RAUK - Archived Forum - Grass snake habitat destroyed....

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Grass snake habitat destroyed....:

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Peter
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Posted: 10 Sep 2008

...in South Wales.

One of the sites at which I have been keeping an eye on the natrix population is being knocked repeatedly this year and I am extremely concerned for the rapidly dwindling population of natrix at the site. Not so long ago it was a thriving and sizeable population despite the fact that the animals live on the fringes of a busy park.

Early in the year, when the bankside weed of one of the parkĘs ponds was literally teeming with amphibian larvae of all of the widespread species, the park management decided to dredge the entire weed growth out to "Improve" it. The excuse of making a nesting platform for the swans was given. The swans have now left, but itĘs a good deal easier for the coarse fishermen to amble up to the side of the now featureless pond.

Just prior to that, in early to mid March, hibernacula were bulldozed whilst the females were likely to have still been inside. I had seen some Males (the first of the year) basking at the site for a few days which then disappeared, presumably moving off to the spring grounds. I went away for 6 days and came back to find it devastated by plant machinery, supposedly to prevent kids scramble bikes from having access, nothing to do with improved drainage for the proposed extension to the Golf course!

Yesterday morning I took a stroll along one of the bramble hedgerows which separates an allotment with plenty of heat generating compost piles, from the park. The Brambles were encroaching about a meter (slightly more in places, slightly less in others) onto an area of the park which is little used other than for people to pass through. There are three such hedges, one of which I would see up to 6 individual animals basking at the edge of during favourable conditions. This 60 meter stretch was the "Hot spot" for spotting the animals, particularly adult females.

I shall attempt to get some images up (probably with Gemma`s help) which depict a still intact hedgerow close by and what is left of the former foci or hotspot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GemmaJF39701.5592708333



Suzi
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Posted: 10 Sep 2008

Peter,

I guess many of us here could relate similar tales. It is very sad when you see this sort of thing but the authorities will always be able to justify their actions!

A park-mentality is often the culprit and in this case the place seems to already be on the edge of a park. There are a lot of rough and scruffy places in this country that are suitable for reptiles but if they are near or on the edge of towns then they must be tidied up.


Suz
GemmaJF
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Posted: 10 Sep 2008
They just don't get it do they. One glance at the original habitat and its value is obvious... well at least to some of us  What was the purpose of this 'management' it really looks as Suz has said that it is nothing more than tidying.
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Suzi
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Posted: 10 Sep 2008

I think if we wait long enough there will be a cry to preserve adders and grassies and then lo and behold some of the very places that we know (but are being destroyed) will become protected habitat. Mind you we won't recognise these places until told by the authorities.

There are places outside of nature reserves, heaths and commons that hold these species and that is how it should be. I do historical research and whilst reading old diaries I come across references to adders well away from today's recognised sites. Whilst forcing adders, in particular, into certain places by ruining/removing links to adjacent sites we are risking losing populations by isolation. I know one small site that has adders but if there was a heath-fire the site could not be repopulated. Another site that is very adder-suitable has none and none can get there, but could once years ago.    


Suz
Peter
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Posted: 11 Sep 2008
 

Firstly, thank you Gemma for sorting out the photographs for me.  It`s much appreciated.

Gemma and Suzi, it does indeed appear yet again that the work was done purely as a "clean up"  whim.  Impeccable timing again.

The Wildlife officer from the Bio Diversity unit responded as soon as I called her and came out to take the images above.  We then called at the visitor centre  (a mere 100 meters or so from the destroyed habitat) and discovered that the Park ranger was currently on holiday. It would seem that on this occasion the "work" was done by a gardener who appears to do such "clean ups" on a voluntary basis and seems to have a clear run to do as he pleases when and where he chooses. 

All of the work that has so far been carried out, (previously mentioned in the first post) and which has all been entirely detrimental to the amphibians and reptiles on site, including the hibernacula flattening in March, was carried out despite previous liaisons with the Bio Diversity unit at which the Parks department was advised not to carry out any further such work without consulting the Bio-Diversity unit further.

The receptionist at the visitor centre, (seated facing a huge display about the Park`s Bio-Diversity, I failed to notice reptiles mentioned anywhere surprisingly enough) was asked politely three times to ensure that she listed the request to the Park Ranger to contact the Bio-Diversity unit as URGENT  in an attempt to prevent any further work being carried out whilst the ranger was away, or indeed on his return.  Eventually I saw the word "Urgent" added and left.



I may be desperately looking for a positive here but there is some degree of hope.


The Wildlife officer of the Bio-Diversity unit mentioned previously has over the last few months developed an interest in as well as an awareness of the many problems that British herps face in addition to developing an understanding that the threats to reptiles & amphibians can often come from supposedly "wildlife friendly" organizations through sheer ignorance.  This interest may have come about due to my "in the face" tactics! The officer has also been on several site visits with me and now has a fairly broad idea and understanding of how to recognize likely habitat.  A genuine interest has developed to the point where the person concerned has now joined this forum.

A "Mini conference" is now in the process of being organized locally with the HCT`s guidance.  It is the intention for the various departments of the local authorities which carry out the type of work which destroys  suitable habitat for herps to attend the conference and gain an understanding of how to recognize such habitats.  Furthermore, to understand what time of year that certain activities must be curtailed, and that the bird nesting season is far from the only consideration.

We are aiming for the conference to be held in January.  Hopefully the information will still be fresh in the worker`s minds when the Spring comes.





Peter39702.6378587963



Suzi
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Posted: 11 Sep 2008

Good luck Peter!

I contacted our Biodiversity Office the other year with a few questions and basically got a lecture on what people could and could not do with protected species. I was disgusted at their attitude as I was only asking questions and had no intentions of doing anything at all. A very standard and stupid response. Made me determined that if I ever did find a smooth snake or sand lizard in East Devon (unlikely) they would be the very last people I'd tell.


Suz
Peter
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Posted: 11 Sep 2008
Thanks Suzi, and I understand where you are coming from!

In this instance however, I do feel that we may have recruited a "reptile aware" convert to go amidst the masses and assist us in enlightening the reptile ignorant.  Let`s hope so.
Peter39702.6228703704



tim hamlett
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Posted: 11 Sep 2008

what a mess!!!

sounds like you've done some great work though peter. well done dude.

tim


Suzi
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Posted: 11 Sep 2008

Yes Peter, I should have put a "well done" to you for the recruitment!


Suz
Peter
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Posted: 11 Sep 2008
Thanks for the kind words both, although I am only doing what any of you would do in the same situation, what we enjoy.  Devoting some time to recruiting another foot soldier to speak up for reptiles is worthwhile, plus I get to do what I enjoy doing most, walk some reptile habitat. 



Chaela
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Posted: 11 Sep 2008

Speaking from the 'new recruits' perspective.......

the recently detroyed habitat is where i spotted my first grass snake, so to see the destruction of this site made me pretty angry to say the least!  (should hav heard me on the phone when i was listening to the message pete had left........*******! *******! have done it again!)

I'm really greatful for Pete being in my face as he call's it and really hope that with his and other like minded people's help we can increase reptile awareness.  Hopefully the "mini conference" will help also.

I hate being a council bod but if i can help in stopping ignorance from destroying important reptile habitat then its worth it. Must admit i'm not very good at being diplomatic though when i'm pissed off!

cheers Pete for opening my eyes this is something i should have been doing anyhow!


Chaela


Peter
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Posted: 11 Sep 2008
Good to see you here Chaela. 

I for one am glad that you are a "council bod".  You are in a good position to spread the awareness that you speak of, which desperately needs doing.  The requirements of reptiles and amphibians are consistently overlooked as you now know.

It would be no small thing if we could lessen the amount of "clean ups" at sites by well intentioned volunteer groups wishing for things to do which can be so devastating for herps and other lesser known wildlife.  Such acts that are done in the name of "conservation" that tidy up these nasty piles of habitat to "improve" things for wildlife!




Chaela
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Posted: 11 Sep 2008
Something i intend to do with your help
Chaela


herpetologic2
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Posted: 15 Oct 2008

Hi Peter & Chaela

I am looking forward to the mini conference which is being organised - I think this would be through John Baker the Widespread species officer which was initited by our little chat/emails recently.

I think that I am planning on taking a workshop for this conference and we all hope that it will be great success.

Another area I would like to plan further events and activties is the South West - would you like to be involved Suzi?

 

regards

 

Jon

 


Vice Chair of ARG UK - self employed consultant -
visit ARG UK & Alresford Wildlife
Suzi
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Posted: 15 Oct 2008
Jon there is no ARG in this area (Devon) as apparently there is not the interest (according to the Biodiversity Office in Exeter). I am always jealous of you guys being in the places with the most species. I am happy to help where I can but I am no expert, just interested.
Suz
David Bird
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Posted: 15 Oct 2008
Suzi I thought there was a Devon Reptile and Amphibian Group organised by Philippa Burrell at Devon Wildlife Trust a while back, I am certain I had some newsletters sent. I had also been to a meeting with Jim Foster giving his Adder lectures at Exeter with a lot of people from the South West attending.
There was always an annual South West HGBI meeting organised by Mark Nicholson of the Cornwall group for quite a few years with several meetings in Dorset including one which I hosted at Poole Aquarium with Invasive Aquatic plants being the theme and remember one at Somerset Trust where some Edible Frogs were brought along from the Somerset Levels. It all went very quiet a few years back and am not sure if Mark Nicholson is still in Cornwall.
I am not sure what is happening in Dorset, the 3rd version of the ARG that was set up did send out a lot of emails at one time but we never had any interest in people attending BHS tasks in the area. There are still individuals carrying out their detailed survey work that they always have and hopefully always will.
British Herpetological Society Librarian and member of B.H.S Conservation Committee. Self employed Herpetological Consultant and Field Worker.
Suzi
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Posted: 15 Oct 2008

David,

I was told there was nothing doing in Devon apart from a bit of surveying for GCNs. I was invited to start a group! This was probably 2 years or so ago but I don't think things have changed.

Just shows how a bit of publicity helps. I never heard about Jim Foster's adder lectures.  I'm sure there is the interest in the county but probably no one wants to take on the task of organising a group! I am fairly involved in archaeology/local history as well as working so I just couldn't do it.

I am only looking at Devon, East Devon in particular, and so don't know much about the rest of the south-west.

What interests me greatly is the adders on the coastal area east of Sidmouth through to just east of Branscombe Mouth. This is a wonderful habitat of undercliff historically well-addered and still so. Plenty of attention is given to heathland for adders but this is an unmanaged area now National Trust. The supposed last smooth snake in Devon was killed here, as you know David as you helped me with the reference. Could they still hold out here? How lovely to have the clout to do proper surveying here. Most of the area is inaccessible to humans away from the tracks so what might be there?


Suz
Peter
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Posted: 15 Oct 2008
[QUOTE=herpetologic2]

Hi Peter & Chaela

I am looking forward to the mini conference which is being organised - I think this would be through John Baker the Widespread species officer which was initited by our little chat/emails recently.

I think that I am planning on taking a workshop for this conference and we all hope that it will be great success.

[/QUOTE]

 

Hi Jon,

Looking forward to meeting you.

All the best,

 

Peter





AGILIS
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Posted: 16 Oct 2008
hi peter sad pics the usual tidy up scanario but it will be good for the dog walkers keith
   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID
herpetologic2
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Posted: 16 Oct 2008

I would like to tackle that situation in Devon and I am going to get in contact with Mark Nicholson over some records I need to send in which I have collected from the county.

 

A mini conference in the South West would be a good idea and we may be looking at other options in boosting ARG activity in the region so watch this space

 

Jon


Vice Chair of ARG UK - self employed consultant -
visit ARG UK & Alresford Wildlife

- Grass snake habitat destroyed....

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