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.
Current members can log into the BedsRAG ARGWEB using the button below.
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.
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.)
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 project was initiated by Daniel Piec and Britt Cordi of Natura International http://www.natura-international.org/ and is funded by SITA http://www.sita.co.uk/.
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.
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.
Dave Willis (Chair)
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