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 did not visit Richard’s Pond during the recent cold spell but today's sunny and warm weather tempted us out. The water was still fairly high, but not as high as on 30 December 2012. There was still a little floating ice. We saw a few dead fish but, fortunately, no dead amphibians.
The toad tunnel has a little earth at the bottom, accumulated during the past 14 years, but there is still plenty of room for and toads and other animals should they want to use it. It has never been cleaned out.
The ‘Bomb Crater’ balancing pond on the west side of Saxon Drive has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Compare the photo taken in 1994 (with colour distortion) when the pond was surrounded by a collapsing wooden fence with the later ones. By 1999 the concrete in- and out-flows had been constructed and the pond was surrounded by a strong metal fence. The banks had little tall vegetation and the pond was very sunny. Since then some trees have grown up, though those on the south side have been cut this winter. We cannot easily survey the pond now but in past years the frog spawn has been spectacular. [See Photo Gallery for accompanying pictures.]
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: email@example.com.
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.
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.