Friday, 25 March 2011

A few ponds in Bispham, Blackpool torched

Last night two FARG members went to the outskirts of Blackpool to survey a selection of ponds there.
The first is small and quite overgrown, not that we like this term – better would be at a later successional stage – it has dense stands of Typha (Reedmace) with little open water and a deep layer of sunken litter.
Four female Smooth Newts were recorded along with two males and two unsexed tails disappearing in to the submerged leaf litter, making eight animals in all.
We also found a single female Great Crested Newt, the photo shows the warty skin nicely hence their alternative name, the Warty Newt.
Also seen well are the bright yellow toe nails and if you look hard a small length of the yellow band along thee underside of the tail. Click the pics to seee them full size.
On the underside shot you can see the distinctive yellow and black pattern which allows individuals to be identified. Notably there were few plants suitable for Great Crested Newts to lay on present, hopefully they will have grown by the time the next survey comes round in about a month’s time.
The second pond surveyed is bigger and deeper with much less emergent vegetation. In this pond we found a huge mass of Frog spawn over a metre across. No newts but a little further round the bank we spotted another much smaller clump of Frog spawn. This was interesting in that much of it had no embryos. At first it we thought that might have been due to recent frosty nights but frosted spawn shows white dead embryos. A closer look revealed the true culprits – several leeches were delving through the jelly to reach the living embryos. This is something neither of us had come across before. A pond with a high population of leeches could have a major effect on spawn survival as can be seen from the pictures they can crawl across the surface presumably they have attacked the underside of the spawn mass as well and can probably reach all through even the largest clumps. Has anyone else witnessed this?  A quick trawl through Google and Google images came up with nothing.

On the way to our next pond we found the only frog of the evening hopping around on the road. This pond is surrounded on three sides by dense Willow bushes but the few yards of accessible bank gave us two Smooth Newts, a female and an unsexed individual. Its ‘sister’ pond is even more heavily willowed and we were unable to torch any part of it.
Our final pond is a field pond and again only about half of it has accessible banks. Here we found our first Toad shortly followed by over 30 more!
Next week we hope to survey some ponds on the southern section of the North Blackpool Pond Trail.

The FARG covers the whole of the Fylde and Over Wyre and if you have access to ponds you would like surveyed or already have amphibian records for please let us know.

The official FARG website should be available soon and you will be able to upload your Fylde records very easily there.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A look at Lawson's Road Wetland

Not too many years ago the BEAT Naturewatch group secured the funding to transform a redundant badly drained former sports field into a fantastic wetland area full of potential.
Two FARG members undertook a two hour torch survey of four of the ponds last night that wasn't quite as productive as hoped.
A single Frog was found in the first pond which was notably lifeless.However we could hear frogs calling in theother ponds without actually seeing them. We knew they had been there due to the huge amounts of spawn in each. One clump had suffered a little frost damage showing white rather than black eggs in the spawn sitting above water level.
The last pond looked at had a healthy population of Smooth Newts with 12+ counted and one female wrangled - gently - just to check that it definitely wasn't a Palmate Newt, very unlikely but you never know. The speckly chin gives the game away as a Smooth Newt.
This small Toad was the only one seen.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Smooth or Palmate Newt?

Two very similar species but how do you tell them apart. The males in the breeding season are easy but what about females or out of season males?
Note the spotted and speckled chin on this Smooth Newt, a Palmate Newt's chin would be spotless, this is the most obvious difference. Male Smooth Newts have a much more developed wavy crest on their backs in the breeding season and no tail filament, they have a rounder body than Palmate Newts, which appear square in cross-section

Frog fest

The Fylde's frogs are having a fenzy of mating activity at the moment. Have you seen any spawn in your local ponds?

Pleaase let us know if you have. Before our own website goes live you can record your findings on the SLARG page

South Lancashire Amphibian & Reptile Group

Friday, 11 March 2011

Be on the look out for toads this coming week

Above - Common Toad by Raf Lopato of South Shore, Blackpool.

Now that the days are lengthening and the sun is warming the water keep an eye out for toads moving to their breeding ponds.
Fylde Amphibian & Reptile Group would like to know how many of you have toads breeding in your garden ponds, or any other ponds you know of.
They are seriously under-recorded in our area even though, or probably because, they are quite common.

So how can you tell if they are frogs or toads?
Toads have a dry, warty skin – although it may be wet if they have been in the pond or out in the rain but it is never smooth.
Toads walk rather than hop, they can only manage short hops and they can’t jump long distances like frogs
Toad spawn is laid in long strings containing paired strands of eggs quite unlike the big more or less spherical blobs of frog spawn. We have recorded the Fylde’s first frog spawn of the year today – have you beaten us and already got some in your pond – if so please tell us.
If you have seen a problem area where large numbers of toads are being killed or injured crossing a road to get to their breeding pond please let us know.
To get in touch email us at fyldearg @ (without the spaces) – we welcome any records of frogs, toads, newts, lizards, snakes, slow worms from the Fylde area of Lancashire. You can also send us your Fylde amphibian and/or reptile pictures either for identification or for use on this blog or our official website (with your permission of course) which will be online shortly.
When our new website is available you will be able to directly upload your records very easily.
To join the group and get actively involved in our amphibian and reptile survey work our subscription is only £6.00/year.


Friday, 4 March 2011

Female Great Crested Newt underside - 3rd March 2011

Note the irregular splodges, the yellow stripe along the bottom of the tail and 'nail varnish' and general large size, almost twice as big as Smooth and Palmate Newts.

Fylde Amphibian & Reptile Group is now official

This is the blog of the new Fylde Amphibian and Reptile Group.
we hope you will join us and help survey the Frogs, Toads Newts, Snakes (if there are any), Slow worms and Lizards of the Fylde area.
We extend to Preston in the east and Glasson Dock in the north.
Any records can be emailed to us and we can accept photographs for ID if you're not sure.
A logo will appear in due course.

But for now got your torches out and let us know where you are seeing the Fyldes Frogs and Toads - they're horribly under-recorded.