RAUK - Archived Forum - common but "invisible" uk rana habitat

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common but "invisible" uk rana habitat:

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


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Posted: 27 Apr 2010
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.
Diversity.
Iowarth
Admin Group
Joined: 12 Apr 2004
No. of posts: 222


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Posted: 27 Apr 2010
Hi Ben

My only comment is that like many other people I had given little thought to the countless amphibians which must end up going down drain holes. Your account of what you saw in the sewers was truly fascinating.

Apart from that - welcome to the forum. I hope you continue to contribute and also benefit from other contributions.

All the best
Chris

Chris Davis, Site Administrator
Co-ordinator, Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme
ben rigsby
Senior Member
Joined: 27 Apr 2010
No. of posts: 337


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Posted: 27 Apr 2010
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.
Diversity.
dave fixx
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Joined: 13 Mar 2007
No. of posts: 319


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Posted: 28 Apr 2010
Hi Ben,
Again welcome to the forum,I was on a newt survey last year,it was a cold night and we were at one of the best locations in the UK for crested newts.Due to the weather we found very few that night in the ponds but when we returned to the industrial estate where we parked we found just as many in the drains there.Luckily all were alive and we were able to fish them out.Surprised you didnt see any alligators

Dave 
Dave Williams
davewilliamsphotography.co.uk
ben rigsby
Senior Member
Joined: 27 Apr 2010
No. of posts: 337


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Posted: 29 Apr 2010
hi dave,
thanks for your interesting "add on". glad you had a good night and that the animals were healthy and alive, alive-o.
as the song goes "the night time is the right time to be with the one you love".
in our case, sexy triturus cristatus
i go out torching every night. its a shame that at the time of day when theyre most active and move out into open water (or plants at the surface in the case of egg laying females), crested newts are hardest to observe then.
im sure you know this.
they hate having the light shone on them even more than helveticus/vulgaris and quickly make off dont they?
even doing this could be classed as "disturbance" i suppose since you are directly affecting their behaviour and causing them to bolt. i hope this isnt the case! other animals are allowed to do it.
what types of illumination have you tried/do you use?
ive tried various hand held torches and found that either the beam was great for my viewing (they hated it) OR just about tolerable for them (i couldnt see a thing).
ive thought about trying an infra red torch lens. or maybe buying a "night sight". though they are expensive. have you any expeience of these/can you recommend anything? assuming its legal.
have fun, ben

Diversity.
dave fixx
Senior Member
Joined: 13 Mar 2007
No. of posts: 319


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Posted: 29 Apr 2010
Hi Ben,
I am fortunate enough to volunteer for our local wildlife group whos priorites have newts very near the top.To be honest I am not too sure of the power of the torches but they are the ones that are strong enough to steer in aeroplanes on their way to Liverpool airport!.
   My guess is that you are more up on this sort of thing than myself.
  As part of my training I have used and set bottle traps as well but the surveys we do are mainly to observe numbers and not so much behaviour.As you say they dislike this and swim off very quickly but we dont linger on them longer than we need to.I have tried a normal torch briefly for observation but with little success.
     I was very pleased to discover a colony of crested newts literally 2 days after being accredited to a licence and that was a real buzz ,we got new records for grass snakes an hour later as well.

Dave Williams
davewilliamsphotography.co.uk
ben rigsby
Senior Member
Joined: 27 Apr 2010
No. of posts: 337


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Posted: 30 Apr 2010
hi dave,
bottle trapping sounds fun and is important work.
like you, i only scan with the torch to see whats there. my best observations are diurnal and require much patience. sit close to an open pond space and wait.

theres a training tip if you want one.

i felt a buzz too when i first got a GCN "licence"
(though a credit card sized, laminated, photo ID would have been preferable- you cant show off an A4 photocopy)
amazing you found animals so soon after gaining it. well done!
its always great to see grass snakes!
yours, ben
Diversity.

- common but "invisible" uk rana habitat

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