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.
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.
See picture gallery for our visit.
The Beds Heathland Forum annual meeting, organised by Phil Irving of the Greensand Trust, visited two contrasting heaths: Cooper’s Hill to the west of Ampthill (good for Common Lizards) and Mauldon Heath (good for Common Lizards, Slow Worms and the site of an Adder re-introduction).
Cooper’s Hills was chosen because it has areas of old, woody, heather small parts of which had been experimentally burned earlier this year. The purpose of this was to create a more varied habitat with a mosaic of young and old heather. This burning seems to have been successful as we could see regeneration from the root stock. In another experiment the aim was to encourage heather regeneration by removing the top layer of wavy hair grass and soil so heather seed could germinate. This was done in areas where the heather had not been able to grow because of a thick mat of grass. Again this has been successful and we saw many small heather seedlings. Both these experiments will be monitored over the next few years.
Whereas Cooper’s Hill has a good cover of heather and is heavily used by walkers, there is little heather at Maulden, though there are three acid grassland fields designated SSSIs. Paths mostly take the public around, rather than across, these areas. Unlike Cooper’s Hill the Maulden fields are grazed. There flora in one, ex-Christmas tree, field is developing well and the area will be expanded by the felling of some poplar trees, planted by the Forestry Commission as an experiment some years ago. Even more extensive conifer clearance is planned this winter for the area known as The Hump. This already supports CL and SW and may have adders.
We did not see any herps. This was hardly surprising as the weather was rather chilly and dull. Four BRAG Members attended the Forum.
Minutes of the BRAG AGM held on Thursday 19 July 2012 at The Greensand Trust office, Maulden Woods at 6.30 pm.
1. Present: Matt Andrews, Brian Banks, Trevor Broderick, Philip Gould, Andrei Marcu, Helen Muir-Howie, Diana Parsons, Marcus Phillips, Susan Phillips, Sue Raven.
2. Apologies for absence were received from Richard Lawrence.
3. OFFICERS’ REPORTS:
CHAIRMAN: MP reported on various recent activities.
Campton (nearby copse): A man was bitten on the foot by an adder while metal detecting on private land near the golf course at Beadlow Manor, east of Maulden. Although there is no public access, a public footpath runs nearby. SR will get details of the land owner and try to get permission to survey the area.
Chellington Church (SP960563): Adders have been reported but not confirmed (HM-H thinks adders are very unlikely to be in this area). It would be useful to survey the area, though, and at least confirm GS.
Maulden: Few adders have been seen the last two years. We should try to find out whether they have dispersed and if so where they now are. MP and SP will try to do some surveying but the more people from the Group who can survey the better. Perhaps let SR know if you are going to Maulden.
Millbrook Proving Ground: This looks a very promising site but it is difficult to get permission to go onto it.
Rammamere: MA was intending to use carpet tiles to survey for adders (and other herps).
Rowney Warren: The presence of adders has been confirmed relatively recently, but only in tiny numbers. MA suggested the Group should put down carpet tile refugia and undertake a thorough survey of the site this autumn to try to find where they bask.
RSPB, The Lodge: Adders have been reported but not confirmed. MP will contact Stephanie Morren (email@example.com) with a view to putting down refugia (MA’s carpet tiles and corrugated iron if we can get it cut up). She has offered to monitor the tiles.
Rushmere: The Greensand Trust would like to know which areas are favoured by adders before they undertake anymore construction work.
Stockgrove: BB has seen very few toad tadpoles in the big ponds for the last three years. This is a site which we should monitor on a regular basis.
Bedford Moat: The moat has not been cleared by BNHS for some years. SR will try to find out who to contact re getting permission to clear it out this winter.
Bucks: Liaise with Bucks Group (MP), especially about GCN at Aspley Guise.
Maulden: The Group would liaise with SR re a new pond in the Conservation Area. This would hopefully encourage the spread of GCN.
Maulden: More Christmas trees will be cut down in the adder field. These can be used to make log piles and brash heaps. The Group, via SR, will liaise.
5. THIS YEAR’S COMMITTEE. This is something we did not discuss but according to our Constitution (attached) we should have a committee. We suggest that for this year, or until the Group decides otherwise, we should carry on as before with the four posts designated in the constitution:
Chairman: Marcus Phillips
Secretary: Susan Phillips
Treasurer: Bryan Banks
Recorder: Helen Muir-Howie
Next year (or before) hopefully other people will get involved with this side of things.
We were very pleased to see so many of our members at our recent AGM, held on Thursday 19th July at The Greensand Trust. We would particularly like to say thank you to Sue Raven for accommodating us in one of the new buildings. The main subject of discussion was surveying: which sites should we concentrate on? There have been a number of sightings of adders over the last few years and one of our main tasks will be to try to confirm, or not, these records.
31 October: Planning inspector rejects appeal.
Key issues: effects of the proposal on the open countryside and on biodiversity.
We will post more details but the full report is at the Planning Inspectorate, Planning Portal, and the full reference is APP/P0240/A/11/2155625. Go to Appeals and follow the links.
We will try and post some extracts.
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.