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 email and 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.

To get on the DARN mailing list, simply email with 'DARN' in the subject header. You will receive regular emails telling you of news, items of interest, and projects to get involved in; and there will be at least one annual meeting. 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 Commission, 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!



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

DARN circular, 15/4/2013

Posted on Sunday 28th April, 2013

A few further herpy things to mention:

1)      ToadSize - Following my earlier email, I received the email below (with attached ToadSize recording sheet) from Angie Julian at ‘ARG-UK HQ’. Seems like toad migrations are happening in earnest all over the country this week, and there’s a big publicity push on to get people measuring their local toads for this ToadSize project.

2)      GCN training -  Several people have asked me if they could either shadow me on great crested newt surveys, or attend survey training locally. Well I’ve buckled under the pressure, and have decided to organise a one-off GCN/amphibian survey training evening next Tuesday 23 April, venue tbc. I expect it will start early evening, perhaps with a daylight egg search and netting visit around 7-8pm, and continue later with a torchlight survey about 10-11pm. Ideally the two sessions would be punctuated with a sojourn in a local establishment for pub grub and a pint, while waiting for it to get dark. I would demonstrate bottle-trapping, but won’t be setting any (unless a licensed DARNer fancied emptying them in the morning?). I will email this list again, hopefully tomorrow evening, once I have firmed up on a pond venue for the event. It is likely to be in the Purbeck or Winterbournes area. Please let me know if you plan to attend (and/or want to help). I think this might be a good opportunity for any NARRS volunteers wishing to receive training.

3)      NARRS – Now is the time to sign up for your random (within 5km of your home) 1km survey square. Contact or If you would like to take part, but feel you lack the skills, drop me a line. It only takes a few hours of your time to do a NARRS survey, and often you are filling in a gap on the known distribution map.

Cheers for now,

Chris Gleed-Owen

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Past Events

Show Upcoming Events

Turbary Common sand patch digging

Sat 14th May, 2011

Turbary Common's sand lizard population has been declining steadily for years, due to the lack of bare sand available for egg-laying. Over time, vegetation grows over bare ground patches, and wind winnows away sand to leave a gravel lag that is too hard for sand lizards to dig through. We aim to dig lots of small bare ground patches about 1x1m, within the heather, using garden tools (fork, spade, mattock etc), to aid breeding success. Female sand lizards lay their eggs in burrows about 10-15cm (4-6 inches) deep, around the end of May/early June, in bare patches of sand in sunny positions.

This DARN event is open to all. Meet 9.00am, main entrance gate on Turbary Park Avenue. We should finish around 1.00pm. Some of us may break for refreshment locally, and then carry on a while if we are still able. Please wear stout footwear, old clothes, bring spade etc if possible, and be prepared for some physical activity. We look forward to seeing you on the 14th. This task should bring quick results, we hope, with immediate benefits to the sand lizard population.

ARG UK SW England regional meeting in Exeter

Sat 10th December, 2011

After last year's excellent conference in Somerset, the SW England regional ARG UK meeting this year is being hosted by Devon Reptile and Amphibian Group. The programme and booking form are now available. The price for registration including lunch is £20 for ARG members/unwaged, or £35 for all others. Details from

Herpetofuana Workers Meeting 2013

Sat 26th January, 2013

The annual Herp Workers Meeting - the highlight of the herpetologist's social calendar - (25),26,27 January 2013.

The HWM has been established for over 25 years, and this unique and popular event occupies the centre stage of the herpetological calendar, attracting a broad range of participants from across the UK including volunteers, professional ecologists, statutory nature conservationists, students & academics.

The programme is almost ready for next year's meeting which will be at the Edinburgh Conference Centre at Heriot-Watt University on the Saturday 26 & Sunday 27 January 2013 (with social activity starting on Friday 25 Jan). Various topics will be discussed through presentations and workshops. Here is a sneak preview:

  • Life on the edge? - Current status of UK adders
  • Turbulent times for tartan natterjacks?
  • Survey and mitigation practices for GCNs
  • The impact of chytrid - in the UK and overseas
  • Reconnecting dragons in Wales
  • The Glasgow living waters project
Saturday evening will see a special Burns Night Gala Dinner, with a raffle to support the ARG UK 100% Grant Fund, and the return of the herpetological quiz "Have I got Newts for You!", hosted by Jim Foster.

Flyer and booking form here:

GCN training, Leeson House, Purbeck

Sat 27th April, 2013

There will be a DARN great crested newt training evening on Saturday 27th April 2013, 7.00-10.30pm.

Location: Leeson House (National Trust), Langton Matravers, Swanage, Dorset BH19 3EU -

Order of the evening:

1900-1930 – Powerpoint presentation on GCN biology, ecology & survey techniques

1930-2000 – Egg-searching (& netting if no risk of turbidity), Leeson House pond

2000-2130 – Break to wait for dark (pub meal for those interested)

2130-2230 - Torchlight survey, Leeson House pond (moving on to Green Pool BHS/ARC reserve if necessary and/or sufficient interest).

If you have a good pond net and/or a powerful torch, bring them along. Any assistance from experienced newters welcome too. Bring suitable clothing for the weather, and ideally wellies on your feet. I’ll need you to sign a DARN membership form for insurance purposes.

Contact Chris Gleed-Owen if you plan to attend. Ideally numbers won’t exceed a dozen or so.

GCN training

Sat 27th April, 2013

Great crested newt training evening at Leeson House (Dorset County Council residential field centre), Langton Matravers, Swanage, Dorset BH19 3EU - - Saturday 27th April 2013, 7pm until 10.30pm approximately.

Order of the evening:

1900-1930 – Powerpoint presentation on GCN biology, ecology & survey techniques, Leeson House

1930-2000 – Egg-searching (& netting if no risk of turbidity), Leeson House pond

2000-2115 – Break to wait for dark (pub meal in The Ship Inn for those interested)

2115-2230 - Torchlight survey, Leeson House pond, and moving on to Green Pool, Norden (BHS/ARC reserve) if necessary and/or sufficient interest.

If you have a good pond net and/or a powerful torch, bring them along. Any assistance from experienced newters welcome too. Bring suitable clothing for the weather, and ideally wellies on your feet. I’ll need you to sign a DARN membership form for insurance purposes.

Informal DARN meeting to discuss plans for the year

Tue 11th February, 2020

7:30 pm at the Bakers Arms, Poole. An informal chat to introduce Sheila to DARN members and to discuss plans and actions for the coming year.

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Join DARN for just £6 per year.
Benefit's include a range of member activities, training, survey activities & group insurance while on DARN events. 


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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                                                             
Pond Pack                                                  

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