The aim of this group is to understand and protect the amphibians and reptiles of the Wirral peninsular through organizing training, raising awareness, surveys, habitat management tasks and other conservation activities.
The Wirral Peninsular has historically been habitat of Sand Lizard, Natterjack, Great Crested Newt, Common Frog, Common Toad, Smooth Newt, Palmate Newt, Common Lizard, Slow Worm and Grass Snake. However, developments in the 20th Century has seen species such as the Sand Lizard and Natterjack disappear. Status of other herps have been uncertain, the problem being linked to lack of survey effort and recording.
In 2018, preliminary surveys around Wallasey revealed many new and surprising records for amphibians and reptiles. This was part of the Cheshire & Wirral ARG. However, the size of this district with that county was a bit much, necessitating the formation of a new ARG for Wirral (WiARG) so more surveys and recording can be co-ordinated across this interesting penninsular.
Founding member and current chair of WiARG, grew up on the Wirral and was frustrated by the lost herpetofauna species and limited opportunities to view the remaining herps in the area. Formation of this new ARG will create the opportunity for local residents in the Wirral to get involved with amphibian and reptile surveys and recording for both enjoyment of these wonderful animals and to aid in their conservation on the Wirral.
Since its formation in 2019, WiARG has undertaken numerous surveys and practical conservation tasks across the Wirral. Some of the highlights have been mapping out the extent of Common Lizard in Harrison Park, Wallasey, as well as lizards and amphibians across the North Wirral Coastal Park, updating the known status of amphibians (including Great Crested Newt) at Royden Park and more recently measuring the use of the tidal zone of amphibians in the north west Wirral coast.
The itinerary for 2021-22 is presently being drawn up as winter draws in following a busy survey season. Suggestions from members are welcomed.
Existing partnerships include the Wirral Ranger Service, Cheshire Wildlife Trust, the Friends of the North Wirral Coastal Park and Wirral Wildlife.
The present committee consists of: Thomas Doherty-Bone (chair); Sue Noyce (secretary); Jon Bielby (vice chair); Frankie Bielby (treasurer); Charles Mulryan (general committee); Mike Brown (senior adviser).
The membership fee for 2020-21 is £5, which goes toward conservation activities of the group, such as buying equipment. Payment can either be made in cash or paid through Paypal: https://paypal.me/WiARG?locale.x=en_GB
Membership cycle finishes each April.
Please get in contact if you wish to get involved.
Minutes for Wirral ARG AGM Date 25/05/2021
Venue: On Zoom
Committee: Thomas Doherty-Bone (chair), Jon Bielby (secretary), Frances Bielby (treasurer), Mike Brown (mentor)
Other attendees: Sue Noyce, Charles Mulryan
TDB gave a presentation on the progress and achievement of the Wirral ARG (WiARG) since its launch in March 2019, with plans for 2021-22 laid out. So far there are 18 members. The accounts were presented. The meeting was then opened to the rest of the attendees.
Report spawn sightings to:
Subscriptions of £5 for 2022 can be paid before April either via PayPal https://paypal.me/WiARG?locale.x=en_GB or in person at a meet
Dr Tom Doherty-Bone's talk on the setting up of WiARG
As the discussion of climate change and resulting climate breakdown is at the forefront of news at the moment, we highlight how these issues touch the Wirral’s amphibians and reptiles (collectively referred to as “herps”), often in unexpected and counterintuitive ways. Many of us living in the Wirral already notice how our winters have been less snowy the past decade compared to previous. But how is this affecting our herpetofauna on the Wirral, who are sensitive to changes in temperature and have to hibernate through the winter? Some of us have been surprised by seeing frogs moving about on Christmas Day. Do these mid-winter emergences result in their death when wandering around in a daze with nothing to eat and does resumption of cold kill them off? How about changes to rainfall? Or rising temperature?
At the Wirral Amphibian & Reptile Group (WiARG) we are doing our bit to see how our local herps are faring in response to a changing climate. Our basic effort is to monitor and take action to build resilience where we can. Some volunteers are monitoring various sites for the initiation of breeding by various amphibians, especially by WiARG secretary Sue Noyce of Common Frogs at Central Park in Wallasey. We have also been checking for earliest emergences for Spring and latest occurrence for autumn in Common Lizard at Harrison Park Wallasey. This year, we still found lizards active mid-October. And there has been our study on how amphibians use coastal habitat down to the strandline at Hoylake-West Kirby, which has implications for inferring changes to sea-level.
Sometimes it may be necessary to highlight the need to divert seemingly positive climate action where it will do more harm than good, such as planting of trees in habitat that will actually cause declines of herps. Tree planting to restore lost woodland and reconnect others is great, but planting in habitats like established grasslands, sand dunes, peatland and heathland does shade out the sunny spots herps and other organisms need to live - thankfully the Wirral Tree Strategy does take this into account. As one example, in one park where we found an important Common Lizard population, the rangers diverted tree planting efforts to another site so they would not loose their grassland habitat.
The most salient example of how climate change (more realistic rephrase: climate breakdown) is impacting amphibians on the Wirral is at Royden Park near Frankby. We found the Great Crested Newt still occur here, but the single pond we found them breeding was found to dry out before larvae could metamorphose in both years surveyed. We are hoping for a 2022 Spring and Summer that is wet enough and mild enough for the water to stay long enough for the babies to grow, but it doesn’t look good. At the start of this project in 2019 it was already clear that the network of ponds in Royden were far from adequate to support a resilient population. It is likely the loss in the past century of big animals such as deer, beavers, livestock that would have kept the ponds open and resilient has caused them to shrink in size and suitability for pond life. WiARG has been working with the Wirral Council rangers to manage these ponds, trimming branches and small trees from the edge of the ponds and removing debris to reduce anaerobic digestion which reduces oxygen levels. Doing this actually helps stop these ponds releasing greenhouse gases and helps them sequester more carbon. After the initial works by volunteers from WiARG with those at Royden Park, it was realised a more dedicated, drastic action was needed, especially as volunteer time in the winter of 2020-21 was lost to covid-19 lockdowns. So the Volunteer Rangers of Royden Park led a grant bid with WiARG to get contractors to drastically thin out trees and line one pond adjacent to another where crested newts had been seen but not yet breeding. The grant bid with the Burbo Bank Community Fund was successful and we are waiting for works to commence. This should produce a pond that is more resistant to drying out during droughts.
With the negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow in progress, changes to the climate are with us already and we need to be vigilant to how these changes will impact our wildlife. As efforts continue to reduce emissions and capture carbon, WiARG will be proactively working to understand how these changes are affecting our newts, frogs, toads, lizards (and snakes if any show up) and do what we can to mitigate the negative impacts for a resilient and healthy community across the Wirral.
Make sure you check the latest COVID safe advice on www.gov.uk/coronavirus or ARGUK before attending any event
Free Online Series
25th Jan 7pm
Intro to herps in meadows
23rd Feb 2pm
1st March 7pm
Managing fields and farms
Every Friday 10-12
Volunteer Task Days
with Paul the ranger and the Park's Friends group
Scrub clearance on Sefton Coast
contact Mike Brown at NMARG for details