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.
It is usually said that GCN do not colonise new ponds quickly. We found an exception to this rule a couple of weeks ago. Three new ponds were excavated at Marston Thrift LNR in late February this year as part of the SITA / Natura International Marston Vale Great Crested Newt Project (see news item dated 20 February 2014). As they are so new these ponds have very little vegetation but when we surveyed them on 2nd June we found GCN eggs in one of the ponds! A clump of Yorkshire Fog grass had been thrown in and the newts were using this for egg laying. [See Photo Gallery]
Nicholas Milton has written another piece on adders, this time as a guest on Mark Avery’s blog (for Nicholas’ previous article see our news item ‘Adders in the news’ of 24th March below). It is again well worth reading as are the comments, including one from BRAG member Matt Andrews.
On 23 April last year we saw spectacular quantities of Common Toad spawn in a balancing pond near Marston Thrift LNR. Some balancing ponds, dug for a new development at Cranfield, contained little suitable vegetation for the Common Toads to lay their eggs on. Three clumps of vegetation, though, were favoured by the toads with the results you can see here [Photo Gallery]. The eggs are still round and have not developed far. This year we visited the same pond on 10 April and there were large numbers of tadpoles swimming about in the pond. What a difference in the timing!
Not quite as dramatic as it sounds! We spent one evening surveying at Maulden Woods for Great Crested Newts as part of the SITA / Natura International project based in the Marston vale area. [See Photo Gallery] This small pond, previously built to hold water for putting out fires, was partly filled in years ago to make it safer. In 2004 and 2008 we found Great Crested Newt eggs there and it has often been used for breeding by Common Frogs, Common toads and Smooth Newts. Earlier this month unfortunately we did not find any Great Crested Newt eggs though we saw both Smooth Newt adults and eggs.
It is encouraging to read a sensible article on adders in a national newspaper - albeit on their website's environmental blog and commenting on their decline. Have a look at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2014/mar/21/save-adder-extinction-middle-england
We have represented the Group at the Heathland Forums ever since they began. This year we are returning to some of the South Bucks Heathlands that we visited a few years ago to see the effect of recent management work. We have memories of the dense birch scrub that had invaded much of Stoke Common SSSI. Since that time The City of London Corporation have carried out extensive work to clear the scrub and re-introduce grazing, so it should be looking different.
It is also planned to visit Littleworth Common, managed by South Bucks DC, where once again, there has been extensive clearance of mature birch woodland. This is a site where there has been much public consultation and the council are looking to set up a Friends Group, so this could provide a useful insight into restoring heathland on heavily visited sites.
We will post a report next week.
A Wildlife Trusts training workshop for herps
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.’
This is a Wildlife Trusts training workshop. 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).
If you are interested email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHANGE OF DATE this walk will now take place on 14th April. Please note that this event has been moved forward one week because of the cold weather.
The Greensand Trust has arranged a ‘Discover Adders’ walk on Rammamere Heath on Sunday 14th April, 9am to 12pm.
The walk is led by BRAG member, and local adder expert, Matt Andrews. The event is funded by Natural England Higher Level Stewardship so there is no charge for the walk. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. There is a standard £2 car parking charge per vehicle. See http://www.greensandtrust.org/events.html for more details. To book your place email email@example.com or call 01525 234260
The Greensand Trust has organised another walk on Sunday 14th April, 9am - 12pm. See http://www.greensandtrust.org/events.html
This is an opportunity to discover more about adders on a friendly walk with BRAG member and local adder expert Matt Andrews. This event is funded by Natural England Higher Level Stewardship so there is no charge for this walk. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. No charge for this event. Standard £2 car parking charge per vehicle still applies, so why not share a car journey with friends. To book your place please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01525 234260
A Wildlife Trusts training workshop for herps
Two BRAG members are running a workshop on Saturday 27th April 2013, 10am to 4pm at Stockgrove Country Park and Rammamere Heath.
Helen Muir-Howie, the Country Recorder for herps, and Matt Andrews.
‘This workshop will 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’.
This is a Wildlife Trusts training workshop. 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.