We are a small informal group. We welcome both people who prefer to work as individuals but sometimes feel the Group can help in some way and people who prefer to work in cooperation with others. We occasionally organise outings and training sessions particularly for people who wish to qualify for a GCN license.
There is no subscription but members who sign up are covered by the ARG insurance scheme. We are affiliated to the Bedfordshire Natural History Society. We are also members of the Beds Heathland Forum. We have helped draft SAPS for both Bedfordshire Adders and Great Crested Newt.
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. In spite of large areas of arable desert Bedfordshire is richer in herps than one might expect. We have all the common species with the exception of the palmate newt. There are two introduced species: Midwife Toads and Pool Frogs, and one re-introduction: Natterjack Toads. The county is a stronghold for the Great Crested Newt. Much of Bedfordshire is very poorly surveyed. We simply do not know what is there. Parts of the county are under severe development pressure and there are not enough of us. If are interested please get in touch.
The toad fencing at Saxon Gate has been in a bad state of repair for many years. Earlier this year BRAG member Richard Lawrence of Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity organised a work party of the Ivel Valley Volunteers who did a great job repairing the fencing on the east side of Saxon Drive. We were very pleased when Silviu Petrovan of Froglife became involved in the project and offered to help fund the replacement of the fencing on the west side of the road.
On Tuesday 28th January Richard organised another work party. The weather was kind to us (no rain!) and the old sections of broken ACO fencing were removed and the ground dug out and levelled ready for the new sections to be installed. Hopefully this will be completed in the next week or two.
Thanks to Froglife, BRCC, Central Bedfordshire Council and ACO for funding the replacement of the fencing.
See Photo Gallery
Five BRAG members attended this conference, held near Ledbury and organised by HART, on Sunday 17th November 2013. The theme was captive breeding and re-introduction. After a survey of the general principles to be considered when making a re-introduction we heard about two successful projects - Sand Lizards (of course!) and the Pool Frog - but also about an Adder captive breeding project which had run into bureaucratic obstructions. Later there was a very interesting account of a telemetry project. A number of Adders in the Malvern Hills were fitted with devices which allowed them to be tracked. Not only were they tracked down small mammal burrows but they were also found in surprisingly shady areas under trees. One unfortunate Adder was tracked making a direct flight – to a Buzzards’ nest! It was a long drive for us (in a car which we later discovered had worn wheel bearings) but well worth while.
More jargon! At the Heathland Forum we learned that the whole Greensand Ridge had been designated a Nature Improvement Area (NIA). Twelve initial NIAs have already been designated, starting from 1st April 2012.
According to Natural England: ‘Local Nature Partnerships and local planning authorities can now identify and agree where locally determined NIAs can take shape. These are distinct from the 12 initial NIAs who were awarded NIA status and a share of the £7.5 million funding. ... Resources and support [for NIAs such as the Greensand Ridge] to be identified and addressed locally.’
Even so this new designation should mean the area will be awarded some money from the Enterprise Partnerships. The Greensand Ridge has been chosen for its acid grassland and heathland. Hopefully this will, in the long term, mean habitat for adders and lizards especially will improve.
We tend to concentrate on surveying with a bit of conservation work thrown in. Herpy desk work and jargon is not for us! It is good though that some people take a more general view – and some, though not enough, even a political view.
(See http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/conservation/biodiversity/funding/nia/default.aspx for more information about NIAs.)
The annual Heathland Forum was organised by Phil Irving of the Greensand Trust (and BRAG member). We met at the smart new Heron View Visitor Centre at Rushmere and then saw some of the recent tree clearance in the adjoining Country Park. Large areas had been cleared using a huge machine. Some of the wood was commercially useful and could be sold, but the problem then was – what to do with all the brash? Experiments were made with different ways of spreading it and heather regeneration will be monitored closely. The other problem was what to do about getting rid of the bracken? Asulox seems to be the answer. In the afternoon we looked at parts of Bragenham Wood and Kings Wood where smaller areas had been cleared, and also at established areas of heather. There were some very good looking open areas of heather within the woodland which would make good basking places. We also, unfortunately, saw considerable damage by the heather beetle. The weather was not kind to us – it was drizzling most of the day. We saw no herps of course, though we did see both the Hebridian sheep and Hereford cattle which are being used for grazing. [See Photo Gallery]