Sunday, 31 December 2017

Earlswood amphibian & reptile survey, 2016-2017

At a site in Earlswood last year, I saw a female Great Crested Newt (GCN) in a pond partially covered in ice on February 24th - a very pleasant surprise given how early it was in the year and also because the species appeared to have not been recorded at Earlswood since the 1980s! I was interested in finding out how many GCNs might be using the site, so later in the spring during sunny weather I returned and found two males and four egg-laying females at a different pond but within the same site. There was also at least 32 Smooth Newts at the two ponds on that occasion too, which was impressive! Hoping more GCNs might be present, an evening torch survey was undertaken with assistance from Warwickshire Amphibian and Reptile Team (WART) member Louise Sherwell, but only two males and a female were found.

Smooth Newt and Great Crested Newt (John Oates)

This year, the second pond was covered with duckweed for much of the spring making observation difficult but on May 26th, with the help of Agni Arampoglou and Vicky Philpott of WART, another evening torch survey was carried out and single male GCNs were seen in both ponds at the site - a low number probably because it was late in the egg-laying season for this species. It seems that only a very small population may be present, making them vulnerable, but fortunately the site is managed specifically for wildlife.

Ponds at Clowes Wood meadow and a private farm were also surveyed this year, and although no GCNs were found at these, both held Smooth Newts and my observations elsewhere at Earlswood indicate that "Smoothies" are common and widespread in the area. Most methods of surveying for GCNs require a licence from Natural England, and I am grateful to Louise, Agni and Vicky who are all licence-holders for their help during the last two springs. I hope to get a licence for myself next year, which will hopefully make it easier to arrange surveys with local landowners and potentially allow other ponds supporting GCNs to be detected. If any local landowners have ponds that would be suitable for surveying, please get in touch.

Agni, Vicky and Tony Philp also helped me set up a reptile survey at a private site next to the lakes, using 11 sheets of corrugated roofing material supplied by Earlswood Wildlife Partnership, which I then monitored during the summer. A Smooth Newt was found basking on top of one sheet, and a young Toad was resting under another, but sadly no reptiles were found. The hope is that Slow Worms might be present as the habitat looks suitable for them, and although the sheets have now been brought indoors for the winter, the survey will recommence next year.

Common Toad under reptile refugium sheet (Matt Griffiths)

Smooth Newt on reptile refugium sheet (Matt Griffiths)


P.S. I originally wrote this for Earlswood Wildlife Partnership, and I am grateful to them for allowing me the use of their reptile refugia.

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