Welcome to CPARG - Cambridgeshire and Peterborough's local Amphibian and Reptile Group. ARGs are local, grassroots amphibian and reptile conservation groups spread out throughout the UK, usually organised by county. As a volunteer run group we get up to a whole range of activities – newt surveys, frogspawn counts, advice service, liaison with planning authorities and consultancies, data collection/collation, training, chytrid swabbing, talks and presentations. The opportunities are endless! Events are held on nature reserves and throughout the wider landscape, and while our focus is on Cambridgeshire there are good links between neighbouring ARGs with access to shared away-days, conferences and training available.
We are run by and for volunteers, and we'd like you to join. We're looking for members – people who might be interested in surveying, receiving training, attending talks, sharing their knowledge and experience, or getting involved in any way with amphibian and reptile conservation locally. We're also looking for new committee members to help with the running of the group, most importantly in organising and/or running events (surveys, training, talks, habitat management etc).
Map of some sites we work on:
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CPARG is looking for one or two dedicated volunteer to co-ordinate the Castor Palmate Newt Project – aiming to see how far beyond the known population at Castor Hanglands National Nature Reserve (NNR) this species’ distribution might reach.
Palmate newts are very rare in Cambridgeshire with only two records showing on the CPERC database from 1950-2012! One of the few sites this species is known at is Castor Hanglands NNR, managed by Natural England. In 2012 CPARG led an amphibian ID and survey session which inspired a group of us to go on and survey all the ponds here for palmates. Castor Hanglands once again earned its reputation as a top site, with all five widespread amphibians found and several ponds showing palmates, even on these late-season surveys.
Palmate newts are easily overlooked and can be mistaken for the more common smooth newt, but we know they’re present in the area and a skilled or trained eye can pick out the differences easily. This year we’d like to spread our net wider than the nature reserve and see whether the newts are surviving in the wider countryside.
The co-ordinator post would involve the following jobs. These can be split between individuals either by stage or within each stage. CPARG or the CPARG Committee can advise and assist with any of the actions listed – and of course, if as you get into the project you find that there are further avenues you’d like to pursue then the project can evolve under your direction.
On the evening of Friday 22nd February there was a meeting at the guided busway in Histon, for people who might be interested in toad patrolling and to see the busway site and the problems it has created for toads. It was too cold for toads to actually be moving but it was useful to see the site and for volunteers to hear about what toad patrolling involves. Sivi Sivanesan (Froglife), Jane Andrews-Gauvain (Cambridge & Peterborough Environmental Records Centre) and Rebecca Cattell (CPARG) were joined by several volunteers William Seale (Coordinator of Madingley Toad Patrol since 1988) and David Seilly. William has been advising the Council on protecting toads at the busway and David has patrolled the site previously. The site is currently in need of a toad patrol. David is unable to coordinate the site as he is also heavily involved with Madingley but he is willing to assist anyone who would like to take on the busway toads.
The busway cuts through the breeding migratory route for a large toad population as they make their way to and from the lake at the Holiday Inn site (Grid reference TL 44930 61922). Since the busway was installed many toads have been seen run over by the buses, or caught in the tracks and killed by desiccation. The track acts like a giant double pitfall trap, the concrete sides being too high for the toads to climb out once they have fallen in. They are then vulnerable to desiccation. The Council have attempted to mitigate for the problem by digging a number of scrapes along the track which creates tunnels, allowing toads (and other small wildlife) to pass underneath. Between scrapes, several small concrete shelters have been created adjacent to the track to allow toads to take shelter along the way, as they are mainly nocturnal and shelter during the daytime.
It is not known how many toads are successfully using the tunnels and it would be very useful to have this monitored as part of a patrol here. The scraped areas will also need clearing to prevent a build up of vegetation and debris, which would block any holes and would also allow toads to climb up onto the track. Anyone helping toads here need to be vigilant for bicycles and buses – both of which move fast and quietly. Hi-Viz clothing and headlights are a must. Anyone interested should contact Sivi for a Froglife toad patrol pack, which gives advice on patrolling and health and safety requirements. It was suggested at the meeting that bicycles would be very useful to use when patrolling at this site, as there is quite a length of track to cover. William has successfully used a bike for many years at the Madingley patrol.
Can you help? If anyone is interested in becoming a patrol coordinator or an assistant patroller for the busway toad population, or would like more information on what would be involved, please contact Sivi (email@example.com). Sivi coordinates toad patrols nationally for Froglife and provides lots of advice and assistance. There is no minimum commitment required and any help would be greatly appreciated. We also have a list of sites in Cambridgeshire where toads have been seen migrating in the past but we do not know if the population is still surviving. If you would like to check on any of these sites once it warms up and toads have started moving, please contact Rebecca for details (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you find a population that is suffering road mortality there is of course the option of setting up a patrol. If you would like to get involved recording toads or other wildlife for the local records centre, please contact Jane (Jane.Andrews-Gauvain@cperc.org.uk). On behalf of the toads – thanks!
Two new events have been added to the calendar for January - one each for amphibians and reptiles - both in Peterborough.
We'll be continueing the fine local tradition of pond digging with and for volunteers to make a new garden pond fit for newts on Sunday 13th, followed a fortnight later by some scrub management and bonfire socialising on the Hampton Nature Reserve on Saturday 26th.
Come February we're hoping to have our first habitat management session at Castor Flood Meadows, subject to final confirmation from Natural England.
We've also been offered a slot by the Cambridge Natural History Society to speak about CPARG and how people can get involved in Amphibian and Reptile conservation locally. Currently Paul Furnborough has volunteered to prepare and deliver this presentation, but if anyone else would like to take this on or gain some experience of public speaking please contact him (assistance is available if you'd like to but aren't confident taking it on solo).
To sign up to any of these events please check out our events tab and email the relevant event leader.
March heralds the start of the survey season, with most of our species out of hibernation and gearing up for breeding and a summer of activity. We'll be organising amphibian training days in Peterborough and probably Cambridge with a few to setting up volunteers to survey sites across the county - more details to follow.
There's much much more going on behind the scenes but hopefully that will wet your appetite for the new season.
See you all in 2013,
Paul and the Committee
Recent research as identified that urban ponds provide numerous and diverse roles including their ecological function with good quality ponds acting as stepping-stones and refuges for wildlife species within a suriunding of otherwise inhospitable habitat. With this in mind, we are currently looking to find out where all of Cambridge's urban ponds are in an attempt to learn more about the potential dispersal routes of the City's amphibians. It is important to know both where amphibians breed (in terms of public areas) but also where they may also hibernate, which is usually away from breeding ponds and in gardens. Of course amphibians will also breed in garden ponds too and this is useful additional information that we are hoping that you, the constituents of Cambridge will be able to help provide us with. If you're happy for us to make a visit to your garden to survey the pond or give you some advice on how to improve your pond or garden or amphibians then please also let us know of your address. If this is not the case, then please provide us with a grid reference of your pond's location which you can easily find using this free online tool.
Even small garden ponds like the one above can offer plentiful opportunities for amphibians to breed and feed. If you do have a garden pond, the please do get in contact and let us know what species of amphibians you find in it, whether it is stocked with any fish, how old the pond is and how big it is. It is hoped that this information will be used to help inform planning and management of urban areas within Cambridge to benefit amphibians and other wildlife which tend to share the same corridors.
Disclaimer: Any data you share with us will not be shared with any third party groups without your permission first.
CPARG prides itself with the important conservation research that the group runs throughout the county. Below are short summaries of some of these projects and information on how you can get involved.
CPARG monitors a number of amphibian populations around the county with the majority of the committee being great crested newt licence holders. There are sites of interest throughout Cambridgeshire which are home to the four most widespread amphibian species, common frog, common toad, smooth newt and great crested newt. A small number of sites are also home to some rarer species (for Cambridgeshire at least), such as the palmate newt. These are generally surveyed at night using a combination of methods such as torchlight surveys and bottle trapping. To get involved, keep an eye on our blog and our events.
CPARG opportunistically monitors a small number of reptile populations around the county, with the focus being populations in or around Cambridge. These include the monitoring of slow worms at Wandlebury Country Park (see below) and of common lizards at Bramblefields Local Nature Reserve. To get involved, please keep an eye on our blog and our events.
Toads on Roads
Toads on Roads is a national initiative which aims to help set up and manage toad crossing across the country. Roads are a huge issue for amphibians, with the main threat being that of cars. Roads bisect amphibian migration routes between breeding ponds and over-wintering sites and so the aim of a toad crossing is to help as many toads as possible make it to the other side of the road. There are a number of registered toad crossings within the county, with one of CPARG's most active ones is in central Cambridge. Every year we are on the lookout for volunteers to help us with toad patrols throughout the county.
Toads have declined around 70% in the UK in the last thirty years, and being hit by cars is one of the main causes. The toad patrol is one way of making a real difference to protecting these remarkable amphibians. The toad patrol is active through the toad breeding season, usually from mid-February until April. Volunteers give the toads a helping hand, so that as many as possible make it safely across the roads to their breeding pond to spawn. Each patrol has it's own coordinator who helps to organise a rota, with volunteers signing up for between one and three hours around dusk, on nights when the toads are active. All you need is a bucket and a torch.
To find out more about the Stanley Road Toad Crossing, please contact the crossing coordinator Suzanne Little on 07957 179 993. If you'd like to know more about Toads on Roads in general, please contact Mark Goodman.
Cambridge Midwife Toads
Since 2015 CPARG has been monitoring the population of midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans) in central Cambridge. The study first started out as a population assessment but then quickly transformed into a disease monitoring exercise. It was feared that when the toads were introduced that they may have been infected with infectious diseases that are deadly to amphibians. These do not affect humans but they have caused huge declines in species around the world. Fortunately so far no toads have come back positive for the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). We'd like to thank the local residents for allowing us access to their gardens to carry out this important research. If you'd like to know more then please contact Steven Allain.
Wandlebury Slow Worms
Since 2017, CPARG has been monitoring the population of slow worms (Anguis fragilis) at Wandlebury Country Park. We have been working to establish the demography of the population and the extent of which they use the site. This has been achieved through the use of structured surveys, which are ongoing. If you'd like to get involved, please get in touch.
Falling Through The Cracks
Burial grounds are a haven for wildlife given that they are generally safe from development, and are managed in a way that provides both plentiful food and shelter for wildlife. Given the number of burial grounds in Cambridgeshire and the lack of information regarding the presence or absence of absence of amphibians or reptile species, we've developed a package of materials to assist volunteers and burial grounds managers to help fill in these gaps. If you would like to take on the monitoring of a burial ground near you, please get in touch with Terry Moore, who will be able to assist you with this.
Dewsbury Trap Analysis
Information coming soon!
CPARG is always happy to welcome new members whether they be amateur amphibian and reptile enthusiasts or professional ecologists. This mix of backgrounds helps to give CPARG it's strong dynamic. If you'd like to know more about membership and the benefits provided, please feel free to contact us before you join. To find our about how CPARG is operated, please feel free to read the CPARG Constitution (available here). If you've got a membership query, please contact Helen Moore, our Membership Secretary.
You can become a member of CPARG by using the 'Subscribe' button below and paying via PayPal. Our membership fees are £5 per year and membership runs until the 31st December. When joining through PayPal, please use the login details sent to your email address to access ARGWEB and complete the details found under 'My CPARG Account', including the volunteer agreement. Alternatively, you can fill out a membership form and pay via bank transfer or cheque. Please read the ARG UK Generic Risk Assessment and ARG UK Lone Working Procedures (below) before becoming a member.
ARG UK Generic Risk Assessment - Click Here
ARG UK Lone Working Procedures - Click Here
CPARG Membership Form - Click Here
ARGWEB is the online system that CPARG uses to monitor sites, manage it's data and assist in various administrative roles. You can log-in using the button below and record your sightings and us ARGWEB's many other features.
To join our email list please email:
To join CPARG please contact Helen Moore, our Membership Secretary.
Please see contact details for specific volunteering opportunities in the Events tab. Alternatively, for regular fixed sessions see contacts below.
For information about local toad crossings or any toad crossing related queries please contact Mark Goodman, our Toads on Roads Officer.
Regular fixed sessions coming soon.
To submit photos of events, species or habitats to our gallery please email Mario Shimbov or alternatively upload them to our Facebook page and make it clear you'd like to see the photos posted on the website.
For general herp advice please check these excellent FAQs:
If the answer you need is not there please contact our Advice Officer, Malcolm Busby.
If you've seen what you suspect to be a non-native species then please contact Steven Allain.
We have a small team dealing with possible wildlife crimes committed against herp species - please contact Steve Parnwell who will liaise with the team.
Upcoming events will be listed here.