DARN is a network of people in Dorset interested in our native reptiles and amphibians. Its purpose is to promote the conservation, recording and appreciation of native amphibians and reptiles in the county of Dorset. DARN serves as a means of communication between volunteers, professionals and the general public. DARN members pay an annual fee of £6 and then when suitably trained they can take part in our widespread reptile surveys. These can be viewed once reptile surveyor status has been achieved. DARN is also running the SliC project - Slow-worms in Churchyards. We have rare reptile survey sites on FE and MOD land and we are continually adding new transects as we expand our activities across the county.
Dorset has 12 of the UK's 13 native amphibian and reptile species, and a handful of non-native species. Its internationally-important heathlands are famous as national strongholds for the rare reptiles - Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake - and southwest England's only populations of our second-rarest amphibian, the Natterjack Toad. With such an important wildlife heritage in Dorset, several wildlife NGOs have their headquarters in the county, including the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC). Together with the various statutory bodies and local authorities, this means Dorset has many wildlife professionals. DARN aims to form a link between all these people, and to nurture an appreciation among the general public for our herpetofaunal friends.
Sheila Dyason is Chair of DARN and you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org with 'DARN' in the subject header. DARN Dispatches is a newsletter that is produced every two months, telling you of news, items of interest, and projects to get involved in; and there will be at least one annual meeting or event. Dorset is home to some of the most important reptile and amphibian populations in the country, with a high concentration of protected sites, and a buzz of conservation activities and research projects. There are endless opportunities for helping out by volunteering, and there are already many volunteers in the county who give their time towards projects helping to conserve our herpetofauna, and raise awareness.
The History of the DARN Group
DARN was set up as a surveying and recording group on 30/01/2020. Previously it had been an email and facebook group.
The founding members were Sheila Dyason as Chair, Catherine Dyason as Secretary, Pete Gillatt as Treasurer.
The Group started with rare reptile sites which Sheila had arranged with Forestry England to survey as part of HIWARG – the Hampshire Group. Some of them had been set up and monitored by David Tamarind who sadly died recently. There were not any widespread species surveys for members to get involved with so Sheila set up the SliC Project – Slow-worms in Churchyards - as a way to get members involved in surveying.
As of July 2021 DARN has 8 widespread reptile transects set up in north Dorset and three more rare reptile transects including one on MOD land. DARN is working with land owners and managers such as Forestry England, Butterfly Conservation, the Dorset Wildlife Trust, the MOD, church communities and private land owners.
I hope you have all had a good hibernation and are fully refreshed and ready for an exciting new survey season!
DARN now has a bank account and Paypal operational so if you would like to pay the annual £6 subscription or donate to DARN then this is now possible on
the Home page.
On Sunday 26th April there will be an opportunity to undertake reptile survey training at a joint event with HIWARG (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Amphibian
and Reptile Group) and another partner, in the New Forest. If you are interested in this then email
and further details will be sent out as preparations are finalised. You will need to be a DARN member and have completed the VWA (volunteer worker's
agreement) which you are prompted to do once you join. This is so that you are covered by ARGUK's insurance.
DARN has 9 reptile transects in Ringwood Forest. More survey sites are needed so if you know of an area that needs surveying or a landowner who might
be interested in knowing what reptiles are on their land, then email
with the details. Similarly, email if you know of any churchyards or cemeteries with wildlife areas that may have Slow-worms. This is another area I would like
Any spawn or animal sightings can be added on the Home page, Record a sighting, or if you are already an amphibian or reptile surveyor on the on-line
Any ideas or questions just email
I look forward to hearing from you and seeing some of you at the reptile survey training.
Chair of DARN
Conservation opportunities for everyone!
Sheila Dyason, Secretary of HIWARG (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Amphibian and Reptile Group) is the new Chair of DARN. Chris has done a fantastic job over many years but he does not currently have the time to take the Group forward but we thank him for all his hard work and luckily he is going to continue as a DARN member.
Sheila lives in Dorset near the Hampshire border and hence her interest in both Groups. She has previously surveyed for reptiles for the Cyril Diver Project and for ARC's New Forest Smooth Snake Project which has now morphed into the Snakes in the Heather Project. She has a GCN licence and a Rare Reptiles licence. This year she will be doing some work with Natterjack Toads at Hengistbury Head. She looks forward to meeting and working with land managers, volunteers, ecologists and other conservationists across Dorset.
Herp Identification - downloadable colour charts
Amphibian Identification - downloadable colour cards
Improving Herp habitat
Creating Garden Ponds - downloadable booklet
Herp diseases - recognise & report
Snake Fungal Disease
Toad fly (Lucilia bufonivora)
Reptile Slough Genebank - collection & submission of found sloughs
Useful glossary of terms often used within the herpetological field. (Credit due - unknown)
Kids stuff - Educational items for the young ones
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