All posts by Kate

National Lottery funding to restore and explore Herefordshire’s Ice Age kettle hole ponds

15 projects across the UK have been awarded a share of £7.4 million from the National Lottery to take action for nature, including a project in north west Herefordshire developed by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team and Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust.

Species and habitats on the verge of extinction have been handed a lifeline as The National Lottery Heritage Fund announces £7.3 million to take action for nature across the UK. The Conserving Herefordshire’s Ice Age Ponds project in Herefordshire has been awarded £252,600 to protect remaining kettle hole ponds in the county which provide a unique and rare habitat for wildlife.

The project will officially start in the next couple of months and will open with the launch of the Ice Age Herefordshire exhibition at Hereford Museum on 4 April 2020. The Ice Age Ponds project will have a big section in the exhibition.  (Hereford Museum opening times etc. here)

Herefordshire’s Ice Age ponds, often referred to as kettle-hole ponds, were created around 20,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, when woolly mammoths were still roaming the area. Herefordshire’s Ice Age Ponds are particularly special, as they can hold an undisturbed record of our climate and wildlife since the time when the glaciers retreated. They are also extremely important today as habitats for some of the county’s most precious pond species, including the highly protected great crested newt, the rare and mysterious medicinal leech and an extremely rare water beetle (Graphoderus cinereus).

 

Sadly, these nationally rare and important ponds are still being damaged and destroyed, thereby losing some of our most irreplaceable natural heritage.

Initial National Lottery funding enabled a development phase to take place last year when ponds were mapped and surveyed, allowing the project team to see exactly what was needed to go ahead with restoration. The development phase also provided an opportunity to engage with local communities and an army of enthusiastic volunteers were trained in pond survey techniques, supported by visits to local schools and other community events.

 

Andrew Nixon, Senior Conservation Manager at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity to restore ponds which have been key features of Herefordshire’s landscapes for literally thousands of years. Over this time, the ponds have formed an important network across the countryside which many species of wildlife relied upon. Over recent decades, as ponds have ceased to be needed on farms or in villages, ponds have been filled in, or simply become overgrown, and the wildlife associated with this habit is being lost.’

 

Dr Angela Julian, Coordinator of Amphibian and Reptile Groups of UK, said: ‘As well as preserving our precious local biodiversity, this exciting new project is an important step to prevent us from losing these unique and ancient ponds from our landscape, and by engaging communities in their restoration will ensure that they will persist for future generations to enjoy.’

 

As the ponds are restored, interpretation will also be created to explain the importance of the ponds. This will include signs and walking and cycling routes but also digital interpretation allowing people a glimpse into the pre-historic past through their smart phones!

 

Since 1994, the National Lottery has invested £829 million into nature and wildlife projects.

 

Drew Bennellick, Head of Land and Nature Policy at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: ‘Urgent action is needed to help nature recover. National Lottery funding is creating incredible opportunities for people to take such action for species under threat and, crucially, equipping a new generation with the skills and passions to make a real difference for the future of our natural world.’

Winter reptile habitat management day 28th Dec 2019

This was the first of 3 days carrying out sensitive habitat restoration management work on Ewyas Harold Common.

These works are undertaken to improve open habitat for our native reptile species. We reduce the scrub regeneration, concentrating on excessive saplings such as blackthorn, ash and birch, and cutting back the bramble and bracken.  Open basking areas are created, along with hibernacula and refuge habitat piles.

Hand tools are used as a management method, avoiding heavy machinery such as tractors and flails which would impact the soil and humus structure on sensitive sites.

It was a relatively warm day for December with some weak sunshine filtering through, enough for a lunchtime picnic!

 

 

There will be more dates over January 2020 which HART members can volunteer on.  The views are magnificent, you’re out in the fresh air and you’re doing work that will not only benefit reptiles but also butterflies and birds.

If members would like to help on one of the future dates please contact Nigel.

Whixall Moss visit – June 2018

Nine people gathered on a sunny Sunday morning at Whixall Moss, a National Nature Reserve managed by Natural England. We were led round by an experienced volunteer to look for some of the key species on the Moss.

At the first main ditch there were lots of dragonflies, mostly Four-spotted Chasers, and here we also found a Raft Spider.

Further into the Moss we spotted White-faced Darter.

The Moss is the southernmost location in England for this dragonfly species, which is mainly associated with the Scottish Highlands.  Amphibians and reptiles were in short supply although Will did net a newt together with a variety of beetles.

Finally at the end of the day a toad was found under a piece of wood.   An excellent day, well worth the long journey.

An information leaflet about the reserve can be downloaded from the Natural England website: click here

Expert unlocks mechanics of how snakes move in a straight line

From the web

Expert unlocks mechanics of how snakes move in a straight line

Science Daily 

Snakes are known for their iconic S-shaped movements. But they have a less noticeable skill that gives them a unique superpower. Snakes can crawl in a straight line. University of Cincinnati biologist Bruce Jayne studied the mechanics of snake movement to understand exactly how they can propel themselves forward like a train through a tunnel.

“It’s a very good way to move in confined spaces,” Jayne said. “A lot of heavy-bodied snakes use this locomotion: vipers, boa constrictors, anacondas and pythons.”

Snakes typically swim, climb or crawl by bending their spine into serpentine coils or using the leading edges to push off objects. An extreme example of their diversity of movement gives the sidewinder rattlesnake its name.

Jayne already has unlocked the mechanics of three kinds of snake locomotion called concertina, serpentine and sidewinding. But the straightforward movement of snakes, called “rectilinear locomotion,” has got less attention, he said.

See the website for more of the article

Bodenham GoToads! Community Project

Deep buckets are used so that toads cannot jump or climb out

A motorist driving along the C1121 on a mild, damp evening from late February to mid-April might be forgiven for thinking they’d finally lost it. In front of them appears a strange apparition-a cluster of torches accompanied by fluorescent vests, next to ‘brew-your-own beer’ buckets that seem to hang in mid-air. Closer examination reveals that each vest encloses an individual of a particular (peculiar) species that can be found in the location on the ‘right’ nights – the Toad Patrol volunteers.

Patrols are not carried out in very cold weather

Toad numbers have fallen by around 68% in the last 30 years. The drainage of land for agriculture and the loss of ponds through land development have resulted in the disappearance of many Common Toad (Bufo Bufo) breeding sites, and it has also been found that milder winters are unfavourable for hibernating toads. Where desirable bodies of water still exist, toads use the same route to return to them each spring from their hibernation quarters just as their ancestors did, regardless of the establishment of roads or other obstructions. They simply amble cross any roads in their way and may be hit by vehicles or fall down drains in their quest to reproduce. The chance of being run over increases when male toads decide to sit on the convenient flat road surface while waiting and looking out for females to appear.

Male toads use nuptial pads to grip the females securely when mating

The campaign called Toads on Roads was initiated by national wildlife charity Froglife and is supported by ARG UK (Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK). The aim of the scheme is to help improve toad numbers by saving them from being killed by vehicles on roads near toad breeding sites. The GoToads! Community Project in Bodenham was spawned when Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT), Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team (HART) and St. Michael’s CE Primary School received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to save toads.

Toad patrollers begin walking up and down the road at dusk on mild (7⁰C), damp spring nights collecting toads in buckets, counting the animals and releasing them close to the lake.  Any frogs and newts are also collected, recorded and released. The number of dead amphibians found is also recorded.

The data collected over the observed toad breeding season is sent to Froglife which feeds the information into national amphibian surveys. Although there are variables such as the weather, number of volunteers attending patrols or motorists using the road on given evenings and times, the figures give a general idea of the national toad population or changes in numbers. Froglife has stated that in 2012 more than 62,000 toads on UK roads were collected and released. This year in Bodenham over 1000 toads were rescued.

Back in Bodenham, as in other locations, enthusiastic local children were involved in building refugia from logs, turf and leaf litter; these were positioned a short distance from the lake with the aim of encouraging at least some toads to hibernate near the water and eliminate the need to cross the road.

Young toads leave the water from late May to July

The earliest data for toads crossing the C1121 in Bodenham since the Toad Patrols began was collected on 18th February this year. A single-day record of 120 live toads was recorded the following evening.  Bodenham has the largest migratory route for toads in Herefordshire.

 

Flyers, social media and training courses and introductory meetings, as well as information provided to local schools are used to generate interest for the GoToads! project within the community. It is hoped that the Toad Patrols will be instrumental in ensuring that GoToads! never changes to NoToads.

Trip to Whixall Moss, Shropshire

Sunday 3rd June 10 am 

HART is organising a visit to Fenn’s and Whixall Moss National Nature Reserve, a very large raised bog on the England/Wales border about 5 miles north of Wem, Shropshire. This is a fantastic site with a wide range of wildlife. Reptiles present, which we hope to see, include Adder, Common Lizard and Slow-worm. There are also rare invertebrates such as the impressive Raft Spider, plus many birds and a specialised flora. It is the southernmost location in Britain for the White-faced Darter, a strikingly coloured dragonfly mainly associated with the Scottish Highlands; these should be on the wing at the time of our visit.

The walk will be led by local volunteer Stephen Barlow. Some of his photos taken on the Moss can be seen here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/steb1/albums/72157653639584689

Time: Meet at 10:00 am, Sunday 3rd June, in the Manor House car park at SJ50533657

Bring: Appropriate footwear for walking on rough and damp ground, waterproofs and suitable clothing depending on the weather. Sun cream and a hat. Insect repellent is highly recommended as biting insects can be troublesome. Bring a packed lunch, snacks and enough to drink as it will be a long day including travel. A camera and binoculars will also be useful.

Contact: Please contact HART to let us know if you are interested in coming or if you have any questions. Email  editor@herefordhart.org

Distance from Hereford is about 72 miles so allow plenty of time for travel. It would be good for people to car-share if possible.