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 recent warm weather has encouraged the toads to start spawning. On the evening of Saturday 13th April we counted 43 toads in the pond by torchlight (only two pairs) but did not see any toad spawn. During the day, on 15th April, we counted over 70 toads – it was difficult to be sure of the exact number as there were two mating balls. One of these was especially large, with lots of males clustered around a very big female. We were afraid she would drown so were took off the males [see Picture Gallery]. The toads had just started spawning: there were a few spawn strings. There was also some more frog spawn, laid in the same place as the earlier frog spawn. Today (Tuesday) there was some more frog spawn, but in a different area of the pond, near the toad spawn. We hope to do a night time head count of toads soon.
On Tuesday 9th April we saw six more clumps of frog spawn in Richard’s Pond in Biggleswade. By Wednesday there was a total of about 23 clumps and by Thursday (today) another 16 or so had been laid, making about 39 altogether. The weather seems to be slowly improving and it will be very interesting to see whether, and when, the toads join the frogs in spawning – they are only just starting to move to the ponds and we have seen on toad spawn strings yet. We are promised rain (and hail) this evening, with a minimum temperature of 7C so hopefully that will be enough to encourage the toads to move as well.
There was a small amount of spawning in Bedfordshire around 9th and 10th March, see the BNHS News Group: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/bnhs_news_group/message/8130. The temperature had been quite warm around that date but there has been very little activity since then. We were therefore pleased to see one(!) clump of toad spawn in Richard’s Pond on Sunday 7th April. There was no other spawn in the pond. A second clump was laid overnight, Sunday / Monday. If the weather improves, as the forecast suggests, it will be very interesting to see whether the frogs and toads will still spawn. In this area things are about a month behind. [See Photo Gallery]
Biggleswade, like much of the country, had snow on 23rd March. About 5cm settled on the ground but a lot more fell and melted almost immediately – a degree colder and we would have had a thick layer. Temperatures today hover around freezing point. The Saxon Gate Toad Lift has barely started. We have made four visits on the (very few) milder / wetter days and have picked up (or rescued from gulley pots) a total of 61 amphibians – mostly Common Frogs but a few Common Toads and Smooth Newts as well. Most years we are well into the toad lift season by this date. We only hope the animals we moved, or are on their way to the pond, have found somewhere safe where they can wait for the weather to improve. Today Richard’s Pond looked like it does in January! [see Photo Gallery].
The wildlife fencing at Saxon Gate, Biggleswade, has been in a bad state of repair for many years. We had hoped to be able to replace some of the sections – see news item 19th February 2013. Unfortunately ACO do not make the exact type of fencing we need. BRAG member Richard Lawrence of Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity decided instead that the fence could be repaired. He organised a work party on Tuesday 12th March and the Ivel Valley Volunteers did a fantastic job. Some unbroken but out of line sections of the fence could be pushed upright again once earth had been cleared away. One long section, though, was badly broken and could not be repaired. Instead, the Volunteers removed the damaged sections, dug out the soil and replaced the ACO fencing with planks of wood.
The bottom of a nearby post and rail wooden fence was blocked with planks of wood in order to guide the toads towards the repaired fence. Now all we need is some warm wet weather to bring the amphibians out! (See Photo Gallery for pictures of the work.)