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.
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]
Over the years we have not surveyed many ponds in arable fields. This year, though, as part of a survey of Great Crested Newts in the Marston Vale organised by Daniel Piec and Britt Cordi of Natura International and funded by SITA (see news item of 4th March 2013) we included farm ponds. In one arable field we found three ponds. All of them, rather to our surprise, held reasonable GCN populations. One was connected to a hedge, one was in a corner near a lane but the third was completely surrounded by the arable field. None had a significant protective strip of land around them but trees were growing in all three ponds. [See Photo Gallery]
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.