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:
Please join our Facebook for discussions with other members.
Please follow us on Twitter for all of our latest updates.
Please follow our blog for updates on our events and activities!
Although news hasn't been posted on our website for a couple of years now, we have been going strong on WordPress! We moved away from this platform and over to there shortly after out 2016 AGM when our new Communication's Officer then setup a WordPress blog due to the improved functionality over the blog system that is built into our site. Maybe we'll see the return to use using the home system as well but for now you can find out what we've been up to and what's going on here.
It’s that time of year again – soon many garden ponds across the country will be bubbling with hundreds of croaking toads and frogs, and your help is needed to record all that spawn!
Amphibians are commonly found breeding in garden ponds, and data gathered by volunteers is vital in better understanding just how important gardens are for these species. Spawn counts can be used to estimate population sizes and species distributions, an important way of monitoring the status of our amphibians and identifying ways to better conserve them!
It’s really simple, all you have to do is fill in some basic information online; the size and depth of your pond, whether the pond has fish in it, and how much spawn (frog or toad) you can see!
Check out the Fresh Water Habitats website here for more details!
As the evenings are very slowly getting warmer, toads have been awakening from their sleepy slumber and are now on the move! Their migration from hibernacula to natal spawning ponds can however be lengthy and pretty treacherous. Unfortunately many breeding ponds are now surrounded by an urban environment, making road crossing a necessary, but perilous task.
Toads on Roads and Toad Size are two projects aiming to alleviate and better understand the risk of roads on toad populations. Volunteers collect toads from road sides and help them safely reach their pond for breeding. The level of traffic flow and number of deceased individuals found is also recorded. The Toad Size project involves the measuring of male toads at these road sites to determine whether road mortality is influencing the age structure of populations. Preliminary results show the importance of frequent toad patrols for reducing mortality and enabling a more varied age structure, and the impact of crossing distance on toad size. Further research is however needed from more sites across the country.
So we at CPARG have just begun Toad Patrol and Toad Size activities for the year, with three outings so far. This is the second year of Toad on Road activities at this specific site, and the first year we have been collecting data for Toad Size. Our first visit resulted in 152 males safely delivered to the pond. Visit two was on a fairly cold night and resulted in a much more modest number of 19, with 1 of these being scooped out from the depths of a drain, whilst visit number 3 saved 119 toads.
Have you been out helping toads cross roads? Or have you seen sites that could do with some assistance? Let us know! For more information about these projects, check out the website links below, or for more specific Cambridge related queries, contact our Toads on Roads Officer Mark Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Careful pond and land management is needed to ensure the persistence of amphibian populations in the UK, especially for the Great crested newt (GCN), a species that has seen rapid declines in the past 50 years. Threats facing amphibians in the UK are largely linked to agricultural intensification, pollution, disease and the introduction of non-native species such as ornamental fish. Great crested newts have been largely effected by these changes due to their specialist habitat requirements.
The cement-lined ponds at Cambridge city crematorium have been monitored for amphibians since 2013. It was then that CPARG investigated a possible GCN sighting and were pleased to confirm a breeding population of the species, as well as a healthy population of smooth newts.
As appropriate management of remaining GCN populations is important, in early January CPARG volunteers gathered at this GCN site to give the ponds some TLC. An ideal pond for GCN has both extensive submerged and floating aquatic vegetation as well as more open areas for males to woo the ladies with their mating displays. To improve these ponds we therefore dragged out dead vegetation that had been clogging them up, reducing the quality of the habitat and making population monitoring difficult.
We carefully checked and recorded all the material being removed from the pond for life; we found an array of invertebrates including water boatmen and dragonfly larvae, as well as two GCN, three smooth newts and one common frog.
Now the dead vegetation has been removed and the live vegetation trimmed a little, the plants needed for newt egg laying will be able to better flourish and hopefully we’ll see the benefits of our labour later this year during the survey season!
Do you know of any great crested newt populations? Let us know! For more information about how to effectively manage your garden pond for amphibians, check out the Froglife website here.
Do you have a garden pond? Do you ever see frogs in your garden?
Lots of people would answer yes to at least one of these questions but unfortunately conservation organisations know very little about where frogs are found or how well they’re doing. But as urban dwellers as well as rural, frogs offer a great opportunity for the public to get face-to-face with wildlife and to contribute to its wellbeing. For two years the Freshwater Habitats Trust (formerly Pond Conservation) has been running a simple project to make this link.
Members of the public who are lucky enough to spot frog spawn in their ponds are asked to fill in a simple online record form which then gets logged with others across the country to help answer these questions! This survey will also pick up on any toadspawn present…but it doesn’t look out for newts so we should still promote either Record Pool or CPERC to capture these records:
The data from this survey will then be shared with county-based organisations to help fill in some of the gaps on their local frog maps.
This year Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (CPARG) will be promoting this project within our Cambridgeshire patch, contributing both to answering the big questions nationally (e.g. what sort of ponds do frogs like) and providing our partners at CPERC with up-to-date records of breeding frogs.
We’re looking for a team of confident volunteers to send out press releases to local media (online, papers, radio and TV) and to be available for interview to promote this project, CPARG’s other survey opportunities, and amphibian and reptile conservation generally.
If you might be interested in pitching this conservation message to local media please email us on email@example.com and CC in firstname.lastname@example.org or call Paul for an informal chat on 07508020437.
This project would suit confident, friendly-sounding people either with or who would like to get some media experience.
Frogs could start breeding as early as February – or even sooner if we have a mild winter/early spring – so we’d like to have people signed up and ready to be interviewed by the end of January if possible. Good luck spreading the frog-count word!
This course is suitable for beginners but would equally represent a good refresher for experienced surveyors. It will focus on Great Crested Newts (GCN) but will also cover smooth and palmate newts. The theory session will cover ecology, management, survey techniques and identification in detail, with legislation and H&S in brief. There will be a couple of workshop activities for people to take part in and opportunities throughout for Q&A. In the practical session we’ll go to the Hampton Nature Reserve and try egg searches, netting and torching, with a demonstration of bottle trapping. Successful completion of the course can lead to a reference for a GCN license – a second reference can be obtained through satisfactory surveys helping Froglife, CPARG or other newt surveyors.
Date: Saturday 24th March
Time: 12-4PM indoor theory, 2hr break, 6-9PM outdoor practical
Location: indoor theory @Froglife Offices, 2A Flag Business Estate, Vicarage Farm Rd, Peterborough, PE1 5TX, outdoor practical @Hampton Nature Reserve, Nature’s Way, Peterborough, PE7 8FW
Cost: Free to HNR volunteers, £15 to CPARG members
What to bring: pen, paper, head torch/hand torch, camera (optional), wellies/decent walking boots, weather appropriate clothing, drinking water. We will provide survey equipment. If you have your own survey equipment please do bring it but either disinfect it first or let us know that you’re bringing it and that it will need to be disinfected. Food is not provided so please plan accordingly.
Facilities: The indoor session has toilets and tea/coffee facilities, however the reserve has no facilities and access is across rough/steep and potentially slippy ground, so a degree of physical confidence is required.
Further surveys: Froglife are looking for volunteer assistant surveyors to act as spotters and scribes to help with the Big Newt Count of all 375 ponds on Hampton Nature Reserve. We will be surveying most nights when weather is appropriate (5*C+, low wind, low/no rain). If you’d like to get involved with these please contact Paul Furnborough, HNR Warden.
Booking and questions: Please confirm your attendance with Paul Furnborough preferably by email to email@example.com or 07508020437.
Please note that this training is only open to Froglife volunteers and CPARG members.
Great Crested Newt survey at King's Dyke, Whittlesey. TONIGHT, 7.30. Meet at the car park. Please check the facebook group for more details (event has been confirmed RE: weather): https://www.facebook.com/groups/108529035855459/ .
If you have a newt survey torch (i.e. high powered, ideally 0.3-1M cadlepower) please bring it. Sensible clothing and footwear also recommended, plus a head/hand torch if you have one. No license required as you will be covered by the group leader's.
Hosted by the Wildlife Trust. Please contact Juliette Butler, Wildlife Training Workshops Officer, directly with enquiries or to book on firstname.lastname@example.org or call Tue, Wed, Fri 9AM-2.30PM.
This workshop will introduce participants to the identification of reptiles in teh 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.
Date: Sunday 15th April
Location: King's Cliffe
Trainer: Brian Laney
Cost: varies according to status
An informal event about snakes and lizards at Woodston Ponds Nature Reserve. Just a few years ago, the area was part of the British Sugar factory. Now, thanks to positive management by the Wildlife Trust, this site supports good numbers of grass snakes and common lizards. We'll walk the site and discuss how habitat management benefits these reptiles, and hopefully we'll see the animals themselves if weather allows. The reserve also supports good amphibian populations, including great crested newts, and we may see those too.
This free event is led by Jim Foster, a local reptile specialist who runs Cristatus Ecology. The event aims to help volunteers from the newly established CPARG (Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group) and the Wildlife Trust.
No need to book; just turn up.
Meet at the main entrance to the reserve at 10.00am, which is on the path running along the River Nene. Map and more details here: http://www.wildlifebcn.org/reserves/woodston-ponds
The annual night time newt count of this important breeding site for both protected great crested newt and for smooth newt. Jim Foster, local amphibian specialist, will be showing how to survey for newts and talking about how the management of the reserve has benefited these and other species.
Meet on Buntings Lane for a 9pm start til 11pm. Please wear warm clothes, wellington boots, and bring a torch if you have one. Map and more details here:
Course level: introductory
Dates: Wednesday 2nd - Thursday 3rd May 2012
Venue: Indoor session to be held at meeting rooms in Bretton, Peterborough, with field visit to nearby nature reserve.
Times: Arrive 12.00 on Wednesday Depart: 16.00 on Thursday
• Species identification
• An introduction to legislation and great crested newt ecology
• Setting objectives for great crested newt survey to inform development proposals
• Choosing boundaries for your survey area
• Planning the timing and effort required for newt and habitat surveys
• Survey methods, including bottle-trapping, torch survey, netting and egg search
• Habitat Suitability Index for great crested newts
• Interpreting survey results
• Compliance with Natural England licensing guidance.
What to bring Essential: Wellies, waterproofs, clip-board, paper, pen, torch (please bring a high-powered torch if you have one). Optional: dip-net (must be disinfected before the start of the course).
Target audience The course has been designed for ecologists, rangers or land managers who are looking to undertake great crested newt surveys on a professional basis. On completion of the course, participants will receive a certificate of attendance that can be used to support an application to Natural England to survey for great crested newts.
Please note Tea and coffee will be provided during the day but please bring your own lunch. There will be an opportunity for an evening meal at a reasonably priced local pub, the cost of which is not included in the course fee.
This course will be jointly led by John Baker. John is an experienced amphibian and reptile consultant ecologist. He has also worked in the research and the NGO sectors carrying out surveys and developing guidance material. He has co-edited the handbooks for amphibian and reptile habitat management produced by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. He has also delivered amphibian and reptile training for volunteers and professionals over many years.
Course participants will be asked to car share for field visits. If you will need a lift please let us know at the time of booking.
A walk with a specific focus on hunting for snakes and lizards on Hampton Nature Reserve. Families welcome. Booking essential. Please contact Rebecca Neal in the Froglife education team on 01733 425826 or email@example.com. This is a Froglife/CPARG joint event open to all members of the public.
Course level: introductory
Date: Tuesday 10th July
Venue: Indoor session to be held at meeting rooms in Bretton, Peterborough
Time: Arrive 10.00 - Depart 17.00
• Conservation status and threats.
• Conservation measures including site protection and agri-environment schemes.
• Introduction to surveys.
• Amphibians and reptiles in casework: special considerations.
• How can amphibians and reptiles benefit from the new England Biodiversity Strategy?
• How to incorporate amphibian and reptile requirements into site management, both at site and landscape
What to bring: Paper and pen.
Target audience: This course has been designed for professionals whose role demands a basic understanding of amphibian and reptile ecology. This course will be particularly useful for staff from the statutory agencies, Wildlife Trusts, local authorities, and any other organisation managing important wildlife sites.
Please note: This course will not include a site visit.
Tea and coffee will be provided during the day but please bring your own lunch.
We are planning on holding a Wicken Fen Bioblitz this year, on the 21st-22nd of July. A Bioblitz is when, over a 24hr time period, you record as many species as possible at a site. See -http://www.opalexplorenature.org/BioBlitzes - for more info. We would like to use it as an opportunity to get as many different people involved in recording species at Wicken Fen, it will be a really fun way to get the public engaged with science and nature at Wicken Fen. It will run from 11.00am on Saturday-11.00am on Sunday.
We plan to have a series of guided walks/activities throughout the day covering various groups (Dragonflies, Birds, Butterflies, Inverts etc) and we are looking for volunteers to help lead these but also to do surveys during the 24hr period to maximise the number of species found. The public can take part in the guided events or just go out and see what they can spot walking our trails. There will be a recording centre where people can bring photos for expert ID and also where the running total of species found will be compiled.
I found your contact details on the ARG website and I was wondering if the group would be able to help us with some reptile and amphibian surveys?
Anyone interested please email firstname.lastname@example.org and CC in email@example.com
WEDNESDAY 14TH NOVEMBER 7.30 – 9.30, @ BCNP Wildlife Trust, Cambourne:
The Manor House
Cambridge CB23 6DH
7.30 - arrivals, introductions, networking
7.45 - three short presentations (with space for 5mins Q&A on each):
If anyone else would like to make a presentation please let me know and I'll add it to the agenda.
These introductory talks will lead into the evening meeting and activities as follow:
8.30. Activities to map attendees interests (amphibians/reptiles), experience, locations and preferred activities (e.g. talks, surveys, training, habitat management etc).
8.40. Discussion on existing, potential and new opportunities (e.g. NARRS, HNR surveys or work on sites new to sites to CPARG respectively).
9.00. Organisational structure - committee roles, joining the committee, communication: mailling lists/facebook, working and speaking as CPARG, membership costs.
9.20. Pub Quiz
9.30. Home Time!
This will be the first of our winter programme of activities ahead of a busy spring and summer of survey fever. It will invariably lead to another meeting (or committee meeting) to work forward the ideas developed on the night - full details will be annonuced ASAP.
It's a tight schedule for 2hrs so I may have to cut discussions short. All ideas raised will be recorded and discussions can be continued either online or in person at the follow-up meeting.
Please let me know if you'd like to attend, agenda items which aren't yet included, or if you'd like to give a presentation.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking forward to meeting everyone,
Paul and the CPARG 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.