARG Video: Spawn Spotters and Toad Patrols Jan 2021

HIWARG Video: Amphibian surveys: ID'S & Survey Methods March 2021


Habitat Management and Creation

Creating Garden Ponds - downloadable booklet   

Creating Ponds for Amphibians and Reptiles (Freshwater Habitats Trust)

Habitat Management guides (Buglife) - Not specifically herp based but a great set of guides

How to Create Invertebrate and Reptile Mounds (Magnificent Meadows)

Creating Grass Snake Egg-laying Heaps (ARG UK and RAVON)


Herp Diseases - Recognise & Report


Advice Note-4: Amphibian disease precautions - a guide for UK fieldworkers

Snake Fungal Disease  

Toad fly (Lucilia bufonivora)   

Amphibian Chytridiomycosis  

Ranavirus Disease  

Reptile Slough Genebank - collection & submission of found sloughs 

Garden Wildlife Health - Severe Perkinsea Infection (SPI)

GWH - Guidelines for safe disposal of waste water and other materials from captive amphibian enclosures



pdfUsing GPX files with ViewRanger

pdfFixing Enkamat to Gully Pots - Initial Findings in Sussex

Useful glossary of terms often used within the herpetological field. (Credit due - unknown)      

Kids stuff - Educational items for the young ones

            Pond pack                                         Animal fact sheets                               Animal colouring sheets    
Pond Pack                     Alfie1                             Sammy1




Contact us

Contact Us

If you would like more information about HIWARG or have something to share with us, please get in touch via the link to our social media presence. 


Upcoming Events

Upcoming events will be listed here.

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