Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN)
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About us

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. 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: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk 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.

 

News

News

DARN Dispatches 10

Posted on Thursday 6th January, 2022

DARN Dispatches 10

Happy New Year!

IMG 1869a

One of the three Wall Lizards Cathy and I found on 5th January at Boscombe. Having just read a paper on ‘Predator-elicited foot shakes in Wall Lizards’ I was delighted to see one of the Wall Lizards demonstrating this. I will be looking for other Wall Lizards along the cliffs and for Wall Lizards on Portland.

So this year DARN will be continuing with the SliC Project – Slow-worms in Churchyards. Cathy will also be co-ordinating the NISER Project - Non-native Invasive Species Escapees and Releases. Starting off with Wall Lizards and then anything else that is encountered along the way. Therefore we are interested in sightings of any non-native species as well as native ones. This will help us to better understand the herps of Dorset.

A very successful habitat management task was carried out just before Christmas at Hurn Forest. A massive thank you to all the DARN and HIWARG volunteers who came to help.

With the mild weather amphibians started to return to their breeding ponds in December including 5 Palmate Newts and a frog in my ponds. Spawn counts will be the first major survey of the year. Any spawn found can be recorded as usual on Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk. Historic records are fine as well. So if you normally have frogspawn in your pond and there is not any this year, last year’s sighting can still be added. If you are not sure just email or message me.

David, our foreign correspondent in Greece, continues to send us wonderful photos of reptile sightings from his back garden and beyond including fabulous blue skies and deserted beaches. Thanks David. Keep them coming!

We are going to hold another zoom Committee Meeting next month to discuss plans for the new survey season. Warren is still busy organising and setting up more transects across Dorset. We are hoping to attend a couple of public engagement events this year – have gazebo will travel.

As I’ve said in previous Dispatches, if you are interested in becoming a DARN reptile surveyor, email me and we will arrange for ARGWEB and field survey training if it is needed and then you will be given access to our widespread transect sites.

I look forward to hearing from you

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 9

Posted on Thursday 6th January, 2022

DARN Dispatches 9 October 2021

A big THANK YOU to Tina, Warren, Cathy, Paul, Pete G, Pete W and friends at HIWARG for your continued support with surveys, habitat management and advice.

I know I say this every time but DARN does continue to expand its activities with more surveyors, more transects, more sightings. So, thank you to everyone for continuing to make DARN so successful!

Habitat management season has just started and we have completed two tasks in Ringwood Forest with more planned here and in Hurn Forest and on other sites.

Pond surveys will be a new feature for next year and we will also be looking for non-native herp species in the county.

The SliC surveys – Slow-worms in Churchyards – are also continuing to expand in Dorset and there are also now 6 sites in the New Forest. Thank you to the New Forest Park Authority for their generous grant to fund these.

David, our foreign correspondent in Greece, continues to send us wonderful photos of sightings from his back garden and beyond. Thanks David. Keep them coming!

We held a face-to-face Committee Meeting last month and we will be having a zoom Committee Meeting next month. Thanks to Pete Gillatt for organising the zoom session.

Warren and Tina have been busy setting up more transects across Dorset with rare reptiles being found on many of them. Cathy and I have also set up transects on a wildlife friendly farm, a SANG, a Common, and we are planning visual surveys along disused railway tracks.

With Halloween approaching I was interested to read that ‘Eye of newt’ referred not to an amphibian but to a plant! Mustard seed. Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” describes a concoction that consists of:

“Eye of newt (mustard seed) and toe of frog (buttercup leaves),

Wool of bat (moss) and tongue of dog (hounds tooth),

Adder’s fork (violet), and blind-worm’s sting (knotweed),

Lizard’s leg (ivy), and howlet’s wing (garlic)

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

    

As usual, if you have any herp records (not plants), historic ones are fine as well especially as I have just found out how to add them to ARGWEB when there isn’t a grid reference, send them to me or add them to Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk

Also, if you are interested in becoming a DARN reptile surveyor, email me and we will arrange for ARGWEB and field survey training if it is needed and then you will be given access to our widespread transect sites.

I look forward to hearing from you

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 8

Posted on Saturday 17th July, 2021

I am sure that many of you would have known David Tamarind as he had been herping in Dorset for many decades. He sadly passed away recently. He was collecting data on rare reptiles right up to the end even though mobility problems were slowing him down. He will be sadly missed.

DARN continues to expand its activities with more surveyors, more transects, more sightings. So, thank you to everyone for continuing to make DARN so successful!

The SliC surveys – Slow-worms in Churchyards – are also continuing to expand and we soon hope to have sites across Dorset. Slow-worms have been found in all the Dorset burial ground sites that we are surveying and Warren Port and Tina-Louise Gower have also found a Grass Snake and a Great Crested Newt at one churchyard which was particularly exciting. If you know of other churchyards that might like to participate then please let me know.

David, our foreign correspondent in Greece, continues to send us wonderful photos of sightings from his back garden and beyond. Thanks David. Keep them coming!

A zoom Committee meeting was held recently and plans for the future discussed.

Warren has reminded us that it was International Snake Day yesterday and he shared some photos of Dorset snakes to celebrate.

   adder1  grass snake1smooth snake1

Thanks Warren!

As usual, if you have any records, historic ones are fine as well, add them to Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk

Also, if you are interested in becoming a DARN reptile surveyor, email me and we will arrange for ARGWEB and field survey training if it is needed and then you will be given access to our widespread transect sites and you can help us to record reptiles in Dorset.

I look forward to hearing from you

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 7

Posted on Monday 10th May, 2021

DARN Dispatches 7

Well, we’re in the middle of spring but it has been pretty nippy recently.

DARN continues to expand in all directions with more surveyors, more transects, more sightings. So, thank you to everyone who is helping to make DARN so successful!

HIWARG has been a good friendly neighbour and helped us with some ARGWEB and field survey training.

We have new transects in North Dorset with more to follow and one on an MOD site which is particularly exciting.

The SliC surveys – Slow-worms in Churchyards – are also continuing to expand with sites in Dorset, Hants, Berks and soon in Wilts as well. So far Slow-worms have been found in more than 25% of the sites and in Dorset in more than 70% of the churchyards. If you know of other churchyards that might like to participate then please let me know.

David, our foreign correspondent in Greece, continues to send us wonderful photos of sightings from his back garden and beyond. Thanks David. Keep them coming!

A BBQ is being planned for DARN surveyors for the end of the season. More details next time.

As you probably know we have registered Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN) with #easyfundraising, which means over 4,000 shops and sites will now donate to us for FREE every time we use #easyfundraising to shop with them.

These donations will help SO MUCH, so please sign up to support us – it is completely FREE and does not take long.

EASYFUNDRAISING.ORG.UK

You shop. Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN) gets money. For free.

Help us when you shop with 4,300 shops & sites. Join now.

So far more than £30 has been raised through EasyFundRaising which is brilliant! Thanks everyone – that will fund another reptile transect.

As usual, if you have any records, historic ones are fine as well, add them to Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk

I look forward to hearing from you

And I eagerly anticipate even more great things for DARN in 2021

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 6

Posted on Thursday 4th March, 2021

DARN Dispatches 6

Well, spring is nearly here and there have been some fantastic Adder and Common Lizard sightings already.

Don’t forget to add your sightings to ARGWEB or Record Pool.

www.recordpool.org.uk

Frog spawn can be added as well. There were 70+ clumps at Ringwood Forest which was more than twice as much as last year. Five clumps in my little garden ponds and Palmate Newts.

Toad patrols were difficult to carry out this year unless there was one locally.

Unfortunately, we only managed one habitat management session but we still made an impact and thanks to Pete Gillatt (HIWARG) there is now a reptile transect set up in Hurn Forest as well.

The SliC Project – Slow-worms In Churchyards - now has 23 transects set up and 12 waiting to be set up so let’s hope for a bumper crop of Slow-worms.

The Zoom Herp Workers Meeting was a great success and there was even a talk on Slow-worms by Allyson Hawkins (HIWARG). The ARG UK AGM was the following week and the local ARGS had the opportunity to report on their Group’s activities. So yes, I gave an update on the SliC project and some craft activities I have been developing for a ‘Slow-worms are Sensational’ pack. I had permission to develop this from the ‘Adders are Amazing’ pack.

The other exciting new is that I have just been appointed as an Administrator for ARG UK on a part-time temporary contract to help with projects etc.

We’ve registered Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN) with #easyfundraising, which means over 4,000 shops and sites will now donate to us for FREE every time we use #easyfundraising to shop with them.

These donations will help SO MUCH, so please sign up to support us – it’s completely FREE and doesn’t take long.

EASYFUNDRAISING.ORG.UK

You shop. Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN) gets money. For free.

Help us when you shop with 4,300 shops & sites. Join now.

Hopefully in a few weeks, as the lockdown gradually eases, we will be able to move around the county a bit more, set up some more transects and get surveying.

As usual, if you have any records, historic ones are fine as well, add them to Casual Sightings on the DARN website: www.groups.arguk.org/darn  or on Record Pool: www.recordpool.org.uk or email the details to: sheiladyason2007@yahoo.co.uk

I look forward to hearing from you

And I eagerly anticipate great things for DARN in 2021

Keep safe!

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


Events

Events

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 devonrag@hotmail.com.


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: http://www.arguk.org/download-document/171-herpetofauna-workers-meeting-2013-booking-form-programme


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 - www.leesonhouse.com

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 chris@cgoecology.com 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 - www.leesonhouse.com - 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.


Join up or Log in

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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 

pdfIts_a_small_newt_but_which_one_1.pdf

Dogs & Adders - downloadable advice sheet.   

 

Improving Herp habitat

Creating Garden Ponds - downloadable booklet   

pdfAllotments-Intro-Guide.pdf

Herp diseases - recognise & report

Snake Fungal Disease  

Toad fly (Lucilia bufonivora)   

Amphibian Chytridiomycosis  

Ranavirus Disease  

Reptile Slough Genebank - collection & submission of found sloughs  

Other  

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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