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.
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.
The area surrounding Richard’s Pond is developing well. New trees and shrubs have been planted recently and now walkers along 'The Cliff Path' will be able to take a rest and admire the pond. The Ivel Valley Volunteers, organised by BRAG member Richard Lawrence, with the help of Cliff Andrews both of Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity, spent Tuesday morning installing a new seat. Very handy for us when we are trying to measure toads at night in the pouring rain! See Photo Gallery for picture of volunteers at work.
We have just received forms for a new ARG UK project aimed at gathering as much data as possible about the size of toads. If you would like to take part, but have not received the forms, we suggest you email firstname.lastname@example.org. Angie Julian, Secretary of ARG UK, says:
‘Thank you for your enthusiasm, and patience with this. We are now able to attach a two sided form for ToadSize 2013 – this has the methods on one side, and the recording form on the other. We are hoping that you will be able to print this out, and take it out into the field with you, as a means of recording the toadsize data. I am also attaching a longer protocol document, which sets out the methodology in greater detail, plus an excel sheet which you can use to send your answers back electronically, if that is easiest.
As this is a very new project we haven’t yet set up the web-based recording, but we are keen to get as many results as possible from this season, so would ask that you either email the results back to myself at email@example.com and John Wilkinson at ARC on John.Wilkinson@arc-trust.org, or post them straight to John at ARC Trust, 655a Christchurch Rd, Boscombe, Bournemouth, BH1 4AP. Once the web-site is up and running, we will of course let you know straight away.
We are trying to gather as much data as possible, so even if you are not part of a toad patrol but know of a site where toads cross, then we would very much like to hear from you, as this will also provide important comparative information about the impact of toad patrolling and road mortalities. If you have any problems or concerns at all, then please do get straight in touch and we’ll endeavour to sort things out with you. However, all of your data is welcome so, even if you can only manage a few toads on a few nights, this will add greatly to the body of knowledge and will be very helpful, so please do not feel put off if you are unable to complete it in full.
We’ll let you know how it goes, of course, and in the meantime – good luck with this, and many thanks again for your time and efforts.’
See Picture Gallery for a pair of toads rescued, then released, at Saxon Gate.
Has anyone seen a Bedfordshire adder yet? There have been a few sunny days but we have not managed to get to our nearest site. They should be coming out of hibernation and warming up in a sheltered, sunny, spot. See Photo Gallery for a picture of one which almost looks as if it has been run over – it is so flat! Let us know when you see your first Bedfordshire adder.
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.