We are a small, informal grassroots conservation group dedicated to the conservation of amphibians and reptiles in Bedfordshire. We are affiliated to the Bedfordshire Natural History Society, we are also members of the Beds Heathland Forum. In the past, we have helped draft Species Action Plans (SAPS) for both Bedfordshire Adders and Great Crested Newt. We are also affiliated with the Amphibian and Reptile Groups UK (ARG UK), the organisation that helps with coordinating regional ARGs.
We welcome both people who prefer to work as individuals, and people who prefer to work in cooperation with others through the Group. We occasionally organise outings and training sessions, for our members. These include such activities as workshops, particularly for people who wish to qualify for a GCN license. It doesn't matter if you've never surveyed for a newt or a lizard before, we'll be able to help train you and pair you up with someone to help generate data in your local area. At present membership is free, all you need to do to become a member is contact us.
At present, much of our activity has been concentrated on specific sites in the south of the county. We are only too aware of how little we know about North Bedfordshire. Bedfordshire is richer in herps than one might expect, our aim to try to map as much as this diversity as possible, through the use of targetted surveys and casual observations. If you spot any amphibians or reptiles in Bedfordshire, please report them using the appropriate tab above. Much of Bedfordshire is very poorly surveyed for amphibians and reptiles, we simply do not know what is there. Parts of the county are under severe development pressure and we hope to get a good picture of what is there before it is too late. If are interested in joining the group, and surveying you local patch for either amphibians or reptiles, please get in touch.
As well as the common species, we are also aware of two introduced species: midwife toads and marsh frogs, with one re-introduction: natterjack toads.
As dormant as the group may have seemed while it is reconfigured ,this is not the case.
As well as some members still continuing to carry out surveys and record species presence across the county a few other jobs have still been going on by individuals in the background.
Continued habitat maintenance and restoration is a key factor on many sites that can often be left by the wayside due to many factors , usually due to a lack in manpower and funds.
We hope to assist in this once again across the county now that Bedfordshire Reptile and Amphibian Group is reforming .
In the images below we can see work carried out to restore old brush piles that have deteriorated over time and started to rot down by some of our members on behalf of The Greensand Trust.
These brush piles create habitats for many species of not only reptiles and amphibians ,but also of small birds ,mammals ,insects ,plants and fungi.
For this project fallen trees and branches from the site were used to add new structure to the piles as well and some broom which grows extremely fast on some sites taking over and needing constant control , making use of what is already readily available on the site without the need to bring anything in from elsewhere ( which poses not only a biosecurity risk but also a lot of unnecessary logistics ) .
We will be holding a meeting at the Greensand Trust in Maulden at 19:30h on 12th March. If you would like to attend please contact us for details.
It is usually said that GCN do not colonise new ponds quickly. We found an exception to this rule a couple of weeks ago. Three new ponds were excavated at Marston Thrift LNR in late February this year as part of the SITA / Natura International Marston Vale Great Crested Newt Project (see news item dated 20 February 2014). As they are so new these ponds have very little vegetation but when we surveyed them on 2nd June we found GCN eggs in one of the ponds! A clump of Yorkshire Fog grass had been thrown in and the newts were using this for egg laying. [See Photo Gallery]
Nicholas Milton has written another piece on adders, this time as a guest on Mark Avery’s blog (for Nicholas’ previous article see our news item ‘Adders in the news’ of 24th March below). It is again well worth reading as are the comments, including one from BRAG member Matt Andrews.
On 23 April last year we saw spectacular quantities of Common Toad spawn in a balancing pond near Marston Thrift LNR. Some balancing ponds, dug for a new development at Cranfield, contained little suitable vegetation for the Common Toads to lay their eggs on. Three clumps of vegetation, though, were favoured by the toads with the results you can see here [Photo Gallery]. The eggs are still round and have not developed far. This year we visited the same pond on 10 April and there were large numbers of tadpoles swimming about in the pond. What a difference in the timing!
It will soon be the time when amphibians will be returning to their breeding ponds, followed by the emergence of reptiles shortly after. With this in mind, we'd like to invite you to attend the BedsRAG AGM on the 23rd January at 7 pm. The meeting will be held via Microsoft Teams, and a link will be circulated ahead of the meeting, to those that have confirmed their attendance. If you'd like to attend, please email Steven Allain so that he can send you the link.
The main reason for calling the AGM, is to help elect new members into the various open committee roles we currently have within BedsRAG. These include roles such as Amphibian Officer, Reptile Officer, Membership Officer and Data Officer. If you'd like to know more about the roles that are available, and would like to put yourself forward for election, please get in touch and we'll happily provide this information. We're looking forward to electing a new committee to help BedsRAG flourish in 2022, including the election of a new Chairman, as our current one is stepping down to a change in personal circumstances.
Aside from the formalities, Steven Allain shall be giving a brief talk on a national project he's been coordinating on the topic for midwife toads, titled 'On the trail of midwife toads'. Some of these surveys have been conducted in Bedfordshire, and we're lucky to have been awarded a small grant through the Bedfordshire Natural History Society, to enable this. Our research us uncovered a number of new populations across the country, that were previously unrecorded. Steven will go into some detail as to why this may be, as well as presenting some of his results from the project.
At the AGM, we also hope to give a quick overview of the areas we wish to focus our surveys on in the coming season. This will include training for those that require it, which we hope will allow them to also complete surveys in their local area, which have been suitably identified. To facilitate this, please log into the ARGWEB (http://surrey-arg.org.uk/SARGWEB.php?app=LogIn&Org=BedsRAG) and please complete both 'My Volunteer Preferences' and 'My Volunteer Agreement' under the 'My BedsRAG Account' icon. This will ensure that you're both kept in the loop with any developments relating to your preferences, and covered by our insurance for any of the surveys/activities. If you do not sign the volunteer agreement, you will not be able to take part in any of the activities.
We look forward to seeing you in a few weeks time, but for now please enjoy the rest of the festive season.
Bedfordshire is home to a number of amphibian and reptile species, these may be hard to differentiate to the untrained eye. We've therefore provided the following information to help ensure that species identifications are correct, especially when it comes to recording. The links provided before should help most people when it comes to establishing the identity of an amphibian or reptile. If you're still stuck, then please feel free to contact us.
Amphibians tend to be found in close proximity to water, especially in the spring, although they may be found in terrestrial environments in the summer and autumn. This can sometimes lead to confusion between newts and lizards.
The following amphibians can be found in Bedfordshire:
As far as we're aware, there are no populations of palmate newts, which tend to prefer more upland and acidic sites.
If you're unable to tell which amphibian species you've found, or you're dealing with a young individual, then we recommend this helpful guide from ARG UK.
Reptiles tend to be found in drier habitats than amphibians, they posses scales, and are also more agile than amphibians. Like amphibians, they hibernate throughout the winter months, and emerge again in the spring.
The following reptiles can be found in Bedfordshire:
If you're unable to tell which reptile species you've found, then we recommend this helpful guide from ARG UK.