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ben rigsby
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Posted: 26 Nov 2010 Topic: WEATHER FORECAST- freezing frog



hi gang!

as a humble postie, i keep my eye on several other garden ponds as i go about my daily duties/chores.

earlier this year after the last bitter cold snap, all of them had multiple dead frogs. most pond owners did nothing about the ice at all and lost loads. however one switched-on chap occasionally broke a hole in one corner of his pool. in an effort to release the lethal trapped gas of course.

as a result i noticed that his pond suffered less losses than the others. only one or two stiffs.

I however, suffered NO fatalities in my pond.

obviously you could take the stance of just letting nature take its course and not intervene. its all part of natural selection if some frogs get caught out and die.
the survivors face less competition for food/mates next year and will probably do well.

however, if like me you love these beauties;



.....and you cant bear the thought of any suffering such a nasty fate then heres my advice for the oncoming freeze-ups;

as GENTLY AS POSSIBLE break the ice ALL OVER (or as much as you can reach SAFELY) your pond EVERY day during the freeze. i usually did it before work with a spade. sometimes more than once in a day when the ice was very thick.

as i said, all the other ponds had multiple dead R.temps (one also had newt cadavers) but i didnt lose ANYTHING.

it worked for me.

benben rigsby40508.760625


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Nov 2010 Topic: best RAUK photos 2010



how about a thread for best pic on RAUK this year? it seems unlikely we'll get further contenders now. loads of good ones - thanks everybody for taking time to share em!

my vote goes to kevinb's "STILL IN BED" (under COMMON LIZARD)
that shook my tree alright. its just as startling every time i return to it. like a great song.

sorry i dont know how to post a link to it!

what do you all think stood out? and tell us what you like about your chosen pic. be good to hear some proper Photographers views too.


benben rigsby40509.6544907407


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Nov 2010 Topic: SAND LIZARDS FOR EAST ANGLIA



hi keith

looks good from what ive read. unlike you, i havent been around LA or CA. i only know the "common" herps.

its disappointing you havent had much response on this - so far. given your obvious passion for the species and their survival.

good luck in provoking some interest and getting something done tho!

benben rigsby40509.6855787037


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Nov 2010 Topic: best RAUK photos 2010



suz, youre always good for a comment.

herps need to hibernate, RAUK doesnt. thats the way i look at it.

more posts people please!
lets learn and be entertained!
benben rigsby40509.7174537037


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 28 Nov 2010 Topic: WEATHER FORECAST- freezing frog



hi suz, id imagine (Devon being Devon) that it was a slightly damper, warmer winter where you are? maybe my advice is more applicable further north. your frogs may have been under less stress from the cold than those up here?
frog deaths in garden ponds usually become apparent from what ive seen.
just thinking aloud!

benben rigsby40510.6687731482


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 29 Nov 2010 Topic: WEATHER FORECAST- freezing frog



im adopting the same approach to the ice this winter and im sure the other pond owners will be doing what they normally do. ie nothing. the guy who broke ice last time had a new hole in his pond today i noticed.
i visit them all every day so itll be interesting to see if the pattern is the same this time.

ben


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 02 Dec 2010 Topic: SAND LIZARDS FOR EAST ANGLIA



[QUOTE=Richard2] Is it that those records from the 30s and earlier are considered too unreliable? It would be interesting to know why.[/QUOTE]

yes it would. where theres smoke theres fire. any natural history writer or recorder worth their salt will want to be accurate. in any age. even anecdotal evidence is worth checking out if its possible. eg ive spoken with ageing farmers who remember adders on their land in their youth where now they are long gone.

Peter Staffords "Lizards of the british isles" is a great little book. so is "the adder" by him.
both were priced at only 2.50 in 1997! it felt like i was buying the moon on a stick for a few coppers at the time    

benben rigsby40514.7190046296


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 04 Dec 2010 Topic: probably an unnecessary post



well no-one had a go at it. BOK! BOK! BOK! - youre all chicken! or perhaps just not interested. fair enough.

but JUST IN CASE anyone secretly thought about it, here are the answers to my plasic lizard ID quiz (re REPORTING topic; "Nov lizard sightings and QUIZ!");
i promised the answers and its wrong to make idle promises. im no politician.

Blue Spiny Lizard (sceloporus serrifer)
Leaf-Toed Gecko (phyllodactylus xanti)
Zebra-Tailed Lizard (callisaurus draconoides)
Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard (phrynosoma mcalli)

hurry on spring!
ben


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 05 Dec 2010 Topic: probably an unnecessary post



. well if youre quick enough to actually catch one and are unsure of the species, turn it over and itll have distinctive and convenient ID diagnostic markings (in relief) on its belly. "BLUE SPINY LIZARD" or similar.


ben


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 05 Dec 2010 Topic: commerce before wildlife again



hi,


"while the world was being forked by fascist regimes, they talked of windmills and psychedelic dreams"
Crass, 1979.

to put leisure boating and profits before our rapidly-diminishing natural world is both vanity and folly dont you think? habitat both here and elsewhere in the world is being lost or fragmented at an unprecedented rate and millions of people are starving or dying of disease. yet here in good old Blighty, money is being thrown at some rose-tinted vision of "the good old days". a misty-eyed view of a long-gone era of narrowboats and ornate rosary artwork.

as canals go, the Thames and Severn was unsuccessful. it kept leaking and rapidly declined commercially with the advent of the GWR- which runs alongside it for much of its length. the waterway opened in 1789 but was mostly abandoned by the turn of the last century. in many places it is infilled, even built upon. or simply reeded up/overgrown.
however, there are many stretches still in water. one 3 mile rural section ive walked countless times. both by day and after dark returning from the pub - with my torch in hand and sometimes the worse for wear!
ive had some memorable wildlife encounters but ive very rarely met another human being at night. unsurprisingly!

in addition to all the expected species for this type of habitat, ive spotted declining or less-common fauna and flora like GLOW-WORM, DAUBENTONS BAT, WATER VOLE, ADDER, TOOTHWORT and ORANGE (not INDIAN/HIMALAYAN) BALSAM.   

its a GREAT place to see grass snakes!

the Thames and Severn Canal was built across the Cotswolds to link the Severn river with other waterways at Lechlade and mainly supplied wool and coal. it spans 30 miles and from what ive read, it currently falls into the twin categories of "brownfield site" and "wildlife corridor". IE it is a long-disused industrial-usage site and a vegetated lateral feature providing much cover. it passes through countryside and village/town alike.

as it stands, i thoroughly recommend it as a peaceful walk taking in a diversity of species and habitats.

not for long though.

the Cotswold Canals Trust is spending millions of pounds restoring it. for humans that is, not wildlife.

instead of reopening it for vanity and commerce, it would be great to see the canal managed sympathetically for the existing wonderful species it has. removing ALL vegetation, clearing banks and using it as a road for nostalgia fans on a picnic is surely a major disturbance to existing populations. it doesnt seem beneficial to wildlife to me. as i said elsewhere though im no expert so id welcome any views/info from those in the know.

i HOPE im wrong.


as ive mentioned, the current state of the Thames and Severn varies from still-in-water to built upon and healed-up with no scarring.

a similar restoration project is being undertaken further south of here - for the Wilts ands Berks Canal. a waterway in similar disrepair.

the Canal Trusts plans will go ahead with or without my approval of course. i can only hope that in the long run theyre doing whats right in disturbing established habitat. perhaps im underestimating mother natures powers of recovery. ill say this though, if similar proposals for brownfield, wildlife corridors/habitats occur in your area; take an interest and speak up.

heres a few Thames and Severn Canal pics to aid illustration of my points and hopefully further your interest. if any!

examples of stretches in water. the CCT wants to make these wider;







sometimes the canal is infilled either side of a lock providing a pond. it was in places such as this i found my first amphibians. Cerney Wick;



you can see the railway embankment and the canal are metres away here. side by side they provide a great spot (among many) to encounter basking or swimming grass snakes. Thrupp, stroud;



the towpath is easily negotiable for 90% of the length but heres some examples of infilled/RTW (returned to woodland) or RU (reeded up) sections of canal;









here we see the T and S pass by Daneway Banks/Siccaridge Wood SSSI. rare grasses, adder, wood ant etc found here. not to mention tasty St Georges Mushrooms aplenty in spring!



nearby, is the 2 mile long Sapperton Tunnel. 2nd longest canal tunnel in the country. longest tunnel of ANY kind at time of construction. there is no towpath inside. to negotiate it, boat owners laid upon their backs on the barge and used their feet to move along the wall. this was known as "legging". imagine doing that for 2 miles in the dark! the Sapperton Tunnel is blocked by rockfalls in many places and now finds gainful employment as a bat roost. will they remain when the canal reopens?? the tunnel will surely require lighting.



as ive said previously the canal trust has major, expensive engineering obstacles to overcome in order to achieve its aims. among many the A38 dual carriageway and this, the M5 motorway. which the Cotswold Canals Trust intends burrowing under. like some kind of corporate water vole;



this used to be Brimscombe Port. a large water basin where unloading/weighing of goods and boat-repairs took place;



this pic highlights the canals prowess as a linear highway with much-needed cover for species such as natrix when compared to the surrounding, vegetation-free farm landscape. the waterways connecting POWER;



stand on the road bridge at Ashton Keynes Water Park facing the mini-roundabout and look LEFT for existing canal that the CCT dont like;



or cast your eyes RIGHT for restoration work in progress;



ben



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ben rigsby
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Posted: 08 Dec 2010 Topic: What do you want for Christmas?



theres a rumour going round that Santas having problems with some of his reindeer getting aggressive; so hes going to have them gelded before he starts his delivery.
thatll keep Rudolphs nose red.

keith does have a point sue. it IS a bit early. i understand though, im not big on patience either!
youre the emoticon Queen!

ben


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Apr 2010 Topic: Big Pond Thaw Survey



hi, ive just joined the forum. i have a small pond in central gloucester which ive watched daily for the last 7 years. it is home to 80-100 assorted newts and this year 100+ rana came to breed. despite the freeze. in my daily duties as a postman i "keep watch" on other ponds in gardens in STROUD (9 miles away). one of my customers broke a small football-sized hole in his 4x7ft(mine is roughly half this) pool once a day during the snap. i think he works for a conservation group and i remember him saying he didnt think it would do much good. he was right.
post-ice he had about 10 dead frogs floating.

another chap was away during the bad weather and so didnt do anything about the ice. i didnt see his pond during the aftermath but he told me he also lost frogs AND many adult newts.
I gently broke the ice ALL OVER my own pond with a spade daily (sometimes more often when temps were really low) and didnt lose any amphibians.
of course i cant be sure my intervention was the reason for this but on the other hand, i had more rana returning to breed this year than since i dug the hole 7 years ago.
a further note.....
despite the huge numbers of adults i had, surprisingly few rana bred successfully and once hatched there was a sudden, huge die-off of tadpoles that polluted the water. could all the cold weather have affected rana reproduction in subtle ways?? ive never had a larval holocaust before. who knows?
those taddies that survived and remain are constantly under threat from the caudata of course.


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Apr 2010 Topic: Big Pond Thaw Survey



forgot to add, most of the other "frog" ponds on my round had dead rana too. they were all "unattended to" ones. most are small and often moulded or concrete. the first three i mentioned earlier (inc mine) are all fish-free and butyl if that helps. im not sure how much info you want as i cant get on the reporting page at present. hope ive been of interest though!


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Apr 2010 Topic: december/january reptile sightings



sorry for late reply but have mercy on a brand new member.
no reptiles spotted in dec or jan but i can report that i had crested newts gaining their regalia and starting to "lek" in late NOVEMBER last year. in my garden pond. GLOUCESTER.
a gardener on my postal round said he came across a "ball" of ANGUIS FRAGILIS (15 or so, assorted sizes- i quizzed him) in a cavity while rebuilding a drystone wall in STROUD during JANUARY.
Does that count?


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Apr 2010 Topic: Crestie vs Smoothy



ive seen a male GCN methodically sniff out (where many helvs + vulgs failed to notice) and eat, a dead earthworm buried at the pond floor.
compared to vulgaris and helveticus, cristatus is a floor-dweller. it doesnt linger in the upper reaches like them and when it surfaces it dives back down immediately. slightly more leisurely at night.
since thats primarily where it IS and so must feed, i wouldnt mind betting it has a better sense of smell than the other species. perhaps explaining the above.

also seen a gravid fem helv (poss vulg- hard to id from plan view at distance) take a couple of mouthfuls of very decomposed adult rana.
both observations this year


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Apr 2010 Topic: GCN in garden ponds.



hi garry, GCNs in garden ponds isnt as uncommon as you might think. at least in my area. i visit a lot of properties as a postman and know of several sites. pools need not be as big as some people think. maybe its a case of needs/must though.
ive got a pond too and i know my newts so its not a case of mistaken id.
as the slow onslaught of natural habitat loss continues and politicians/courts fail the animals, lets be glad theyre thriving SOMEWHERE while we fight back on their behalf.
gardens are often great for amphibians.
some postmen survey them daily.


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Apr 2010 Topic: Red Frogs



nice pix of our heroes.
i had a red frog this year too. a female.
also spotted a male smooth newt with its tail crest buckled and flattened a bit halfway down. seen him a couple of times.
in his otherwise perfect breeding finery he looked like Beau Brummel with his cravat on wrong.
swam about without any difficulty though.


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Apr 2010 Topic: common but "invisible" uk rana habitat



a couple of years ago i got a job working all over the country in sewers. my task was to go down manholes and inspect/install/remove equipment that guaged water velocity and flow.
it was pretty grim work. however bad you can imagine it,you wont be far wrong. so ill spare describing it to you.

but it had surprises!

firstly, when you lift a lid you never know what architecture will be down there. NO 2 MANHOLES ARE THE SAME. it could be just below your feet a foot down, a chamber where multiple pipes meet that you can stand upright in, a 20ft or more shaft dropping to a tunnel you have to crawl along, torrents of rushing bathwater (thankfully this is 70% of it), a tiny trickle, a still pool, caked on faeces or bone dry and clean as a whistle.
almost anything.

sorry, i didnt spare you the details after all did i?

secondly, i was astonished to discover on perhaps a weekly basis, live, seemingly-healthy but with little hope of escape, rana specimens.
in the few months i worked for the firm i, and other teams saw often saw them and sometimes if i could i would catch them and return them to the surface in my zip-up pocket.

they hopped away at my intrusion just the same as frogs above ground and there were no obvious signs of disease.

i assume either they were washed down road drains or went there of their own volition seeking refuge, unaware of the entrapment.
they found themselves in a right pickle.

or did they?

from the frogs point of view, subterranean life is a mixed bag. on the one hand its almost blissful. other than the odd rat, there are no predators (natural or domestic) to threaten their existence.
its multiple enemies above ground.

food isnt a problem. there are bugs, beetles, spiders, slugs, earthworms- all the usual suspects down there. loads of em.

but they cannot BREED stuck underground.

or could they.....
some of the manholes went down to storm drains. these are linked with sewers in places and contain good quality, rather than foul, water.
i know this because i saw freshwater shimps there. an indicator organism noted for its love of clean, well-oxygenated water. it no like pollution at all.
if adult RT can make there way here, maybe breeding ISNT unthinkable.
if you consider that i only worked for the company for a few months and saw but a fraction of the millions of UK manholes then you can see that extrapolated across the country, there must be thousands of animals down there..

i didnt see them myself but other workers also found colonies of newts now and then. one was in wales but no idea where.

hope you enjoyed this underground report.

well i cant call it a "field" report can i?

love to hear your comments/queries

ben

PS before anyone gets any ideas, you need a ENTRY INTO CONFINED SPACES ticket to go down manholes and, i assume, council permission.


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Apr 2010 Topic: common but "invisible" uk rana habitat



thanks chris. this is a great site.
the reason youve never heard of me before is that, believe it or not, ive only just aquired a computer!
but my stone age has finally passed and i fully intend to post more in future.
my primary interest is caudata and ive observed newts daily/nightly for the last 7 years and been into herps since childhood.
just like everyone else here no doubt.


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ben rigsby
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Posted: 27 Apr 2010 Topic: 3-headed frog



does anyone have any newscuttings/photos/tv video footage etc of the three-headed frog that was caught, filmed and re-released in bristol a few years ago? i looked in the news archive here but didnt notice a likely title.
id love to see it again.
wonder what the tadpole was like?


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