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There are a number of amphibians and reptiles which do turn up which are actually non native to the UK. There are a large number of pets which are kept up and down the country such as corn snakes, salamanders, tree frogs and other exotic animals which may escape into people’s gardens from time to time.

There has been a long history of  animals introductions into the UK and some amphibian and reptile species have now established here. Here are a few of the most successful species:

European water frogs

The  most successful non native amphibian in the UK has to be the European Water Frog. It can be confusing  as there is around 14 different species found across Europe. The three main types are the pool frog, marsh frog and the hybrid between these species which is known as the edible frog.

The marsh frog is the largest frog species found in Europe and gets its name from the area of Kent where it was originally introduced – Romney Marsh. All the water frogs have a very distinctive call and you can hear these calls on Amphibian & Reptile Conservation’s Alien encounter website – www.alienencounters.org.uk 

The water frogs are still spreading in UK either by their own steam or indeed by people power. The main thing is to not take home any spawn, tadpoles or frogs for the garden pond from areas where these animals are known to live. We cannot prevent the spread of these animals as the climate changes but we should try to prevent further introductions. In order to do this we need to know where these animals are currently living so if you hear a noisy frog in the summer do let us know through the #RecordPool.

Find out more on Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group’s Water Frog Page

Midwife toad

Another interesting species is the midwife toad which has a curious life cycle in that the male toads looks after a string of eggs over the spring until they are ready to hatch. He then drops into a suitable water body to allow for the tadpoles to develop into new toadlets.  This species has had a stronghold over the last century in and around Bedfordshire and new populations have been found in other parts of the country. It’s alternative name is the bell toad which relates to its breeding call which is very much like a computer game going off. It should be easy to identify this toad through it’s call as it is often very difficult to spot or find as it tends to hide away from ponds underneath stones and other garden debris.

Alpine newt

A rather exotic looking newt species – on the account that male’s colouration is a vivid blue with a bright orange belly. Looking pretty cool with a black and white chequered crest, it is easy to see why people like to keep them as pets. The female newt is similar to a young great crested newt with a bright orange belly and green or blue marbling on its body. The species is still sold through pet shops and aquatic centres so it can pop up pretty much anyway in the UK. It is of concern as it is a carrier or known risk factor for the deadly Chytrid fungus.

North American Bullfrog

They say everything is bigger in the States and this is a pretty big species from across the pond: the North American Bullfrog. Banned from importation into Europe in the late 1990’s we have become complacent regarding the risk of this species remaining in the UK. In the 1990’s a population was found in fish ponds near to the Kent/Sussex Border. The population was removed from this site over the next ten years.and it was thought that there were no longer any Bullfrogs in the UK.

This changed in around 2006 when a population was located in South West Essex. Several hundred adult frogs were found and removed from golf courses and fishing ponds over a large area of Essex countryside. In 2010 a third population was found in the south of England on private land. Efforts are being undertaken to remove this population and to survey further sites for this massive frog species.

It is surprising that this frog can exist undetected within these sites for over ten years. People hear them every year and put up with the sound of a mooing cow or a whole field of cows in some cases. Other neighbours thought it was a pumping system and therefore did not worry about the noise.

Now that’s a big frog

We hope that there are no more populations hiding out there but just one female bullfrog can lay over 10 times more spawn that our native common frog – 20,000 eggs!

So far the recent populations have not been tested positive for the deadly chytrid fungus that has been decimating amphibian populations worldwide, but these populations do have Rana virus which impacts on our native frogs. Not to mention these frogs can gulf down an adult common frog very easily.

Wall Lizard

By far the most successful reptile introduction is the European or Common Wall lizard. This beautiful lizard species is found unsurprisingly around walls and other features created by humans. It is found on coastal sites in Southern England and exists in 30 to 40 colonies around the country. This information has been collated by Steve Langham from Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group using the online forum Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK (RAUK)

You can see all the reports/records of known, possible and extinct populations of this lizard in the UK. It is considered to be a native species on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands.  If you spot an agile lizard on stone walls located near one of the sites listed on the Wall Lizard Project you can submit a sighting card through the #RecordPool to help confirm add more information to the project website.

Recording, recording, recording

The main thing is to not capture any animal which you suspect to be a non native but please do report the location, numbers seen and the date to the online recording system the #RecordPool to help track the movements and discover new populations of non native amphibians and reptiles in the UK

NB:The data collated through the Record Pool (native as well as non natives) will be forwarded onto local recorders and shared with the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust for the sole purpose of conserving our amphibians and reptiles in the UK. if you would like to become more involved with the #RecordPool then please do email info@arguk.org for more details and you can also help with the online recording of amphibians and reptiles in the UK

Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK

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Froglife

Froglife is a national wildlife charity, since it started in 1989 it has been dedicated to the conservation of the UK’s amphibians and reptiles – frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards – and the habitats on which they depend. Froglife’s work falls into three strands: on the ground conservation, environmental education and communication.

 Throughout 2012, in celebration of the Chinese Year of the Dragon, FrogLife have composed 12 species profiles for each month. This month, Living Water Officer Iain Maclean has kindly let us in on a few sneaky secrets about an often misunderstood reptile, the slow-worm…

Slow-worm

Slow-worm

“Having a look into the reputation of the Slow-worm in the past, it is surprising to learn that it was once considered a venomous and evil creature to be killed and cut up when encountered. Also called the blind worm, it pops up in Shakespeare’s Macbeth where the ‘blind worm’s sting’ is a potent ingredient of the witches cauldron. The name Slow-worm itself is also misleading, as they can move very fast when prompted. Some sources claim the name actually originates from the Anglo Saxon word slay (or slaw) as in a worm which kills (or perhaps a slayer of worms!) or as a slow ‘wrym’ (snake like creature) in comparison to snake species. However the origins of the name and of alternative names such as blind worm are far from clear.

In fact the Slow-worm is a benign and beautiful creature, and presents no real danger to humans. It is more closely related to lizards than snakes, having lost its legs in an example of convergent evolution. Its smooth body allows it to glide through vegetation and catch small soft bodied insects such as slugs; and it can therefore be a welcome predator of pests in the gardens it frequently inhabits. Although Slow-worms may try and sting with the horny tip of their tail when handled, the sting is not venomous and unable to pierce the skin, and in fact when frightened they are just as likely to shed their tail in order to escape.”

Slow Worm Anguis Worm

Slow Worm Anguis Worm

Factfile: Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis)

Did you know…

• The slow worm gives birth to live young (ovovivipary); eggs are hatched within the female’s body

• Slow-worms can live for decades; the record is a Slow-worm in Copenhagen zoo who lived for 54 years! Although they are expected to live for much less in the wild.

• Slow-worms are vulnerable to predation by cats. The level of predation can have an important effect on local distribution.

Identification

• Slow-worms range in colour from grey to brown to bronze

• Males are grey-brown, sometimes with blue flecks

• Females are golden brown with a darker underbelly and sides

• Females and juveniles often have a darker stripe along their back

• Slow-worms have unique head markings and, unlike snakes, they have eyelids

• They can be 4-45cm in length

Differences between Slow-worms and snakes

• Eyes which blink (snakes cannot blink)

• Broad flat tongue with notched tip (snakes have a flickering forked tongue)

• Blunt tail tip (snake tails taper to a fine point)

• Skin with smooth scales, skin appears shiny and polished (snakes have rougher, clearly defined scales).

Male Slow worm showing blue flecks Barnet, SS

Male Slow worm showing blue flecks Barnet, SS

  You can find out more information about Slow-worms on the Froglife website or to see more ‘Dragons of the Month’ visit the Froglife Blog.

With thanks to Iain Maclean at Living Water and Sivi Sivanesan & Froglife for their kind contributions.

www.froglife.org
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Our good friend Paul tells us about his experience of finding a male Southern Hawker Dragonfly at our WOMAD Meet the Species event (July 2012).

Male Southern Hawker Dragonfly

Male Southern Hawker Dragonfly- WOMAD July 2012

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Did you guess what Freshwater species this morning’s picture was of? It’s a…. BANDED DEMOISELLE!

Banded demoiselles are a type of damselfly. Although their larvae are aquatic, flight is the key to success for adult banded demoiselles. Males compete on the wing for breeding territories. And a territory owner will then court any visiting female by doing a special display flight for her.

Click here for some great BBC videos of Demoiselles and more information on Damselflies.

The Banded Demoiselle- Photographs from iSpot

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Wildlife Man Jules Howard helps schools make use of ponds for wildlife education. Check out his great videos and online resources at www.wildlife-man.co.uk

When you’ve done your pond dipping – send your results to Pond Conservation to join the Big Pond Dip and contribute to national conservation research.

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With great thanks to Andy Ryder from the Avon Reptile & Amphibian Group for their great contribution. To find out more please visit ARAGs website

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Freshwater is essential to all life on earth, yet it covers less than 1% of the planet’s surface, and is one of our most threatened global resources.

Ponds are as rich in wildlife as lakes and rivers, providing the last refuge for endangered native wildlife, including over 100 biodiversity action plan (BAP) species. However, half of the UK’s ponds were lost in the 20th century and of those that remain 80% are in a poor state. And we want to make sure things don’t let things slip further back.

Graphoderus Zonatus, Spangled Water Beetle – photo copyright Roger Key

Pond Conservation is a national, but small charity, based in Oxford.  All of our activities are underpinned by evidence-based, scientific research which drives the other 3 areas of our work: practical action, providing authoritative advice, campaigning and lobbying policy makers.

Omphiscola glabra, Mud Snail – photo copyright Paul Baker

By supporting Pond Conservation, you will be part of a growing part of the population who want to clean up our freshwaters, and achieve real benefits for biodiversity.

If you too have a passion for ponds, why not become one of our Pond Protectors? Your support will help fund our research and pond creation projects, to protect freshwater wildlife.  As a Pond Protector you will receive: monthly e-updates regarding ponds and other freshwater habitats, access to specialised advice and practical opportunities to get involved with our work.  And if this doesn’t float your boat, there are lots of other ways to get involved.

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