Wirral ARG (WiARG)
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About us

About Us

Aim

The aim of this group is to understand and protect the amphibians and reptiles of the Wirral peninsular through organizing training, raising awareness, surveys, habitat management tasks and other conservation activities.

Background

The Wirral Peninsular has historically been habitat of Sand Lizard, Natterjack, Great Crested Newt, Common Frog, Common Toad, Smooth Newt, Palmate Newt, Common Lizard, Slow Worm and Grass Snake. However, developments in the 20th Century has seen species such as the Sand Lizard and Natterjack disappear. Status of other herps have been uncertain, the problem being linked to lack of survey effort and recording.

In 2018, preliminary surveys around Wallasey revealed many new and surprising records for amphibians and reptiles. This was part of the Cheshire & Wirral ARG. However, the size of this district with that county was a bit much, necessitating the formation of a new ARG for Wirral (WiARG) so more surveys and recording can be co-ordinated across this interesting penninsular.

Founding member and acting chair of WiARG, Tom Doherty-Bone, grew up on the Wirral and was frustrated by the lost herpetofauna species and limited opportunities to view the remaining herps in the area. Formation of this new ARG will create the opportunity for local residents in the Wirral to get involved with amphibian and reptile surveys and recording for both enjoyment of these wonderful animals and to aid in their conservation on the Wirral.

Activities

The itinerary for 2019 is presently being drawn up, confirmed activities including reptile surveys of the north Wirral coast and amphibian surverys and litter picking at ponds at Central Park Wallasey. Pond creation and monitoring is being planned for a local pocket park in New Brighton for 2019 into 2020. We are going to be involved with the Turtle Tally citizen science project. The possibility for visiting Natterjack sites, and other activities are also being looked into. Suggestions from members are welcomed.

Existing partnerships include the Wirral Ranger Service, the Friends of the North Wirral Coastal Park and Wirral Wildlife. 

Committee

The present committee consists of: Thomas Doherty-Bone (chair); Jon Bielby (secretary); Frankie Bielby (treasurer); Mike Brown (senior adviser).

Membership

The membership fee for 2019-20 is £5, which goes toward conservation activities of the group, such as buying equipment. Payment can either be made in cash or paid through Paypal: https://paypal.me/WiARG?locale.x=en_GB

Membership cycle finishes each April.

 Please get in contact if you wish to get involved. 

News

News

Have we got newts for you! Spring/early Summer Update

Posted on Monday 13th July, 2020

From mid March the COVID-19 Pandemic put everyone in a spin, with our AGM cancelled and a brief spate of limbo as the lockdown followed. The permitted 1 hour exercise in the outdoors enabled us and other ARG Groups to take the opportunity to survey herps, at least alone. In the case of the Wirral ARG, we were able to continue our plans to survey the ponds of Royden Park to work out if Great Crested Newt still occurred there and whether the ponds managed over winter were being used. 

The last official records in Royden Park went back to the 1980s, with only one other record in 2011 and one unverified (these newts can be mistaken with Smooth Newt) sighting from 2017. Was the management of the park conducive to the persistence of this highly protected species, historically imperilled by land use change? Before we surveyed, we could tell there were lots of ponds but nearly all not quite suitable for this species to breed in. Hence a succession of management interventions were planned and carried out by WiARG volunteers, the park rangers, Friends of Royden Park, and the Wirral Evolutions group. These were carried out through the winter months where we would have least disturbance on any newts. Trees were thinned out around ponds, invasive weeds were removed, measures that would increase the "Habitat Suitability Index", the technical measure of whether a pond will support a breeding population of cresties. 

So to the surveys, covered by a licence from Natural England, torchlight searches, bottle traps and egg searches took place. We shouldn't disclose exactly where we found them, but the Great Crested Newt was alive and well in two ponds. One pond had adults, subadults, larvae and eggs. There were also plenty of Smooth Newts and Common Frog tadpoles. One of the ponds which was managed had a female crested newt checking it out and plenty of Smooth Newt, but not enough aquatic plants to lay eggs on. The other ponds had no newts at all, and only some frog tadpoles. Some of the ponds in Thurstaston Common were checked, but these seem to be massively disturbed by trampling, especially from dogs. What became clear as the May drought proceeded was how these ponds are very susceptible to drying out, and possibly threatens the ability of the next generation of newts to survive. Ways to mitigate this will be investigated for the coming winter tasks.

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In addition to Royden Park, ponds at Jenny's Wood, Saughall Massie were surveyed. These ponds was found to be used by Smooth Newts, though one was full of fish, leaving only one suitable to breeding newts. This one pond was still in a bad state, full of garbage and in need of some clearing of vegetation so the water column is more open. This is a clear candidate for management, and possibly attracting use by crested newts too as the NBN Atlas has shown records for them to the north of the site as recently as 2017. On to Eastham Country Park, where discussions have taken place with the ranger there for possible surveys and tasks. Numerous ponds were shown that were not known to the chair (shamefully considering he did a Geography Key Stage 3 report on this park!), and lots of potential for improving ponds for amphibians and surveying the effectiveness was agreed. Other sites have been visited, such as Central Park Wallasey, and Harrison Park where we have been monitoring incidents of fire.

The next stage now, going into the end of summer, is to assess terrestrial habitat use by newts and other amphibians in these and other parks. This is to help understand where the newts, frogs and toads go to forage when they are not breeding in the ponds. This provides an evidence base to the park managers to protect natural habitat, especially from invasive species such as rhododendron shrubs and from interests to create ornamental gardens that push nature out. Great Crested Newt that are being encountered are being individually recorded so an accurate population assessment can be made. In addition, a survey campaign is planned for the entire North Wirral Coastal Park for reptiles to help inform effectiveness of habitat management by the rangers and friends group. 

This work is dependent on funds to acquire equipment to achieve this, so do become a paid member (£5 a year) or if you want to make a donation, you can make one here: https://paypal.me/WiARG?locale.x=en_GB

 


AGM Cancelled

Posted on Thursday 19th March, 2020

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the AGM planned for the 27th March is cancelled to reduce the risk of spreading this pathogen further. It will be rescheduled once it is certain this matter has passed. Apologies for any inconvenience. 


Change of date for Red Rock Task

Posted on Monday 27th January, 2020

At request of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, we will be rescheduling the task day at Red Rocks Nature Reserve from the 2nd to the 23rd February. Apologies for the incovenience.


Starting on a new pond at Royden Park

Posted on Monday 27th January, 2020

Last Saturday a small group of us (three, incl. ranger Rosemary) started to clear the trees shading the pond across the entry road to the park. We were joined by Toby for an hour as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award. As a lot of the work was cutting up the brush and branches and turning them into a hibernaculum, and there is an observable difference in the pond. There is still more to be done, so we will be back again on the following Saturday (1st Feb) to keep at this and get more done. The more who can help the better as we need to make as big impact  as possible before amphibians start moving to the ponds for breeding season. There will also be a task day on Tuesday the 11th February. 

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Red Rock Scrub Clearance Day

Posted on Monday 27th January, 2020

On the 7th January, we met with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT) on Red Rocks Nature Reserve, Hoylake-West Kirby to do some terrestrial habitat management. We removed woody vegetation encroaching on both sand dunes where Natterjack and Common Lizard bask, forage and over-winter, and on ponds where Natterjack and other amphibians breed. The brush was turned into wood chip by the grounds staff of the Royal Liverpool Golf Course, who actually own the land of Red Rock. Red Rock is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and so the CWT manage it on the golf course's behalf to ensure compliance. There is still plenty of work to be done (invasive sea buckthorn is starting to pop up) and we will be back on Sunday the 1st February to do more bits, including on the Natterjack ponds.

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Events

Events

Past Events

Show Upcoming Events

Reptile Survey Harrison Park, Wallasey

Thu 1st January, 1970

Checking the artificial refugia for reptiles. This is a site that is heavily used by dog walkers, yet last year it was found to be one of the best sites in Wallasey for Common Lizards. Interestingly (but worryingly) half the site burned last summer, providing an opportunity to assess if summer fires are having an impact. 

Surveys have been expanded to other sections of the park where more footfall of dogwalkers takes place. Survey is estimated to take one hour, with potential for further surveys in the adjacent Red Noses. 

Meeting at 10 a.m. at car park off Harrison Drive, Wallasey, CH45 3HL.

This event is weather permitting, therefore it is recommended to notify the organizers (tommy_dbone@yahoo.com) so any notifications with regard to the weather can be made. 

 


Introductory Meeting and pond visit, Bebington

Thu 18th April, 2019

Introductory Meeting – All Welcome!

Date & time: Thursday 18th April 2019, 7.30-9.30 p.m.

Venue: Windsor Close Community Centre, Windsor Close, Bebington, Wirral, CH62 5BZ.

Train station: Bebington. Parking: Woodhead Street Car Park.

The newly formed Wirral Amphibian & Reptile Group (ARG) aims to understand and protect the amphibians and reptiles of the Wirral peninsular through organizing training, raising awareness, surveys, habitat management tasks and other conservation activities. This is a volunteer-run initiative of the ARG UK.      

The meeting will include a talk on the present knowledge of amphibians and reptiles on the Wirral, with proposals for activities for 2019 and Q&A.

Talk will be followed by a visit to ponds at the nearby New Ferry Butterfly Park where Smooth Newts are found. Bring a torch and suitable footwear.

Biosecurity: to prevent spreading amphibian disease, footwear should be Checked-Cleaned-Dried. If you keep pet amphibians, please wear clean clothes from last handling.

 

 


Reptile Survey Harrison Park

Fri 26th April, 2019

Meeting at the car park off Harrison Drive at 10 a.m.. 

 
 
 

Harrison Park, Harrison Dr, Wallasey CH45 3HL

We will be checking artificial refugia laid down to monitor the Common Lizard population in this local park. Last year there seemed to be lizards under every mat, so hopeful it will be the same this year. If there is time, I will also go through the Red Noses to check on refugia there. Weather is supposed to be sun with light rain showers, so fingers crossed the mats will be warmed up enough for the lizards to use them.


North Wirral Coastal Park - Herps et al, City Nature Challenge

Mon 29th April, 2019

  • Meeting 10 a.m. sea front carpark at the Gunsite, North Wirral Coastal Park, Wallasey, CH45 8LW

 

There will be a reptile and amphibian survey of the Gunsite section of the North Wirral Coastal Park as part of the City Nature Challenge 2019 (see attached flyer). This is in partnership with the Friends of the North Wirral Coastal Park. This provides opportunities to see species in sand dunes, grassland, woodland, reedbeds and ponds.

The aim of the City Nature Challenge is to record as many species as possible in the Liverpool City Region using the iNaturalist app (we will be doing similar on Friday at Harrison Park). Meeting at the sea front carpark (I will be cycling as usual), we will start at 10 a.m. checking refugia for reptiles, walking through the dunes and recording other biodiversity plants, insects, etc as we go. More eyes the better! 

We will then check the off show ponds for amphibians. If there is time or energy, we will continue through the woodland-grassland to Leasowe Lighthouse to check the larger pond, even waiting till dark to see which amphibians are active, as well as other taxonomic groups. We would thus welcome more pairs of eyes and specialities for this.

 

Schedule:
 
10:00 AM - 10:10 AM Meet at Gunsite sea-front carpark
 
 
10:10 AM - 12:00 PM 
Survey around terrestrial habitats at Gunsite
 
 
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM 
Inspect ponds at Gunsite
 
 
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM 
Walk to Leasowe Common, recording on the way
 
 
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM 
Break for late lunch if not already seen.
 
 
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM 
Recording around pond at Leasowe Lighthouse
 
 
4:00 PM End of day time surveys, break off
 
 
8:45 PM - 10:00 PM 
Night time survey of pond by Leasowe Lighthouse

Amphibian survey Central Park Wallasey

Thu 2nd May, 2019 - Fri 3rd May, 2019

Meet 5 p.m. at the car park at Central Park Liscard, Wallasey (in case you thought it was New York!).

We will be setting up bottle traps in the two ponds fenced off at the park. This will be followed by a little litter pick around the ponds as they are in a bit of a state, aiming to finish 7 p.m.. We will then wait for dark at a local pub (TBC, but probably the Lazy Landlord, drinking/eating responsibly). We will then head back out and do a torch light survey c. 9 p.m. for newts, finishing about 10 p.m. 

The following morning we will check the newt traps at 9 a.m. 

What to bring:

- litter grabber if you have one
- gardening gloves or something similar for litter picking
- sturdy foot wear
- torch, ideally a head torch
- clothing to accommodate cold spells.It is expected to see lots of tadpoles, possibly frogs and toad, but last year we had new records for Smooth Newt and would like to see if the bottle traps could give us an idea on the relative abundance. In the morning we may even see the terrapin.


Reptile Survey Harrison Park Wallasey

Thu 16th May, 2019

Checking the artificial refugia for reptiles. This is a site that is heavily used by dog walkers, yet last year it was found to be one of the best sites in Wallasey for Common Lizards. Interestingly (but worryingly) half the site burned last summer, providing an opportunity to assess if summer fires are having an impact. 

Surveys have been expanded to other sections of the park where more footfall of dogwalkers takes place. Survey is estimated to take one hour, with potential for further surveys in the adjacent Red Noses. 

Meeting at 10 a.m. at car park off Harrison Drive, Wallasey, CH45 3HL.

This event is weather permitting, therefore it is recommended to notify the organizers (tommy_dbone@yahoo.com) so notifications can be sent out in case of cancellation. 


Amphibian Torch Survey Bidston Moss

Sat 18th May, 2019

We will be doing a torch survey for newts in Bidston Moss and Pride Park.

Meet at carpark by B&Q 9.15 p.m. aiming to finish by 10.30 p.m.

Bring a torch.


Reptile Survey Bidston Moss - CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER

Sun 19th May, 2019

EVENT CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER. Cloud is letting no sun through, so refugia won't be warming up. Will reschedule soon.

 

Meet at B&Q carpark 10 a.m.

Common Lizard have been observed at sections of this former landfill site and railway. Will be checking under refugia to see if Slow Worms might be present too.

 

 


Reptile Survey Harrison Park Wallasey

Thu 23rd May, 2019

Checking the artificial refugia for reptiles. This is a site that is heavily used by dog walkers, yet last year it was found to be one of the best sites in Wallasey for Common Lizards. Interestingly (but worryingly) half the site burned last summer, providing an opportunity to assess if summer fires are having an impact. 

Surveys have been expanded to other sections of the park where more footfall of dogwalkers takes place. Survey is estimated to take one hour, with potential for further surveys in the adjacent Red Noses. 

Meeting at 10 a.m. at car park off Harrison Drive, Wallasey, CH45 3HL.

This event is weather permitting, therefore it is recommended to notify the organizers (tommy_dbone@yahoo.com) so notifications can be sent out in case of cancellation. 


Reptile Survey Harrison Park Wallasey

Fri 31st May, 2019

Checking the artificial refugia for reptiles. This is a site that is heavily used by dog walkers, yet last year it was found to be one of the best sites in Wallasey for Common Lizards. Interestingly (but worryingly) half the site burned last summer, providing an opportunity to assess if summer fires are having an impact. 

Surveys have been expanded to other sections of the park where more footfall of dogwalkers takes place. Survey is estimated to take one hour, with potential for further surveys in the adjacent Red Noses. 

Meeting at 10 a.m. at car park off Harrison Drive, Wallasey, CH45 3HL.

This event is weather permitting, therefore it is recommended to notify the organizers (tommy_dbone@yahoo.com) so notifications can be sent out in case of cancellation. 


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