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 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.)
The main goal of this important project is to expand and improve the populations of the Great Crested Newt in the Forest of Marston Vale, Bedfordshire. It builds on a recent review of GCN habitat network in the Central and Western Marston Vale, prepared by Bedfordshire and Luton Biodiversity Partnership (BedsLife). This in turn is based on surveys carried out by professionals, working on development projects, but also by BRAG members and others. The project has three main aims:
1. Assess the GCN population of 40 ponds. This will include Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) assessment. See http://www.arguk.org/advice-and-guidance/view-category ARG UK Advice Note 5 Great Crested Newt Habitat Suitability Index, May 2010, for more information about calculating HSI.
2. Collection, analysis and presentation of data in GIS format for the use of BedsLife, local authorities, Natural England and local organisations. For more on GIS (Geographic Information System) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographic_information_system.
3. Creation / restoration of a minimum of 20 ponds.
The Marston Vale Forest area is under heavy development pressure. It is hoped this project will allow us to assess its impact so far on GCN populations and also the potential impact of future proposals. The effect on individual GCN populations is obviously important but the way development may change the overall habitat network is perhaps more so.
The recent cold dry weather is not encouraging for amphibians who want to make their way to their breeding ponds. We usually reckon the second week in March is when things start to happen in this area. We were pleased, and a little surprised, therefore to hear that the first Great Crested Newt (a male) had appeared in a garden pond in Langford on 2nd March. Surveying work in earnest should be able to start soon.
John Wakely reported seeing his first adder at Maulden Woods on February 17th. See the Bedfordshire Natural History Society News Group message http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/bnhs_news_group/message/8083. This is slightly earlier than last year. John Wakely saw one on 23 February 2012 and the following day Steve Cham reported 'A male was sunning itself in a sheltered spot' http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/bnhs_news_group/message/7595. Since the weekend the weather has turned cold and cloudy with not much change in prospect, according to the forecast. It may be a while before the adders are tempted out again.
We are delighted to hear from BRAG member Richard Lawrence of Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity that part of the fencing leading to the wildlife tunnel at Saxon Gate, Biggleswade, will be replaced in time for the toad lift season. Richard says
‘We have the go-ahead and funding to replace 20 meters of ACO fencing, install planks along the base of the post and rail fencing and tie the two together. This is only on the Richard’s Pond [east] side of Saxon Drive.’
The work will be funded by Central Bedfordshire Council. This should really make a difference as many toads come from the east side of Saxon Drive, heading for the ‘Bomb Crater’ balancing pond to breed. There is good cover, mostly recently planted woodland, all along the road. Further away the allotments provide useful terrestrial habitat.
Richard hopes to be able to repair more of the fence on the east side of the road in time for next year’s migration. See Photo Gallery for pictures of the deteriorating fencing.
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