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

Great Crested Newt habitat management - Royden Park

Sat 7th December, 2019

As with last week, we will meet by the Ranger's Office (just around the corner from the Cafe & Walled Garden).

Saturday the 7th December. 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Bring warm clothes, water-proofs and wellies. Waders if you have them.

We will be clearing brush and smaller trees from shading the meadow pond and might start work on a new pond if we finish with the first. The ranger with the chainsaw won't be available on this occasion, but should be able to clear the other stuff so he can access what he needs to later. We will also use the cuttings to create hibernacula/shelter for newts, other amphibians and small animals as with last time, which was quite a rewarding endeavour.

Biscuits provided and maybe a thermos of hot drink (or bought from cafe).

I will be driving so if any one needs a lift, let me know (I only have one passenger seat, so don't dither about asking as it will be first come first served)


Pond & general habitat management task day, Thornton Common

Fri 27th December, 2019 - Sat 28th December, 2019

Friday 27th December, 2019

&

Saturday 28th December 2019

09.30 a.m. - 3.30 p.m. both days.

Back at Thornton Common, we will be working with Wirral Wildlife over two days working on the pond improve breeding habitat for newts, including Great Crested Newts, and hedgelaying the enclosure hedge (important dispersal corridor for amphibians).

The more who can come help, the more we can get done.

We will have a bonfire and baked potatoes and burn some of the brash. On the 28th, we will retire to the Seven Stars pub in Thornton Hough for libation.

Please let us know by email if you are coming. 

Parking and meeting at Wirral Ruby Club Thornton Common Rd, Clatterbridge, Birkenhead, Wirral CH63 0LT.

The common is adjacent to the car park and the entrance is along Thornton Common Road.

For those who do not have access to a vehicle, we can provide a shuttle from Bromborough station, or other rendez-vous. Plus carpooling is encouraged if you let us know.

We hope to see you there.


Scrub clearance Red Rocks Nature Reserve

Tue 7th January, 2020

Tuesday 7th January 2020 

10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Red Rocks Nature Reserve by Hoylake-West Kirby is the site of a successful translocation of Natterjack Toad and is managed by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT). As it is still a small site, it requires habitat management to preserve the dunes that are so important for the terrestrial habitat for this nationally rare species. There are also Common Lizard here, among the usual Common Frog, Common Toad and Smooth Newt.

We’ll be working with the CWT to remove some scrub from the dunes in order to keep tree cover controlled to provide the right thermal environment for Natterjack and lizards to persist. You’ll be joined by other CWT volunteers and staff from the golf course who will be on hand with a wood chipper. We may also continue removing reeds from and area within the reedbed, making the water bodies more open for amphibians to breed in.

Bring water proofs and warm clothing. Biscuits will be brought.

Meet at the slipway to the beach at the end of Stanley Road, CH47 1HZ. (turning off the Hoylake roundabout before heading into West Kirby from the east).

Hope to see you there. 


Royden Park - pond management for Great Crested Newt

Sat 25th January, 2020

We will be clearing brush and smaller trees from shading the ponds by the entry road in preparation of the newt breeding season.

Meet by the Ranger's Office (just around the corner from the Cafe & Walled Garden).

Saturday the 25th January. 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Bring warm clothes, water-proofs and wellies. Waders if you have them.

Biscuits provided and maybe a thermos of hot drink (or bought from cafe).

I will be driving so if any one needs a lift, let me know (I only have one passenger seat, so don't dither about asking as it will be first come first served).


Royden Park - pond management for Great Crested Newt

Sat 1st February, 2020

We will be clearing brush and smaller trees from shading the ponds by the entry road in preparation of the newt breeding season.

Meet by the Ranger's Office (just around the corner from the Cafe & Walled Garden).

Saturday the 1st February. 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Bring warm clothes, water-proofs and wellies. Waders if you have them.

Biscuits provided and maybe a thermos of hot drink (or bought from cafe).

I will be driving so if any one needs a lift, let me know (I only have one passenger seat, so don't dither about asking as it will be first come first served).


Royden Park - pond management for Great Crested Newt

Tue 11th February, 2020

We will be clearing brush and trees from shading the ponds by the entry road in preparation of the newt breeding season. Paul the ranger will be taking down the larger trees with a chain saw so we could do with lots of help moving the wood.

Meet by the Ranger's Office (just around the corner from the Cafe & Walled Garden).

Tuesday the 11th February. 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Bring warm clothes, water-proofs and wellies. Waders if you have them.

Biscuits provided and maybe a thermos of hot drink (or bought from cafe).

I will be driving so if any one needs a lift, let me know (I only have one passenger seat, so don't dither about asking as it will be first come first served).


Herpetofauna Workers Meeting, Southport 15th-16 February 2020

Sat 15th February, 2020 - Sun 16th February, 2020

The Herpetofauna Workers Meeting is an annual conference organised by the Amphibian & Reptile Groups UK and the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust, bringing together people interested in and working with these wonderful animals across the British Isles and sometimes further afield. 

This meeting usually includes workshops on issues such as eDNA surveys for Great Crested Newt or restoration options for ponds in farmland. These are accompanied by numerous talks by a range of specialists in their fields, from government to NGO to consultants. One example is how useful they are is in 2017 Dr Carl Sayer and Helen Greaves gave talks and workshops on farm pond management, which provided the background to enable the present WiARG project in Royden Park. They are a great opportunity to meet knowledgeable and experienced people in the field, who are likely to be like-minded people. There is also a social element where people 

This year it will be in Southport in the county across from the Wirral, where the North Merseyside Amphibian & Reptile Group often operates in its efforts to conserve Sand Lizards and Natterjack Toad. There will be a guided walk around the nearby sand dune system were much habitat management takes place. There will be two talks on the work around the Sefton coast that have relevance to the Wirral, from Andy Hampson from Gems in the Dunes, and Dr Phil Smith who is a former lecturer who has made a career of researching the Sefton Coast. There will also be posters presented, including one from WiARG on the reptile surveys in the north east Wirral coast. 

Members of WiARG are eligible for the subsidised fee for attendance, so make sure your subs are up to date (can be paid via paypal.me/WiARG). 

The chair (Tom) will be getting the train up for each day from the Wirral, so get in touch if you are looking for a travel companion.

https://www.arc-trust.org/Event/hwm2020?fbclid=IwAR3vkmeUDoB_4Jln1pJmTpAwu3W-Qvb9YSEUmsJ3y2bQnhoRWVJLJj_KEQs


Pond management for Natterjacks, Red Rocks

Sun 23rd February, 2020

Sunday 23rd February 

10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Natterjacks will start breeding as early as March, but they have quite specific conditions, such as near vegetation-free ponds, to have a productive breeding season to recruit the next generation.

We’ll be with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust rangers in the natterjack pools pulling and raking the growing reeds. Although the perimeter of the pond will be scraped by machines, the centre of the pools would become too deep for the toads therefore we’ll be doing the rest by hand.

Please bring your own lunch and wellingtons. If you have waders then please bring them as well as we have limited numbers. Make sure you have CHECKED-CLEANED-DRIED your wellies and waders before bringing them on site. Bring water proofs and warm clothing. Biscuits will be brought.

Meet at the slipway to the beach at the end of Stanley Road, CH47 1HZ. (turning off the Hoylake roundabout before heading into West Kirby from the east, or from Hoylake train station).

Hope to see you there. 


Reptile Survey Prep & Habitat Management, Cleaver Heath, Heswall

Sun 1st March, 2020

Cleaver Heath Nature Reserve

Meet on Oldfield Road outside the reserve entrance sign, CH60 6SG.

Sunday 1st March

10:00-15:00

We have teamed up with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust to help out with obtaining a baseline on the reptiles at Cleaver Heath Nature Reserve to see what is present and what is responding to the habitat management taking place.

We’ll be cutting the refugia from roofing felt, numbering and placing them around the site ready to start surveying throughout the year. This can be heavy going work, so hopefully plenty of us will spread the effort. We’ll also get cutting and raking off bracken in a few areas around the site, which will ultimately increase the light getting to ground level and more basking levels.

Please bring your own lunch, sturdy boots and warm clothes.

This is not really a public transport-friendly locality, so if you want to work out a carpool, contact us (tommy_dbone@yahoo.com).


Reptile Survey North Wirral Coastal Park - Derby Pool

Sun 30th August, 2020

Sunday 30th August 2020, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

We will be checking artificial refugia for reptiles at the eastern edge of the North Wirral Coastal Park. at Derby Pool and heading into the Wallasey Dunes. Common Lizard were already seen when putting the refugia down last week.

We will be complying with social distancing, making sure we keep the 2 m limit, and follow the risk assessment for ARG. Bring a face mask just in case. It may be busy toward the end of the survey. Please let me know in advance if you plan to come so I can know the numbers and mitigate if we get too numerous. I will have volunteer forms ready for those who have yet to fill one out, please bring your £5 membership fee if you haven't paid it already.

Meet at the car park by the Harvester pub, Derby Pool Inn CH45 3QS. There is car and bicycle parking. Nearest train station is Wallasey Grove Road.

This will be the first of several Sunday morning surveys for the North Wirral Coastal Park for the rest of the reptile survey season, where we will gather data so the ranger service and friends group can manage the park better for biodiversity.

Hope to see you there, please let us know if you're coming. 


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