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.
We were recently looking at the Froglife map of known toad tunnels and realised that our local one in Biggleswade was not marked (http://www.froglife.org/toadsonroads/maps_tunnels.htm). This was probably our fault. We have now let them know the location of the tunnel.
Our Biggleswade tunnel (see Photo Gallery) is concrete and the larger of the two sizes available from ACO when it was installed in May 1999. The tunnel itself is still in good condition but the ACO fencing has deteriorated badly and is now almost useless.
We know toads used to use the tunnel – we have seen them in it (see Photo Gallery – this is genuine not posed!). We have not seen any in the tunnel during the last few years though. That could be because there have been less toads using the crossing because of the dry, cold spring weather. Also a new pond, Richard’s Pond, was dug in 2003 (see Photo Gallery). There is therefore less need for so many toads to cross the road to the original ‘bomb crater’ balancing pond.
The toad tunnel was installed by developers when they built a new road, now called Saxon Drive, leading to their housing etc. development. They only installed the fencing alongside their new road and refused to put anything beside the old road – so one side of the tunnel, at one end, never had any fencing. Since then the fencing has broken up. Some of this is because of vandalism but mostly is seems to have happened ‘naturally’ in the areas where people do not go (see Photo Gallery).
Badgers seem to have stopped using the tunnel since a new path was made near the pond and a wooden fence installed. There used to be a badger track from the tunnel to Richard’s Pond. We know there is a badger sett the other side of the road from Richard’s Pond. It is difficult for the badgers to get to the ‘bomb crater’ pond as it is surrounded by a strong metal fence with no gaps for a badger to squeeze through. They now seem to cross the road above ground, in a slightly different place, in order to get to Richard's Pond, possibly influenced by the droppping of the kerb for a cycle track on the sett side of the road.
Unfortunately the state of our toad fencing is not unusual. In an email to us Froglife say ‘we couldn’t identify a single toad tunnel that is in good condition and functioning in England’. If their idea of using camera traps is put into operation it will be very interesting to see the results.
We intend to monitor our tunnel more closely during the season this year to see if we can spot any toads in it.
INTRODUCTION TO AMPHIBIANS
BRAG member and Country Recorder for herps, Helen Muir-Howie, is running a workshop on amphibians on Sunday 17th March 2013 from 10am to 4pm at Priory Country Park, Bedford, Bedfordshire.
‘This workshop will cover the identification, life history and habitats of the native amphibians found in Bedfordshire. By the end of the session you will be able to confidently tell frogs from toads and identify the different species of newt. There will be an afternoon tour of nearby ponds to see the animals up close and to practice the techniques of amphibian surveying.’
AN INTRODUCTION TO REPTILES
Two BRAG members, Helen Muir-Howie, the Country Recorder for herps and Matt Andrews, are running a workshop on Saturday 27th April 2013, 10am to 4pm at Stockgrove Country Park and Rammamere Heath.
‘This workshop introduce participants to the identification of reptiles in the field, demonstrate where to look for them and how to encourage them to occupy favourable habitats. It is hoped that participants will come to appreciate and understand them rather than fear them’.
These are both Wildlife Trusts training workshops. For non-professional the cost is £35.00 per workshop unless you fall into one of the categories which qualifies you for a free place (Ecology Group Member, Reserve Warden, Watch Leader, Key Volunteer) – though it is to be hoped that none of those would regard reptiles with fear!
If you are interested in either course email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you live near Heath and Reach? Would you like to help with a toad patrol this spring? If so Esther Clarke would like you to contact her: Eclarke75@aol.com
She has registered the crossing, which is on Leighton Road in Heath and Reach, with Froglife and is hoping to organise a Toad (and Frog!) Crossing Patrol with some local volunteers this March. Some of you may know Esther from when she worked at Stockgrove, though she now works for the Beds Wildlife Trust on the Chilterns sites.
Our local pond in Biggleswade, Richard’s Pond, has benefited greatly from the downpours. Over the last few years the vegetation has grown, and the water level has shrunk, to such an extent that there was little open water for the frogs and toads to lay their spawn. After the clearance of trees and scrub from around the pond (13 November 2012) it will get much more sun. Less water will be sucked out by all the tree roots as well. Next spring could be a good spawning year, temperatures permitting. Photos in the Picture Gallery (taken on 18 November and 30 December) shew the dramatic rise in the water level.
The Ivel Valley Volunteers organised by BRAG member Richard Lawrence (and including two more BRAG members) spent most of a lovely sunny day clearing the trees and scrub around Richard’s Pond in the Saxon Gate area of Biggleswade. This pond was dug in January 2003 (see Photo Gallery). Since then very little conservation work has been done because of doubts over its future – see Saxon Gate Planning Appeal in our ‘News’ section. Now that the appeal has been dismissed we have started to clear the willow which shades much of the pond – compare picture taken in August 2011 with that taken in November 2012 in the Photo Gallery. We still need to clear much of the vegetation from the pond itself so there is sufficient clear water for the toads and frogs to spawn.
Upcoming events will be listed here.