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Scale
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Joined: 05 Dec 2010
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Posted: 05 Dec 2010 Topic: Bracken and burning



Could someone explain to me why a controlled winter
heathland burn (excluding reptile foci)is a less
favourable option than a winter cut (assuming the plot
sizes are appropriate). I'm always reading 'avoid
heathland burns of reptile sites', however, the oft
quoted risks appear to be the same as cutting (does
burning have a more fundamentally negative affect on
regen/species composition etc?). Assuming direct reptile
mortality is avoidable and the extent and layout of the
burn controllable, what are the pros and cons of
cutting/burning.

Also at a Midlands heathland site i am finding good
autumn/spring congregations of grass snakes in dense
Bracken dominated areas (presumably hibernating in the
litter layer and concealed rabbit burrows). Why is there
such an emphasis on removing it from 'common' reptile
sites. Without locating such areas, i'm sure the
aforementioned Bracken stand would no longer exist (based
on recommended reptile site management in the absence of
a thorough site survey).

Thanks in advance for any comments and/or suggestions
Cheers
Rob (P.S. this is my first post)


Scale
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Joined: 05 Dec 2010
No. of posts: 83


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Posted: 05 Dec 2010 Topic: heathland management



Could someone explain to me why a controlled winter
heathland burn (excluding reptile foci)is a less
favourable option than a winter cut (assuming the plot
sizes are appropriate). I'm always reading 'avoid
heathland burns on reptile sites', however, the oft
quoted risks appear to be the same as cutting (does
burning have a more fundamentally negative affect on
regen/species composition etc?). Assuming direct reptile
mortality is avoidable and the extent and layout of the
burn controllable, what are the pros and cons of
cutting/burning.

Also at a Midlands heathland site i am finding good
autumn/spring congregations of grass snakes in dense
Bracken dominated areas (presumably hibernating in the
litter layer and concealed rabbit burrows). Why is there
such an emphasis on removing it from 'common' reptile
sites. Without locating such areas, i'm sure the
aforementioned Bracken stand would no longer exist (based
on recommended reptile site management in the absence of
a thorough site survey).

Thanks in advance for any comments and/or suggestions
Cheers
Rob (P.S. this is my first post)



Scale
Senior Member
Joined: 05 Dec 2010
No. of posts: 83


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Posted: 09 Dec 2010 Topic: The rough guide to reptile mitigation....



nScale40626.2982986111


Scale
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Joined: 05 Dec 2010
No. of posts: 83


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Posted: 06 Jan 2011 Topic: heathland management



Thank you all.

I swear i get more useful nuggets of information from this forum than any other source, its fantastic thanks.

I still find the existing literature on Bracken ambiguous though; on the one hand the importance of the Bracken/reptile correlation is well noted (even to the extent that it has influenced the evolution of camouflague in at least one species!), on the other hand it is highlighted as the exemplary herpland undesirable (especially in some of the older management literature). It may precisely be this type of advice that gets transposed into the prescriptive management pamphlets used by some land managers (lacking herpetological knowledge) who wish to cover the myriad of other species requirements (with good intentions). Unfortunately (in the midlands) we don't have the Smooth Snake or the Sand lizard to aid site protection or to help generate the funds necessary for pre-management and monitoring surveys. It just ain't on the agenda, unfortunately. I guess that is why all the serious herpers seem to live in Farnham! (come to think of it all the good naturalists seem to come from that area)   

Referring to what Gemma wrote, the Bracken stand i mentioned originally is longstanding, has a deep litter layer and would have been one of the first areas to be removed as a result. Gemma, i have read your stuff before and i have to say that you have incredible insight and frequently note things that i have never seen elsewhere. e.g. the increase in adder numbers at a communal hibernation site, due not to habitat improvement but habitat destruction and resultant influx (inspired thinking and somewhat relevant to the above, albeit in gorse format). More people should be writing books! 

Cheers everyone and have a Herpy New Year

Rob




Scale
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Joined: 05 Dec 2010
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Posted: 06 Jan 2011 Topic: Snakes, Coroline, onduline and I



I have come to the conclusion (not solely) that Onduline is the best material for surveying snake sites. Having said that it is bloomin' expensive compared to say tin.

I have found Coroline for a couple of quid less per sheet, but have never used it or read of it being used, although i'm sure a more dedicated herpetophile than I has. The manufacture's notes inform me that the fundamental difference is the thickness (2.6mm compared to 3mm Onduline). Presumably this would affect its heat retention properties but to what degree? Has anyone used it? Does anyone know where to get the cheapest Onduline/Coroline or is the information privileged (like the generosity of my local bottle bank)? Has anyone noted the minimum size sheet for attracting snakes or a wallet friendly compromise (assuming the bigger the sheet the better) 

Cheers

P.S. is anyone else itching to get out to the heath and mire. Happy new year on the 1st of January! I don't think so, i'll be saving me bunting and party poppers for March thank you very much!




Scale
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Posted: 07 Jan 2011 Topic: Snakes, Coroline, onduline and I



Thanks for that Gemma. Have you tried Coroline and if so how do you rate it?

Cheers




Scale
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Joined: 05 Dec 2010
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Posted: 11 Jan 2011 Topic: Snakes, Coroline, onduline and I



I have to say I don't generally encounter snakes under
roofers? felt, other than perhaps occasional
juveniles/immatures (although I?m probably doing
something wrong?).

I do like tin and I can get hold of the old stuff from me
local tinker much cheaper than Onduline. The problem is I
like checking refugia for slow-worm (and perhaps C.
Lizard) on slightly cooler, overcast days (when I can
survey all day and still get excellent results). In these
conditions tin seems to become too cold and doesn't cut
the mustard for me. Clearly I would not expect to find
many snakes in such conditions but I do like to make the
most of our all too brief herping calendar, so I require
a good all round material suitable for surveying all the
'common or widespread' species under a range of differing
weather conditions.

I like the idea of using fence off cuts, although I have
never used them myself, or board for that matter. I
frequently find reptiles under such dumped materials
though. I did once use the laminated wooden doors and
panels from my rebuffed kitchen units. The result was
slow-worm initially but then a high humidity built up
(due to the cool and non-porous laminate no doubt), the
grass turned to slush and the toads and GCNs moved in and
the slow-worms out. Either that or the ants decided to
build their labyrinthine cities beneath.

One of the best materials I used were off cuts from an
old half inch thick, fibre reinforced industrial rubber
belt drive that I found in a defunct aggregates quarry.
Fantastic stuff for reptiles and amphibians (it had
amazing heat retention and distribution qualities in that
the underside was never overly hot). The rubber residue
didn't half used to cake my hands and clothes though. I
must have smelt like the Michelin man?s underpants.

Having said all that I am much in favour of a mixture of
cheap and recycled materials. It is often better not to
over engineer a possible solution and focus, intuition,
confidence and high expectations in your own methods are
key to finding such cryptic animals, i think.

Cheers for your comments




Scale
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Joined: 05 Dec 2010
No. of posts: 83


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Posted: 11 Jan 2011 Topic: Snakes, Coroline, onduline and I



P.S.
Gemma, I noticed that my user name appears as 'Scale' and
not 'Scales' as intended. Is there a way of changing this?
Scale just sounds plain out creepy!


Scale
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Joined: 05 Dec 2010
No. of posts: 83


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Posted: 11 Jan 2011 Topic: Snakes, Coroline, onduline and I



I am encouraged by mark b's results.

I too think that felt is superb for attracting Common
Lizards and was surprised to read that people feel
otherwise. I had 6 adults under 50 x 50cm roofers' felt and
numerous similar scenarios throughout the summer period
(often in overcast conditions [under]). Plus they're always
roaming around on top of the felt in sunnier conditions.

Why no Slow-worm's mark, any theories? What's the habitat
like? Their absence must be unusual for a site supporting
the 3 other species, no?


Scale
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Posted: 11 Jan 2011 Topic: Snakes, Coroline, onduline and I



Hi Jon,
Speaking of Slow-worms, I often see reference to a 5-10%
detection rate of populations in survey reports. Is this
based on an ACO density of 10 per ha/ and a defined number
of visits? Most reports i have seen using this figure also
use an indeterminate number of ACO's (generally far
exceeding the often impractical recommended Froglife
density for small sites)and a wide variation in survey
effort. Has it just been shown that a 5-10% variation
covers the broadest range of survey standards? I am often
perplexed by its loose application.
Cheers   


Scale
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Posted: 11 Jan 2011 Topic: Snakes, Coroline, onduline and I



Jon,
Is that from a single peak count or are you using combined
biometrics and suggesting a similar high rate of non-
detection over time. Surely a well recorded site (such as
yours) would lean more towards a 10% detection rate, if not
much greater.

Also I'm not sure how GCN capture returns can inform Slow-
worm population densities, taking into account that the two
species are so distantly unrelated. I'm not saying it is
wrong by any means but can you explain?


Scale
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Posted: 12 Jan 2011 Topic: Snakes, Coroline, onduline and I



Gemma, I found a slow-worm under a discarded chopping
board once. I wonder what they?re trying to tell us!?

Mark, try getting your tin from your local scrap metal
yard. Use a more homespun, word of mouth, company such as
you might find in a Parish magazine, The Yellow pages
etc. Alternatively if you know, or have friends who know,
farmers make contact with them. Farmers often have
(roofing) materials knocking about and they frequently
wish to get rid of them. As I'm sure you know, tin with
an aged character seems to perform better anyhow, so you
end up paying much less and getting a better working
product.

Failing those try your local cookware store. Pots and
pans could well be the materials for 2011.

The methodology for carrying out surveys to accompany
planning applications or to seek similar permissions
should always include visual surveys. Whether these
searches are carried out or not, or indeed successful, is
another matter. It would depend, I think, on the
individual surveyor's experience, skill and commitment to
the project. It would certainly appear in the methodology
section of their report, or you would expect it to.
Rob


Scale
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Posted: 14 Jan 2011 Topic: Whatos That Caterpillar?



Vicar,
Have a look at the cover of AIDGAPS: A Key to the major
groups of british terrestrial invertebrates BY S.M.Tilling.

You don't get a more endorsed id than that!


Scale
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Posted: 14 Jan 2011 Topic: Ticks on GCNs



Last summer i found a tick on the neck of a young GCN,
sheltering under a reptile mat. He was clearly infected and
heavily dropsied all over, as if about to burst. I thought
the poison glands would deter such a critter, particularly
around the head and neck area.

Anyone else seen ticks on amphibians?

Cheers


Scale
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Joined: 05 Dec 2010
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Posted: 14 Jan 2011 Topic: Reptile survey & mitigation 2 seasons?



Example: an area of arable land has been identified as
potential replacement habitat for an adjacent relocation
program.The area is seeded/turfed with an (appropriate?)
mix of grass and herbs.

Does anyone have any comments about this approach or
examples of this having been successful? Is there a
minimum length of time required for suitable habitat
maturation (assuming unimproved/neutral grassland was the
aim)? At what stage have reptiles first been noted using
these habitats when encouraged to do so naturally and
what variations have people noted between reptile
species. Assuming that common and/or locally suitable
plant species are used has anyone noted a good species
composition, are there any typical herbs/grasses
particularly favourable to 'common' reptiles.

Example: Slow-worm, tussock forming grass species for
cover, high numbers of grass/herbs as suitable
food/nectar plants for common herbivorous gastropods,
Lepidoptera/Coleoptera larva etc

The reason I ask is that I have been thinking about
carrying out some experiments in a lawned area of my
garden, as peripherally it supports slow-worm. There
seems to be a lack of information on periods of required
habitat maturation suitable for in situ reptile
relocation (or does this exist somewhere?). I wonder do
animals survive this premature relocation or are certain
species more tolerant than others.

My experiment would begin and end with slow-worm and
based purely on its ability to occupy such a wide range
of common habitats I would hypothesise that this species
would adapt the most quickly and favourably. (I would
point out that I don't plan on relocating the animals
merely link controlled seeded/turfed plots to peripheral
habitat supporting Slow-worms. I wondered if this would
be a worthy endeavour or am I just repeating previous
experiments i.e. perhaps a German study!

Rob



Scale
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Posted: 16 Jan 2011 Topic: Ticks on GCNs



No I didn't but perhaps I should have done. Unless the
animal were maimed and in immediate agony I would tend to
just let nature run its course.

Just out of interest where would a vet stand on treating a
bacterially infected Great Crested Newt?

Rob


Scale
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Posted: 16 Jan 2011 Topic: GCN egg laying material



I would imagine that UV levels and temperatures would be
much lower at the base of a shaded pool. Possibly also
higher predation rates as a result of bottom dwelling
inverts, a weaker protective leaf barrier and a more
conspicuous contrast in egg colour/increased risk of
bacterial/fungal infection. In short I doubt it would be
the selected choice for GCN oviposition.

Having said all that I have found eggs on decaying
leaves. Newly fallen ones after heavy winds are commonly
used as are many other objects such as the fibrous roots
of Sallow scrub.

Try poking a few (say Crack Willow) twigs with leaves on
the end into the silt and check them at a later date.
This may save on the hard search!, depending on what the
survey is for.


Scale
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Posted: 01 Feb 2011 Topic: HERE?,,,,,,,,,,,, kitty kitty!!!



Whilst driving at night my brother rounded a corner to see
a large black cat crossing the road in front of his car.
This was in Shropshire about 7 years ago.

I've never known him to lie and if he was i reckon i could
tell. He never reported it, publicised it or banded it
about so what would be the point of making it up anyway.


Scale
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Posted: 01 Feb 2011 Topic: Ticks on GCNs



I wasn't thinking legally, there is provision enough for
the euthanasia and treatment of crippled GCNs. I was more
under the impression that many vets prefer not to treat a
wild reptile/amphibian (animal).



Scale
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Posted: 01 Feb 2011 Topic: Are leeches good for garden ponds?



I read somewhere that small black Leeches form the main
diet of aquatic phase Great Crested Newts. I can't remember
where i saw it, who published it or how old the study was
though. I would think flat worms would be easy pickings for
all amphibians.


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