Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN)
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About Us

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. Operating mainly via FaceBook, DARN serves as a means of communication between volunteers, professionals and the general public.

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: 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.

We encourage people to take part in reptile and amphibian survey projects like 'NARRS' and 'Make the Adder Count' coordinated by ARC, as well as rare reptile monitoring on sites that are short of voluntary surveyors. We help train people where necessary. There are also numerous opportunities for taking part in conservation tasks across the county (usually winter habitat management), on nature reserves managed by ARC, local authorities, Natural England, the Forestry England, RSPB, National Trust and other landowners. DARN aims to provide a link between these bodies and all the keen volunteers that are out there. If you want to offer your services, or you need volunteers for your herp-related projects, then get in touch!



SliC - Slow-worms In Churchyards

Posted on Thursday 23rd July, 2020

SliC - Slow-worms In Churchyards


One of my first jobs as Chair of DARN is to try to set up reptile transects across Dorset that are accessible to everyone who is interested and hence fulfil DARN’s motto of ‘Conservation Opportunities For Everyone’.

All communities have a church and churchyard nearby and many churches now have wildlife areas. Some churches are already involved in monitoring their wildlife and others would like to but need help to get started. So this project brings together survey opportunities, record collecting and knowledge about reptiles, in this case particularly Slow-worms, across Dorset.

Any church can participate in the project. As Chair of DARN I am concentrating on Dorset initially but I know that other counties are keen to be involved as well.

DARN is keen to work with other Groups to broaden our understanding of the distribution of reptiles across Dorset.

If you know of a church community that might like to be involved in the project then leave a message on the DARN Facebook Group, on Messenger or email:

The survey involves putting 5 – 10 corrugated bitumen roofing tiles, in the sun, but out of the way, at an edge of longer grass or shrub habitat. These are then checked by either church volunteers or DARN volunteers, once a month and the records added to the DARN website via the ARGWEB. Each church or cluster of churches will have its own Land Manager portal so that they can see a map of where the reptiles are and this can then inform future habitat management. Full training will be given so there is no need to worry about lack of expertise either in reptile ID or the online recording system.

DARN looks forward to working with church communities across Dorset.

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation Opportunities For Everyone


DARN Dispatches 2

Posted on Tuesday 30th June, 2020

Hello again!

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well.

Naturally, not a lot of DARN surveys have been carried out over the past few months but we have just started again in Ringwood Forest. Nevertheless, throughout the lockdown, some records were still coming into the DARN database – which is fantastic! So, thank you, everyone!

If you have any records, historic ones are fine as well, add them to Casual Sightings on the DARN website:  or on Record Pool: or email the details to:

The recent fires in Dorset and Hampshire, some deliberate and others through thoughtlessness, are sad and frustrating. Some people just don’t care about our precious wildlife. How species manage to survive is a miracle. On the other hand, because reptiles are difficult to find, some people do not realise they are in the area.

Amphibian survey training is just beginning in Hampshire. If you are interested in amphibian or reptile survey training then make sure that your DARN membership is up to date and for insurance purposes, that you have completed the Volunteer Worker’s Agreement (VWA) and we will add you to the list.

Just before lockdown I was about to set up transects at Motcombe and I was investigating sites in the Purbeck area. If you have any other suggestions for sites, maybe just 3 or 4 tins near where you live, just let me know and we can set it up.

Pete Gillatt took these fabulous photos earlier in the month in Dorset – thanks Pete! Pete has a rare reptile licence and was surveying under that licence.

Scan 20200630

Any ideas or questions just email

I look forward to hearing from you

Best wishes

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 1

Posted on Saturday 7th March, 2020

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

to develop.

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

recording page.

Any ideas or questions just email 

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing some of you at the reptile survey training.

Best wishes


Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!

New Year - New Chair

Posted on Wednesday 29th January, 2020

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.

West Midlands ARG-UK meeting announced

Posted on Monday 7th October, 2013
From Angela Julian (ARG-UK), 7.10.2013: Dear all   Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team (HART) have kindly offered to organize this year’s ARGUK West Midlands Regional meeting which is to be held at Bromsberrow Village Hall (between Ledbury and Gloucester), on Sunday 17th November. I have attached a flier for this, and would be grateful if you could circulate this as widely as possible amongst your ARG members, and to anyone else that you think might be interested.   The theme of the meeting is ‘Captive breeding & re-introduction of UK reptiles & amphibians’ and, following on from the very successful adder meeting hosted by KRAG two years ago, there will be a strong adder focus. There will be a series of presentations in the morning including an up-date on introductions from Jim Foster, who is Conservation Director at ARC, and more specific case studies on adder, pool frog and sand lizard introductions, as well as the latest findings from some of the adder research programmes, including an up-date on the genetic work conducted by IoZ. This will be followed by an open discussion which aims to explore the many factors surrounding the issue of native herp re-introductions, and finally a short West Midlands ARG round up.   Everyone is welcome (not just West Midlands ARGs), so if you would like to go, please return the attached form to HART’s Chair, Richard King ( or tel: 01684 541215) to book your place. HART have managed to keep the conference fee down to £12 for the day including lunch.   We would also ask the West Midlands ARGs (Herefordshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Birmingham) to prepare a short (5 minute) summary of their activities for the final section.   We look forward to seeing many of you there.   With best regards   Angie Julian Secretary ARGUK



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Info & ID guides

Info & ID guides

Herp Identification - downloadable colour charts

Amphibian Identification - downloadable colour cards 

Reptile Identification - downloadable colour cards

Newt Eggs & Larvae - downloadable colour cards 

Dogs & Adders - downloadable advice sheet.   

Improving Herp habitat

Creating Garden Ponds - downloadable booklet   

Herp diseases - recognise & report

Snake Fungal Disease  

Toad fly (Lucilia bufonivora)   

Amphibian Chytridiomycosis  

Ranavirus Disease  

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

Pond pack                                                             
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