“The smooth snake can only naturally be found on some the lowland heaths of southern England. Due to vast historic loss of populations and range it was included within the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) to restore its status. This work has focused on site safeguard, habitat management to improve populations, monitoring and translocations. The translocation plan has focused on re-introducing the species to restore lost historic range, notably at county level.
The RSPB have been monitoring their heathland nature reserves in Devon since 1993, to make certain the species was absent prior to any translocation. In 2009-2010 RSPB, the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, Natural England and ARC undertook a translocation of smooth snakes to one of the RSPB reserves. This site was prioritised as the most favourable for the species translocation and well managed by RSPB. These 16 animals were from 11 Dorset nature reserves, this limited disturbance to native breeding populations and maximise a good genetic stock for the new population. During the last two years RSPB have been monitoring the translocated population. So far we know the species can survive hibernation on site, even with consecutive hard winters. The next targets are to get proof of breeding and range expansion, which is easier said than done as they are so secretive and hard to monitor!
Currently, increased reptile monitoring on the remaining sites of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, by all the partners, will allow us to do both presence/absence surveys for smooth snake and all other reptile species. If during the time, we can prove the smooth snake is absent a further translocation could be considered to ensure we have brought the species back to Devon.”
ARC and RSPB are setting up a monitoring project on the east Devon heaths to record not only the widespread species but also Cecil, the elusive smooth snake, and his friends! Anyone interested in getting involved please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to help conserve one of the UK's rarest amphibians the Devon Reptile and Amphibian Group, with funding from the Devon Biodiversity Partnership and help from the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre, has recently set up a great crested newt, which is currently only known to exist in a few ponds in the county. Project. As part of this they are looking for help in locating records of the rare and protected
are much larger (up to 17cm long) than the small newts (around 10cm long) more commonly found in our ponds. The body is dark brown to black in colour with a warty appearance. Male great crested newts can be identified by the jagged crest running along their back. Newts have a similar life cycle to frogs and toads, hibernating through the winter months and returning to breed in ponds in the spring.
Nicky Green, Chair of the Devon Reptile and Amphibian Group (DRAG) said: 'The great crested newt is thought to be virtually extinct in Devon. However, there have been new recorded sightings across the county, which suggest that there are more of them out there than previously thought. In order to help conserve this rare and fascinating species we need as many records of sightings as possible'.
If you think you may have seen great crested newts in your pond please contact Julia.clark_DRAG@hotmail.co.uk or 01626 834422 with the location, post code and date of the sighting. A great crested newt identification and conservation pack is available for respondents.
Please look at the Photo Gallery for great crested newt photos
The aim of the project is to increase our knowledge of the distribution of great crested newts in the county so we are better able to promote their conservation and ensure they are not adversely affected by development activities. The project will essentially take the form of a publicity campaign to encourage the public and other bodies to come forward with sightings, followed by a programme of verifying sightings and surveying new and historical sites to confirm presence/absence.
We are pleased to welcome Julia Clark as our appointed Project Officer (PO) to lead on this work. Julia has four years experience as an ecological consultant, with Natural England licenses to survey great crested newts, plus bats and dormice. Above all she has confessed to being passionate about wildlife!
The has been funded by the Devon Biodiversity Partnership and the Devon Biodiversity Record Centre. We will need keen volunteers to help the PO with site surveys and surveys of additional sites not covered by the PO.
Contact Julia (Julia.clark_DRAG@hotmail.co.uk or 01626 834422) if you are interested in providing volunteer time to the project, perhaps with an estimate of how much time you can spare.
That evening after dark eight of us reconvened and John drove us to a pond where a thriving population of great crested newts occurs. Our arrival at the pond was immediately rewarded with great views of several great crested newts scattered across the bottom. Working quietly along the pond edge, many more were found and in total about 40 were seen. The pond also had large numbers of smooth newts some of which came and fed on Daphnia attracted to the torch beam, and small numbers of palmate newts and toads were also present.
John offered to lead a second trip to the pond a week later so on 13th March a small group of six met for another night visit. Again we saw large numbers of great crested newts and this time by careful lamping we were able to watch their complex courtship and territorial displays."
Chris and Janet Proctor
See Chris' photo of a great crested newt found at Braunton Burrows in our Photo Gallery
Why become a member?
Well, big things start in small ways and becoming a member of the Devon Reptile and Amphibian Group (DRAG) is one step you can take towards protecting the reptiles and amphibians in your local area and beyond.
Whether you’re dropping us a line by email, submitting a photo or participating as a volunteer in a reptile or amphibian survey your contribution is valued all the same. Everything we can do to keep the ‘conversation’ going is great for the reptiles and amphibians of Devon.
The more members that join the greater the potential for activity. Put simply, without members we couldn’t do what we do and it would be great to have you join us.
Some of the activities that you will be invited to can include talks by local experts, guided walks, bioblitzes and even species identification and survey skills training.
Opportunities for volunteering could include surveying, habitat management or helping out at nature festivals.
Have a voice in what we do.
We value your feedback and encourage it.
Drop us a line and let us know at email@example.com.
How do I join?
If you would like to become a member please send your request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Answer: Membership is free to join.
Answer: Currently, membership is on a rolling annual basis.
Answer: No. There are no prerequisites, nor is there any minimum level of commitment required.
Answer: Yes. Whilst volunteering makes a big difference to what we do, we totally understand that not everyone’s circumstances allow for it.
Answer: You can cancel your membership at any time by sending your request to email@example.com.
Upcoming events will be listed here.