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Great Crested Newts continue to expand

posted 20 Sept 2010, 08:52 by Mark Pollitt - SWSEIC

Another Great Crested Newt site has been discovered this month.  As with many sites, newts have probably been there for many years but have previously been undiscovered or unreported.  The site, near Tongland in Kirkcudbrightshire, has no nearby known colonies but newts are thought to be present in at least two ponds and possibly others.  A survey of the area could well reveal other breeding ponds and should be a priority for the group next spring as areas adjacent to the site may be threatened with development.

Another new Grass Snake site

posted 10 Sept 2010, 08:47 by Mark Pollitt - SWSEIC

DGERC recently received a third record of Grass Snake in Dumfries and Galloway.  The record was reported to the centre by Richard Mearns, who had been sent details by Malcolm Street of a sighting  at Glenkiln in late June. The snake was noted to be swimming across the burn, and was estimated to be about 18 inches long.  The distinctive yellow neck collar was observed too.  It's probably worth looking out for this species anywhere across Dumfries and Galloway as records do not seem to be solely from the east of the region.

New Grass Snake record

posted 11 May 2010, 07:02 by Mark Pollitt - SWSEIC

Local herpetological surveyor Chris Cathrine came up with an excellent find whilst carrying out surveys for Scottish Great Crested Newt Survey.  Whilst checking out a pond to the west of Drumlanrig he disturbed a Grass Snake which swam off into the water.  This represents only the second sighting in Dumfries and Galloway.

DGARG members are asked to keep a look out for this species, particularly at sites in the east of the region where colonisation from Cumbria is most likely to have occurred.

Scottish Great Crested Newt Survey 2010

posted 30 Apr 2010, 08:17 by Mark Pollitt - SWSEIC   [ updated 30 Apr 2010, 08:53 ]

This year ARC/SNH are organising a Great Crested Newt survey across the whole of Scotland.  The survey is aiming to check out not just known sites, but also sites close to known populations which may have suitable habitats.  The survey will be based around visiting 1km squares to look for potentially suitable ponds, and then using standard newt survey techniques to look for the species present.

Ben Driver (ARC data officer) has produced maps of 1km squares which he would like to target (see pdf maps below, blue squares).  Those outlined in purple are already being covered, but it would be great if D&G ARG members could help by visiting any of the other squares.

As the survey involves a highly protected species then it does require surveyors to operate under an appropriate license.  If you have a Great Crested Newt License and would like to help please contact either Mark Pollitt (DGERC) or John McKinnell (Scottish Natural Heritage) so that we can co-ordinate our efforts and make sure we don't duplicate visits.  For those without licenses, we are investigating the possibility of running a training event(s) and adding surveyors to an existing license holder(s).  More information on that to follow as soon as we know more.

In the mean time please check out the pdfs below and see if you would be willing to help survey some squares.

Reptile Ramble at Kirkconnell Flow a great success

posted 21 Apr 2010, 07:34 by Mark Pollitt - SWSEIC   [ updated 21 Apr 2010, 07:59 ]

A guided walk on Friday 15th April at the Kirkconnell Flow National Nature Reserve once again proved a great success in highlighting the regions reptiles to the public.  Seventeen members of the public joined walk leaders by Mark Pollitt (DGERC) and Alan Steel (Scottish Natural Heritage), seeking out Common Lizards and Adders on the reserve.  The event was part of the Dumfries and Galloway Wildlife Festival.  The weather smiled on us, with unbroken sunshine throughout the morning.  All group members had excellent views of basking female Common Lizards, and an obliging juvenile basking part way up a gorse bush.  Adders proved a little more elusive, though a female partially showing amongst the grassy vegetation gave everyone a view.  An adventurous participant also found two others basking, though not viewed by the group.  The refugia for monitoring proved less successful, with the only Adder basking on top slipping away into the undergrowth before anyone could see it, although a couple of people did spot it slithering away at their feet. 

Nonetheless an enjoyable time was had by all, and a Comma butterfly near the car park capped a very fruitful event.

New ARG UK newsletter

posted 21 Apr 2010, 07:17 by Mark Pollitt - SWSEIC

The latest edition of the ARG UK newsletter has just been published.  As well a summary of recent research papers the newsletter includes results of the 2008 Chytrid survey.  A pdf document is attached or you can visit the ARG-UK website to download it.

Herpetofauna Workers' Meeting 2010

posted 7 Apr 2010, 03:31 by Mark Pollitt - SWSEIC

A summary of the presentations given at this years Herpetofauna Workers' Meeting held at Hinckley on January 30th is available in the pdf attached below.

First national survey shows Britain’s wildlife ponds are in a ‘terrible state’

posted 28 Mar 2010, 09:42 by Mark Pollitt - SWSEIC   [ updated 28 Mar 2010, 09:47 ]

A report published on 4th Feb 2010 by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Pond Conservation shows that 80% of ponds in England and Wales are in a ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ condition. Although pond quality is better in Scotland, the study also shows that the condition of lowland ponds has got worse since 1996. The work was funded by Defra and the Natural Environment Research Council as part of the Countryside Survey 2007, a major programme to assess the state of the UK's countryside.

Long valued by conservationists and the public as wildlife havens, recent research has shown that ponds are much more important for the protection of freshwater biodiversity than previously suspected. Ponds support more endangered freshwater plant and animal species than either rivers or lakes and, in a typical patch of English countryside, a wider variety of common species too. The news about the condition of ponds follows reports last autumn showing that 75% of Britain’s rivers will fail to reach new European standards on the variety of plant and animal life they should support. The Environment Agency says that there has been a long-term improvement in rivers, but little-reported Agency data show that these improvements have now largely stopped.

The British countryside has around 500,000 man-made and natural ponds, found everywhere from the heathland ponds of the New Forest in southern England to the tarns of the Lake District and the remote wild mountain pools of the Scottish Highlands – as well as on the classic English village green. The Ponds Report shows that small waterbodies are in poorest condition in intensive agricultural areas and where they have high nutrient levels, usually where they are connected to streams or were fed by water that ran off from farmland, towns, villages and roads. Many ponds were both shaded and polluted which further reduced their wildlife value.

However, the report is not all bad news: ponds close to rivers, streams and other wetlands were higher quality, suggesting that there is a ‘protective network’ effect when different kinds of freshwater habitats are close together. Significantly, the study also shows that large numbers of new ponds are created annually in Britain (more than 7,000 ponds per year), and that many of these new ponds rapidly became rich wildlife habitats. Unfortunately, most new ponds are located in areas of intensive agricultural land use where they will accumulate polluted sediments, so are not expected to maintain their high value in the long term.

The results also point to an important way we can protect Britain’s freshwater biodiversity in the future. If most new ponds are located in areas where they are protected from pollutants, and are not fed by streams or ditches, they rapidly become wildlife oases that help to protect Britain’s freshwater biodiversity in the long term.

Dr Jeremy Biggs of Pond Conservation said: “It is shocking that ponds are in such a terrible state. This should be a wake up call for everyone concerned with protecting freshwater wildlife and involved in water management. Practically unnoticed, wildlife-rich, clean and unpolluted ponds have become a rarity in the countryside. Biggs added: “This discovery of the poor state of ponds is worrying especially following the realisation last year that 75% of rivers will also fail new biological standards. Our freshwater environment faces huge threats, with all water bodies, big and small, endangered. The poor condition of most ponds is particularly worrying as ponds are an important indicator of how water friendly our management of the countryside is. At present ponds are telling us we’re not getting it right. But they also show how we can do things better”.

Countryside Survey report

Pond Conservation press release

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