RAUK - Archived Forum - LV reintroduction site available

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LV reintroduction site available:

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ben rigsby
Senior Member
Joined: 27 Apr 2010
No. of posts: 337

View other posts by ben rigsby
Posted: 10 May 2010
hello members,
im not really sure where my first point of call should be with this (local ARG? Herp Trust?) so im posting this message here hoping someone from an interested body will see it and want to/be able to help.

i know of a Gloucestershire site (ST867021 approx) where lacerta vivipara formerly occurred in some number and where now there are none.
the venue is an old churchyard (where no-one has been buried for decades at least) on a north facing slope in Brimscombe, near Stroud.

obviously its still a boneyard so change of land use did not cause the extinction.

so what was it?

it was me.

during the 1970s as a young boy, i taught myself how to catch lizards by hand, removing them to my parents garden. where, the habitat being unfavourable, they quickly disappeared. causing me to go and catch more.i was fixated. i showed another lad how to do it and within a few summers of relentless human bi-predation the animals dwindled away.

my only defence is the somewhat Bill Oddie-esque excuse that as a small boy i didnt know any better.

obviously though, ive regretted my actions ever since and would like to undo my damage.

if any relevant, legally-condoned groups with the necessary means (such as Glos ARG) are interested in a common lizard reintroduction/translocation-type project at this site please get in touch.

it would be great to see lizards basking all over the stones once again. they were easily observed here from metres away spreadeagled halfway up a monument or peeking out from ivy. indeed, the churchyard provided my first ever sighting of lacerta vivipara.

i would be keen to help myself by practical means such as contacting the vicar for permission (ive never met the current one but since these are "Gods" own creatures id be surprised by a blank refusal), site restoration etc (NB some tree work would probably be necessary to return light though i havent visited the place for a long time to say for sure.)

no mourners come here - the graves are too old.
if old land management practices have continued, the grass is cut once a year.

its a pretty undisturbed place and being a churchyard, the threat of future development seems low compared to that of many green/brownfield sites.

a safe place for lizards.

providing no meddling little boys come along...

over to you,

cheers, ben
Senior Member
Joined: 06 Apr 2005
No. of posts: 860

View other posts by Suzi
Posted: 11 May 2010
Did you really manage to eradicate them all? Could not more have moved in afterwards from nearby? You say about trees having grown up affecting light. Maybe conditions changed and that was a factor as well. 
Joined: 20 Apr 2008
No. of posts: 39

View other posts by Vanderklam
Posted: 11 May 2010

Hi Ben,

Suzi has a point you know. If habitat management has been sparse in recent times, then it is likely that basking sites may well have since been shaded out by the trees, and other similar effects may have brough about unfavourable conditions for the lizards.

Kevin Palmer
Lecturer in Animal Management/Course Manager
Reaseheath College
ben rigsby
Senior Member
Joined: 27 Apr 2010
No. of posts: 337

View other posts by ben rigsby
Posted: 11 May 2010
yes it was definately i, and not gradual reafforestation that wiped them out. over consecutive summers. sometimes multiple visits/lizards on the same day and i was adept at catching them by hand without tail-loss. which i prided myself on.
i could describe and compare then/now shading wise but it would probably bore you and theres little point if i cantprogress with my idea.
however i could inspect the site and report back (perhaps with photos) if theres an interest in doing something.
NB there is a single wildlife corridor to the east but no lizards there ive looked.
Paul Ford
Senior Member
Joined: 06 Sep 2006
No. of posts: 124

View other posts by Paul Ford
Posted: 12 May 2010

Hi Ben,

What about your parents garden - are there any there now?


ben rigsby
Senior Member
Joined: 27 Apr 2010
No. of posts: 337

View other posts by ben rigsby
Posted: 12 May 2010
hi paul, sad to report that although for a few years post-pillage, some animals persisted at my folks place in very small numbers (20 at most), no colony was founded there. much to my disappointment at the time - i wanted "armchair" viewing!
specimens were released all over my parents ample garden. most were never seen again but some took up residence in a large pile of old cotswold stones in the middle of the garden where they briefly bred. these are the ones i refer to. down the years they too eventually disappeared.
at mums, the sunlight-gathering properties of the west-facing bank are inadequate owing to hills, the house etc and there are large trees to the south. so lighting was only good in the latter part of the day and obviously the morning is an important time for LV basking. this, id imagine was the main cause of my failre as otherwise, the habitat was reasonably good.

bit of further info for suze-

although to the east of the churchyard site (the sole wildife corridor) there are trees in the adjacent field, by mid-morning in spring, the centre of the site (the main part of the graveyard formerly used by lizards)still receives good sun. in fact, from some angles its protected from future natural shading owing to long standing buildings including the church itself and an old school -the latter is at a lower elevation from the valley floor(owing to the steep banking) and so doesnt block all-important mr sun.
few trees inside the boundary (then or now)- this is a graveyard remember. so scrub isnt allowed to take hold.
contrasting sharply with many natural sites where LV populations die out/spring up elsewhere over time according to arboreal intrusion/removal.
those trees that ARE there could be pruned advantageously.
also, from some angles there is walling rather than say, hedges so future treesome light-blocking is further ruled out.
although the site is pretty small, population densities were high in the heyday and in late summer there was roughly a family per grave and you could see them basking on most stones at the centre of the site and on the boundary wall to the south very easily. there were odd ones elsewhere and none in the non-viable, shady part on the opposite side of the church.
i wouldnt like to say how many specimens were totalled in an average year. but a guesstimate? 200-300 animals.

im sure, with a little trimming Brimscombe churchyard could still be, and remain for the forseeable future (which is a lot better prospect than many CURRENT sites), a viable and good location for LV.
and as ive said, future land-use change seems unlikely. again, this is to the species (and ours as herpers) advantage.

basking sites, hibernacula, topography and grassy insect-abounding habitat are all still intact. and any lighting problems could be addressed.

only the animals are missing.

ive never encountered a snake here- perhaps one reason for the lizards former abundance.
slow-worms naturellement!

yours, ben

- LV reintroduction site available

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