Report on January Meeting

Our January meeting featured a talk by Mark Barber of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. The ARC Trust exists to champion the cause of amphibians and reptiles across the UK through education programmes, species recording, and habitat creation. Mark and his colleague Peter started a major project in 2012, which covers all of Wales, and aims to encourage a sense of ownership and responsibility for welsh biodiversity and provide opportunities for people to engage with amphibians and reptiles as part of the shared natural heritage in Wales.

West Wales has a variety of native amphibians and reptiles, including the common frog, common toad, palmate newt, smooth newt, common lizard, slow worm, grass snake, and adders. The decrease in numbers of many of these previously fairly common animals is causing concern to conservationists. This is, unfortunately, largely due to human activity. The construction of housing, draining of ponds, and road building programmes have all led to a fragmented landscape which these animals are not well equipped to deal with, or travel through.

This then, is where we as smallholders, may be well-qualified to help out. We tend to live in rural areas which aren’t heavily developed, and we tend to have the odd bit of space that could be put to good use for the sort of specialist habitats that our amphibians and reptiles so desperately need. So what can we do?

Firstly we need to record our sightings! Mark has been putting together a map of amphibian and reptile sightings across Wales and there is very, very little data for West Wales. So, if you’ve seen any amphibians and reptiles then the ARC trust want to know. To do this, go to arc.cofnod.org.uk, or http://www.recordpool.org.uk/ and fill in the online card. Alternatively, because some of our members don’t have great internet access, we’ve decided to print out some sighting recording cards and bring them along to meetings, you can fill in your sighting, and the committee will make sure they get passed along to the ARC Trust.

You’ll need the following information:

1. What species you’ve seen, ideally it would be good to know: age, (adult, juvenile, spawn/egg, dead), sex, number of specimens at any one time. If you’re not sure what you’ve seen then the ARC trust have put together identification guides which can be downloaded.

The Amphibian guide is available here:

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/species-id/amphibians

The Reptile guides are available here:

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/species-id/reptiles

2. Where you saw it, this doesn’t need to be accurate to within half an inch, but a postcode or grid reference is useful.

3. When you saw it (Again, this doesn’t need to be exact, if you saw a palmate newt in 1964, then that’s great, as the ARC Trust can report this as an historic sighting.

Perhaps more important is the management and creation of habitats for amphibians and reptiles
Because this is so important, the ARC Trust has put together a handbook for anyone interested. You can either buy a hard copy from their online shop, or download a free copy from

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/habitat-management/for-amphibians/AHMH.htm

Specialist advice about pond creation can be found at the Freshwater Habitats Trust, their website can be found here: http://www.freshwaterhabitats.org.uk

If this is a subject you’re interested in, you might also want to go ahead and join the South West Wales Amphibian and Reptile Conservation group, their website can be found here:

http://groups.arguk.org/SWWARG/ or on facebook https://www.facebook.com/SWWARG