20 December 2012

Hoppy Christmas from Froglife

2012 has been a really challenging, exciting and busy year for Froglife, particularly with our new Dragon Finder projects developingin London and Scotland.

All of the team are really grateful to all the volunteers, people involved in projects, donors, supporters, suppliers and everyone who has helped keep the organisation going. 

Thank you for your support and interest in the UK’s amphibians and reptiles and everything you have done to protect and conserve these wonderful animals.

We wish you a lovely, peaceful Christmas and magical start to the New Year.  Here’s to 2013 and digging more ponds, building hibernacula, surveying, creating wildlife art, introducing young people to amphibians and reptiles, saving toads from roads and generally working together to do our bit in whatever form that takes. 

Croaks will be back in the New Year to keep you updated with Froglife and nature news.  Don’t forget there are lots of ways to get involved and support us onour website here.

Have a hoppy Christmas
and a wonderful newt year!

From all the Froglife team

19 December 2012

What YOU Can Do for Wildlife: Part 12

In the final instalment of our 12 part feature covering some of the diverse actions you can take to help amphibians, reptiles and other wildlife, we look to the future....

Idea Number 12. Your Newt Year’s Resolution

What can you do to help wildilfe this winter, and for the rest of the year?
We hope you will be inspired to keep helping wildlife, as the difficulties species and habitats face are not going to disappear overnight and we need to keep fighting. We have aimed to show that there are lots of different things you can do to help, and that whatever your interests, skills or abilities there is something you can contribute. You can also have fun, meet new people and develop a new career or hobby at the same time.

It’s not too late to try something from our list of suggestions. Why not add one of more of them to your New Year’s resolutions for 2013?

Here’s a reminder, with links to each of the previous Croaks:

Idea Number 1. Dig a Pond and Enjoy the Beasties

Idea Number 2. Get Involved with a Nature Reserve

Idea Number 3. Online Action

Idea Number 4. Get Out and About Spotting Wildlife and Idea Number 5. Become a Citizen Scientist

Idea Number 6. Spread the Love

Idea Number 7. Fundraising

Idea Number 8. Your Garden as a Jigsaw Puzzle Piece

Idea Number 9. Watch How You Shop

Idea Number 10. Conservation Careers

Idea Number 11. Join the Giving Team

Ideas Number 12. Make Helping Wildlife your Newt Year’s Resolution, every year!

Don't forget, there is lots more information and ideas on the Froglife website here.
Please let us know how you get on with the different things you to help wildlife – we also have a feature in our newsletter where we share ideas from our supporters, so keep us posted with your suggestions and ideas.

Thank you for your support so far in 2012, and here’s to a great 2013.

14 December 2012

Last Minute Christmas Shopping!

This weekend is your last chance to order from the Froglife shop in time for Christmas.  Our last orders to be delivered before the big day need to be with us by midnight on Sunday 16th December. If you are looking for something unusual or an ethical gift, why not have a peekhere?

Here are some ideas

99p Toads onRoads Button Badge – show your support for the hard working Toad Patrollers, and help Froglife’s valuable work coordinating this amazing project which rescues over 60,000 toads a year. Get your's here

£3 Frog greetings cards pack – designed by illustrator Hannah Thomson, this pack contains 6 greetings cards suitable for valentines, birthdays and other occasions.  Perfect for the frog lover! - Limited stocks.

If you're a toad lover the £4 Toad greeting cards pack is the one for you!

£10 VirtualGift: Fight for Frogs – Support our important conservation and education work and we will send your gift recipient will receive a copy of Froglife's newsletter 'Natterchat', a frog factsheet and a certificate of thanks.
Help us help these wonderful animals

£15 Studentexplorer pack – perfect for the budding herpetologist.  Packed with useful publications and books as well as some frog greetings cards to write home. Get your pack here.
The Student explorer pack

You can also support Froglife as you shop with other online stores through the super Give as You Live scheme.  By registering with this scheme, stores that have opted in will donate a percentage of your total bill to your chosen charity at no extra cost to you.  It’s really clever, and a really easy way to support charity.  You can find out more and sign up here.

Happy shopping!
Photographs by Froglife and Darren Bealing

13 December 2012

Business Generosity Helps Support Wildlife

Earlier in the year, Froglife was lucky enough to be supported by Animal Friends Insurance through their Facebook competition – a big thank you to everyone who voted for us enabling us to benefit from a £2,500 donation. 

Funds raised through the Animal Friends facebook page have
 helped amphibians and reptiles, like this slow worm

The competition was part of the insurance company’s amazing campaign to donate £1 million pounds to animal charities worldwide.  Fantastically, they have already exceeded their goal and donated over £1 million to charities who work towards better welfare for all the animals that have suffered from cruelty, neglect and suffering - including small local cat and dog homes as well as organisations that help local wildlife and critically endangered animals worldwide.

 “I am absolutely thrilled to have reached our £1 million target.” said Elaine Fairfax, Founder and MD of Animal Friends.  “We have been able to help so many really worthy causes, it’s been hugely rewarding for all of us. We could not have been able to reach the one million pound target helping animals along the way if it was not for our policy holders. We won’t stop there though; we will continue to strive to support as many charities as possible. ”

The money donated is generated by the people that take out policies with Animal Friends Insurance. It means every time someone takes out a policy they are donating to charity and helping other animals in need.  Every month there is a Facebook competition where people can vote for their favourite charity to receive a donation.  It’s a great example of a business working to help charities, and using social media for fundraising.

So, thank you Animal Friends, policy holders and voters, and here’s to more generous businesses following suite!

To find out more please visit the Animal Friends website

Photograph by Ash Jarvis

10 December 2012

Dragon of the Month: Smooth Snake

Every month in the Chinese Year of the Dragon, Froglife has been looking at different reptile species found around the UK.  This month, Sivi Sivanesan considers whether the Smooth Snake is the fairest of them all...
“Not recorded in Britain until the 1850’s, this species has always been rare in the British Isles – being much more commonly spread throughout Europe both in more northern (Sweden and Norway) and western (Spain and Portugal) countries as well as though central Europe.
The Smooth Snake is habitat specific – recorded in lowland heaths and the immediately adjacent habitats.  Historically these habitats were more common in southern Britain; but activities such as development and intensification of agricultural practices resulted in losses to both the habitat and the species that relied on them.
Currently populations are highly restricted to Dorset and Hampshire, with a few sites in Surrey, and Berkshire. Reintroduction programmes run by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC-Trust), reintroduced smooth snakes to west Sussex and sites in Devon, Surrey and Hampshire where they had become extinct.

The rarest of our British Dragons is the Smooth Snake. Due to its rarity it is fully protected under UK and European law, protected against killing, injury, capture, disturb or selling this species or damaging or destroying its habitats.  To stand the best chance of seeing them, go out with a licensed expert and avoid unknowingly disturbing this brilliant species.   If you are lucky enough to live in counties that support them, look out for them in your travels – the fact file below will help you identify them.

Dragon Fact fileSmooth Snake

Coronella austriaca
A Smooth Snake basking in heathland
Its common name comes from the smooth feel of its scales which are un-keeled. Its scientific name Coronella comes from crown – due to the darker patterning on the crown of its head.

Adult length = 60cm.

Found only in lowland heath and immediate adjacent habitats in parts of southern Britain.

Classed as decreasing Globally, however listed as least concern globally due to its wide distribution at the European level.

Smooth snakes might get confused with Adders due to their patterning and location, here are a few handy comparisons to remember

Smooth snake

Pairs of irregular spots that often join together and become less distinct towards the end
Zig Zag pattern
Dark crown or heart shaped marking on crown of head
V shaped pattern on crown of head
Round pupils and distinctive eye strip on side of head
Vertical pupil (slit like)
Up to 55cm – adult length
Up to 55cm (male) up to 70cm – (female)
Restricted distribution to southern Britain
Wide spread distribution on mainland Britain
Extremely rare and localised and declining.
Rare and declining
Base colours under patters – steel-grey, ginger light brown or yellowish
Base colours vary from various shades of brown, grey, brick-red, purplish and black.
Smooth scales
Keeled scales 
Heart shaped mark on crown of head,round
 pupiles and paired markings
V shae on head, vertical slit-like pupil
zig zag markings
Smooth un-keeled scales
Keeled scales as seen on an adder
visable on this shed skin as a line across the
centre of each scale

Photos by Dr Silviu Petrovan, Matt Wilson and Laura Brady

3 December 2012

Marvellous Mosses and Stunning Stonewort

Froglife is excited to share that recent plant surveys on Hampton Nature Reserve, Peterborough, have revealed it is of even more importance for local flora than previously realised.

A former brick pit, the Reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due the huge population of great crested newts and the presence of a variety of advanced algae, called stoneworts, including the incredibly rare bearded stonewort.  Sarah Lambert, a local botanist, has recently identified an eleventh species of stonewort on the reserve, pushing the site up to top spot in the UK for stonewort diversity.

The amazing landscape at Hampton is home to a huge range of wildlife
The site was also surveyed by Mick Burton, Mark Hill and Jon Shanklin of the British Bryophyte Society.  These surveyors were looking for mosses, hornworts and liverworts across the site as part of a county-wide survey.  A total of 119 records were made, comprising 57 different taxa including some particularly interesting sightings:
  • Endive Pellia Pellia endiviifolia
  • Coral Moss Riccardia chamedryfolia
  • Velvet Feather Moss Brachytheciastrum velutinum
  • Star Headed Liverwort Marchantia polymorpha subsp. polymorpha
  • Marsh Bryum Bryum pseudotriquetrum
  • Forked Veilwort Metzgeria furcata
  • Even Scalewort Radula complanata
As well as being interesting records from a botany angle, this new information highlights the value of this previously industrial site for wildlife diversity in Peterborough, and nationally.

Froglife runs regular volunteer sessions which include habitat management, surveys and training on Hampton Nature Reserve every Thursday and every other Saturday.  These sessions provide the opportunity to access this amazing site which is not open to the public.

To join the the Hampton Nature Reserve volunteers or find out more, please contact paul.furnborough@froglife.org or 01733 558844.

Froglife manages the site on behalf of O&H Hampton Ltd.

27 November 2012

Young People Go Wild At Art

Students taking part in Froglife’s Green Pathways project from Ken Stimpson Community School completed a wildlife themed mural at an underpass in Peterborough last week.

The wildlife art session on was the culmination of 10 afternoons the young people have spent on the project at Cuckoos Hollow.  This has involved investigating the animals and plants in the area, exploring the habitats, learning skills in spray art and planning the design of the mural. All of this has been supported by a local professional artist Stuart Payn from Blok Collective. 
Part of the colourful mural created by Froglife's Green Pathways project

“The session in which the teenagers shined the most was during the community consultation, where they asked members of the public what they thought of the idea of the mural,” explained Rebecca Neal, Froglife’s Conservation Youth Worker running the Green Pathways project.  “The students have gained so much from this project.  It is great to see how their confidence has improved over the weeks and how keen they are to show off what they know.”

The mural is inspired by things the young people saw themselves or discussed with local people. The “caterpillar” which takes centre stage was something the group found whilst looking at trees close to the underpass. It was eventually identified by the national expert as an alder sawfly larvae; an animal which until 50 years ago was thought extinct in the UK. Now the mural is complete, the students plan to create a page on the school website which will link to the mural through a QR barcode, which anyone with a smart phone passing by can scan.  This will give information about the animals and plants in the picture to help people learn more about the wildlife they see on the site.

The night-time scene with the alder sawfly larvae found at Cuckoos Hollow
This project couldn’t go ahead without the support from grants and donations Froglife have received from BBC Children in Need, Perkins, The Wakeham Trust and J Paul Getty Junior Charitable Trust. Generous members of the public have also donated smaller amounts of money and every bit helps.

The mural is at the south end of Cuckoos Hollow, Werrington, Peterborough. 

23 November 2012

What YOU Can Do for Wildlife: Part 11

We’re nearing the end of Froglife’s  top 12 ideas for amphibian and reptile friendly actions.  We have been pulling together a range of ideas that show whatever you do, wherever you come from and however much time or resources you have, there is something you can do today to make a difference. 

Doing something wildlife-friendly will enrich your life, make you feel good about being part of a positive action, and potentially change your career or circle of friends. 

Idea Number 11.  Join the Giving Team
Donations help fund our work out and about in the community
Giving a regular or one off donation to the work of an organisation like Froglife can go a long way, as many projects require match funding – this means that big, grant giving bodies will fund projects, but often not 100% of what is needed.  Every £1 that comes in from individuals can help Froglife access £10 from a landfill community fund or another source, meaning that every donations grows.
“Wildlife conservation charities and projects have big ideas to help protect the animals and habitats we care about into the future,” explains Kathy Wormald, Froglife’s CEO.  “This includes managing areas for wildlife, creating new habitats, undertaking research and monitoring, campaigning for change, supporting and training volunteers, and introducing new generations to our natural heritage.” 
Not only can your donation help directly with positive solutions to the threats wildlife face, giving also feels good and you join a team of kind, supportive people with a passion for nature. 

“Our supporters are amazing people,” adds Melanie Hamlett, Froglife’s Finance Officer.  “People can be so generous in finding a way to help amphibians and reptiles, and it’s wonderful that they care.  I think sometimes people remember their own early experiences with frogspawn and tadpoles, and want to help make sure that future generations have the same opportunities to learn about these amazing animals. ”
There are a wide range of ways you can donate to Froglife:

·         You can donate online or via post here

·         You can text NEWT13 followed by a donation of up to £10 to 70070

·         Join the team and become a Froglife Friend

·         Set up an online piggy bank with Ploink

Thank you to all our supporters and donors for helping protect frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards, ponds and woodlands into the future.

20 November 2012

Wildlife and Roads: Froglife’s Latest Newsletter

Froglife is very excited to announce that our biannual newsletter Natterchat has had a makeover, with the new Autumn/Winter edition now available.  We’ve all been busy working away on exciting new content and design and printed copies have been winging their way to Froglife Friends.  An online version is available here.

The theme of this edition of Natterchat is Wildlife and Roads.  The extended publication features an article on road ecology by Froglife’s Conservation Coordinator Dr Silviu Petrovan, as well as summaries of some related research and policy by Paul Furnborough and Rob Williams.  There is also an interview with author Hugh Warwick, Froglifer James McAdie filling us in on an educational project in Peterborough, and trustee Professor Roger Downie sharing stories from Trinidad and Tobago.  Check inside for a couple of book giveaways too!

the new edition of Natterchat, with cover photo by Dave Kilbey
One new feature is our What I’m Up To page – where we are find out more about what volunteers, supporters and general amphibian and reptile enthusiasts are doing to help.  This time, we meet the lovely Annemarie, whose beautiful garden in Scotland is a haven for frogs.  If you would like to share your actions to inspire others in the newsletter, or you have a suggestion of someone who’s doing something wonderful for wildlife, do let us know. Please get in touch with Sam.Taylor@froglife.org 

We really hope you enjoy Natterchat and find something there to make you think, try something new, or learn more about the amazing amphibians and reptiles Froglife works to conserve.

19 November 2012

BBC Calls out For Wildlife Gardeners

Is your garden teeming with wildlife? 

Have you actively encouraged birds, bees, bats and bugs to call your back-yard their home? Have you and your neighbours got together to create a hedgehog highway?  Have you bought the local garden centre out of bird boxes? Or welcomed in reptiles with corrugated iron sheets? Could you share the secrets of how you made your family garden a sanctuary for Britain’s favourite wildlife? 

If you are as passionate about supporting all creatures great and small as we are, then the makers of a new programme for the BBC wants to hear from you!  Froglife is helping Outline Productions spread the word about a new landmark series they are making for BBC ONE about the perilous state of Britain’s wildlife and what we can all do to help.
Whether you have a small city garden, a big country one, a farm or a high-rise balcony - there is so much that can be done to support the wildlife all around us.  Our gardens are Britain’s most vital nature reserve and we want to find inspirational stories of families who have turned their small patch into wildlife friendly spaces.

The idea is to find amazing wildilfe gardeners, so that the public can follow their lead and make their gardens wildlife friendly too. 

So if you’ve put in a pond, built a rockery, assembled a log pile or done anything whatsoever to discover the amazing wildlife living on your doorstep, your story could help inspire other British families to do the same.

15 November 2012

Call for Titles for Wildlife Disease Symposium

croak all about it! logo
Froglife has been asked to spread the word about the 2013 International Symposium on Ranaviruses.  This scientific event focusing on diseases affecting amphibians, reptiles and fish across the world is being held concurrently with the International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA) in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA (27 July – 2 August 2013.

The symposium presentation committee invites researchers, veterinarians and students to submit suggested titles for presentation topics.  They are asking for submissions from those working on all aspects of ranavirus biology including (but not limited to):
  • Epidemiology and Conservation
  • Virology and Immunology
  • Physiology and Pathology
  • Genetics and Ecology
  • Diagnostics, Treatment and Management
The committee’s goal will be to create a well-balanced program of contemporary topics on ranaviruses with a global representation of presenters with different training and expertise.  Titles should be submitted to RanavirusSymposium2013@gmail.com by the 30th of November 2012.  There also will be a poster presentation and social on the evening of 27th of July, and optional field trips on the 29th and 31st July.

12 November 2012

Hop on Froglife’s Scottish New Years Raffle!

Froglife Scotland is promoting a raffle draw to celebrate the New Year, with tickets available in our new and improved online shop.  Get involved and you could win one of our many exciting prizes and start your New Year with a splash! 

You can buy tickets in the Froglife shop here, or tickets can be purchased at Froglife Scotland events at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum on Saturday 17th November and at the Winter Festival on Sunday 2nd December held at Eastwood Park, Giffnock.

We will be drawing prizes on 7th January 2013, all proceeds raised will support Froglife’s work, such as the Living Water Project which is running in Glasgow and North Lanarkshire, creating new habitats for reptiles and amphibians. 

“We’ve been lucky to receive some great prizes from our local sponsors in Scotland for this year’s raffle draw,” says James Stead based with Froglife Scotland.  “So why not give yourself a chance of a treat this New Years and support our amphibians and reptiles at the same time?”
We hope you support our event and good luck in the draw!

Winners notified shortly after the draw on the 7th of January.  Please direct any queries to James Stead (james.stead@froglife.org / 01413 390737).

Thanks to all the supporters of the raffle including AMF Bowling, Starbucks Coffee Company,  the M&D Group, Delta Force Paintball, Chris Packham and David Foster Management. 

9 November 2012

Froglife Launches New Online Shop

Just in time for your Christmas shopping, we are delighted to announce the launch of a brand new Froglife online shop! 

With books, greetings cards, explorer packs for families and students, sponsorship gifts and other ideas, there are lots of potential pressies for the wildlife-lover in your life.  We also have a new range of Christmas cards featuring colourful and quirky designs.

Not only will be you be treating someone to a unique and unusual gift or card every time you shop with us, your gifts will also give something back to wildlife.  Every penny we make through your shopping comes back to the charity to support our conservation and education work.  These really are gifts that keep giving, spreading that Christmas cheer from family and friends to amphibians and reptiles.

You can find the brand new Froglife shop here

Our Christmas card range this year includes a Hoppy Christmas Card by artist Ruby Tingle, and two newt-inspired designs from our Great Crafted Newt competition including some lovely knitted creations by Sara Collins.  The cards are available in the shop here – they are available as individual cards and in a pack of 6.

Ruby's Christmas Card is available in the new shop here
Sara's knitted newts are available here
  • If you’re shopping elsewhere online you can still support frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards by using Give as You Live.  This clever scheme enables big stores such as Amazon, John Lewis, Argos and Cath Kidson to make donations to charities at no cost to you.  You can get started and find out more here.

Thank you for supporting wildlife this Christmas, and happy shopping!

7 November 2012

Announcing the Great Crafted Newt Winners!

To celebrate the Year of the Dragon, Froglife has been asking people to make their own ‘water dragons’ in our Great Crafted Newt competition.  As the nights draw in and the newt find their spot for the winter, its time to announce the winners!

“The competition has been a great way of reaching new audiences,’ says Laura Brady, one of the education team at Froglife.  “It’s been fantastic having cuddly newts arriving in the post and colourful pictures coming in via email. You can really see the time and hard work people have put into their creations, and they all have their own characters.  Thank you everyone that entered - I hope they enjoyed making the newts and leaning more about these fantastic creatures.”

We had some help with the judging from author Hugh Warwick, artist Brandon Ballangee, Pebble toys and Mint Publishing, and we are delighted to announce the winners.

Best Newt Accessory - Katherine Forster for her amazing multi functional newt hat, the little newt on top can sit either in the pond hat, or as a lovely brooch!

The Model Newt under 12’s – Ifan Jones, aged 5. Ifan made a fantastic plastercine newt, which he took for a walk and took some amazing photos! When his mum told him he won the competition she said, ‘ Ifan was delighted to hear he had won and it has inspired him to even more craftiness (we may need a new house soon to find room for it all) his latest creation is an A1 picture showing the adventures of newty and his side kick tadpole’ I think we have a great artist in the making here!

Cutest Newt under 12’s – Ifan Biddle also won in this category; as our youngest entry it’s great to see what passion he has for wildlife.

The Model Newt over 18’s – Lynette Plenderleith, who created "Bert Newt(on)" . He is made from modelling clay, and had a very exotic photo shoot all the way in Rocky Waterhole Creek in Brisbane, Australia!

Cuddly Newt under 12’s - Rosanna Russell, aged 11. Rosanna took some lovely photos of her newt in her garden and with a little help from her mum made this lovely newt from fabric, sequins, buttons, stuffing and beads.

Cuddly Newt over 18’s – Anne Johnson. Anne made her beautiful newt by using two balls of wool together to give a close weave, and she embroidered the eyes and mouth on. Anne often knits for charity, and judges Pebble were so impressed, they are looking into possibly creating a replica for their range of ethical toys.

Cutest Newt over 18’s - Anne McKinnie. Her wonderful knitted newt is now being much enjoyed by her 18 month old daughter, which is great to hear!

Most interesting Photo – Dr Sara Collins for ‘Camouflage Newt’. Mint publishing chose this photo of Norman the newt as their favourite photo. After taking Norman on a road trip to their offices they are now looking into possibly using him in a photo for their card range!

A big thank you to everyone who took part, the judges and the orgnisations who supported the competition for helping us to raise the profile of these declining amphibians.  There are three species of native newts in the UK, with Great Crested Newts protected due to particularly bad declines.

Prizes include goodies thanks to Cath Kidston, books by Hugh Warwick and our Patron Mike Dilger, and amphibian related gifts.  Sara’s newts Neville and Norman also feature on Froglife’s Christmas cards for 2012, with the potential to be made into cards by Mint Publishing.  Anne Johnson’s multicoloured newt is also be considered as a new toy in Pebble’s ethical range of crocheted creatures.