Friends of Angus Herpetofauna (FAH) is a local Amphibian & Reptile Group (ARG) founded in 2007, serving Angus and surrounding areas. Affiliated to ARG-UK, the national umbrella group for local ARGs, FAH is a constituted, non-profit group of volunteers, involved particularly in various monitoring projects at a local level linking into schemes of national importance.
At present, FAH is conducting annual surveys throughout the county to monitor the presence and status of our widespread amphibian and reptile species. These surveys feed directly to the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (NARRS) coordinated by the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC Trust). Survey protocols are strictly controlled and training of voluntary surveyors is provided free at the beginning of each survey season.
Projects currently in progress include a study into the effectiveness of amphibian ladders in gulleypots (roadside drains). Migrating amphibians frequently fall into gulleypots and remain entrapped, unable to escape, eventually dying a lingering death. New ladders, designed by FAH (based on an idea from RAVON) are proving to be a viable sollution to this long-standing problem and are now installed in pioneering work in three locations across the county. FAH are also keen to identify amphibian migration crossing points and set up Toad Patrols, which involves the recruitment of volunteers to collect amphibians with torches and buckets to help them across busy roads where they might otherwise be killed by passing road traffic.
FAH can offer pond and habitat surveys on request either to an established protocol or to a tailored specification. FAH also provide the manpower to undertake a range of field work, including monitoring and habitat management, or offer help and advice as required. Experienced herpetologists are also on hand to provide training, presentations and guided field walks.
A new development north of the coastal town of Montrose is threatening the lives of a common lizard colony.
The cycle path, linking Montrose to Northwater viaduct cuts though prime common lizard habitat, one of the few remaining lowland populations of the species in Angus.
Work had already started near to the viaduct when Trevor Rose of Friends of Angus Herpetofauna noticed that construction worker’s storage units had been placed on the Kinnaber Moor section of the planned cycle path. Mr. Rose contacted the local Council’s Road’s Department and arranged to meet the engineer in charge of the works. Plans revealed the proposed route for the cycle path was the line of the old railway, a raised embankment covered in gorse scrub, long since abandoned and now home to hundreds of common lizards.
As common lizards are protected against intentional killing and injuring, the Council were obliged to accommodate mitigation measures. The use of refugia was discussed as was the possibility of monitoring for lizard movements when the excavators move in. However, there was no mention of delaying the project to allow for mitigation to take place over a suitable period of time and the contractors are due to begin clearing the gorse scrub on 11th April.
On the basis that the Council were unwilling to change their schedule or employ ecological professionals to undertake the work, FAH advised that refugia should be laid out immediately and offered to monitor the site on a daily basis in search of the resident lizards. A general plea for volunteers was sent out and over 40 respondents were enlisted.
A local Council Ranger was recruited by the Council to lay refugia on the proposed construction site, a strip approximately 500m long and 10m wide. Just sixty 1 metre square roof felt tiles were laid on the site. FAH volunteers acted quickly to cut each one into four 0.5 metre squares, quadrupling the number of refugia available for the lizards.
Mr. Rose commented “This is still not enough. The density of refugia needs to be much greater to have any chance of attracting the lizards. Frankly, they are also unlikely to help much in the short time allowed, as generally these roof felt tiles need to bed-in to the vegetation for at least a month before they become attractive to reptiles”.
With the refugia in place, Mr. Rose met with some of the volunteers over the weekend to offer help and instruction for searching and capturing the common lizards.
Kinnaber Moor is a large site of around 200 hectares, with populations of common lizards throughout. The proposed cycle path only affects a narrow tract of habitat across the moor, but the old railway embankment it is one of the most important features in the area.
“The resident lizards use the embankment as a hibernaculum and are just beginning to emerge at this time of year”, said Mr. Rose. “They will begin to disperse into the surrounding rank grass vegetation once it has grown on later in the year, but for now they are basking, feeding and preparing for courtship on and around the embankment. This is a very important feature on the landscape and the development is putting them at considerable risk”.
Mr. Rose continued, “Common lizards are numerous in the Glens and foothills of the nearby Cairngorms, but are fragmented and rare on the lowlands and coastal areas. This population is one of only four that are known to FAH in Angus, are therefore very precious, and need our protection”.
“Our short-term and emergency plan is to capture as many lizards as possible and move them to other areas of the moor, suitably far away that they won’t migrate back before the work on the cycle path has finished”, Mr. Rose said.
Please re-visit this webpage for updates on the progress of the project in the coming days and weeks.
For video of lizards seen at the site since the start of the mitigation project, please see the following YouTube links:
Friends of Angus Herpetofauna (FAH) has teamed up with Fife Amphibian and Reptile Group to provide two additional training events for NARRS (National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme).
Volunteer surveyors are currently sought in both the Angus and Fife areas for the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (NARRS). No specific experience is necessary as free training will be provided in amphibian and reptile identification, habitat assessment, survey methods, survey protocols, recording, health & safety, licensing, and landowner permissions. If you have a love of wildlife and the great outdoors, and can spare some time over the spring and summer months, this survey is for you!
Please see our “Events” page for the full training programme.
Details of our popular Guided Reptile Walks, planned for May 2011. Keep watching this space!
Upcoming events will be listed here.