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A welcome sign of life

It’s that time of year again when Britain’s native amphibians are beginning to make an appearance in our cities, towns, gardens and countryside as the days begin to lengthen. Once the nightly temperatures warm above freezing, frogs, toads and newts begin to leave their hibernaculum’s and migrate to their local spawning sites.

The emerging amphibians and signs of their spawn is, for many people, a welcome sign of life and warmer times to come after the long and cold winter days. This year in particular, the importance of nature and wild spaces is at the forefront of our minds and perhaps, so should be how to lend nature a helping hand in return. This year there are a range of ways to make a difference to amphibians in your local area, whether it be in your own garden, town or county.

Frog and spawn : Getty images

You can help by reporting any sightings of amphibians to the record pool and spawn to freshwater habitats. Whether you find amphibians or spawn in your garden or when on a walk in your local area, reporting your sightings is an important component of monitoring amphibian populations across the UK.

As the weather warms and the amphibians begin to emerge from brumation, it is vital for them to find regular sources of food and areas to shelter if the temperature drops. Providing a range of vegetation to attract insects and wild areas of unmown grass can provide ample feeding opportunities and shady, damp spaces to rest safely.

Look out for toad road signs! These signs will be out in areas where roads cut through habitat where there are known annual amphibian migrations, which forces the amphibians to cross roads to spawn. Many amphibians are killed by cars before they have chance to spawn and produce the next generation of amphibians. Taking extra care when driving through these areas will reduce the chance of injuring the migrating amphibians and allow time to observe and appreciate the event!

PondNet Spawn Survey 2021

Report Your Sightings

Wildlife Garden – Froglife

Loss of a Leader

Professor Phil Bishop @AmphibianPhil

Over the weekend we were incredibly sad to hear the news that Professor Phil Bishop had passed away. Professor Bishop, or @AmphibianPhil as he was known online, was an iconic global leader in amphibian conservation. His successes and accolades were numerous and have been reflected through the outpouring of respect and heartfelt sadness at his sudden passing. Although we worked on different continents, his dedication and passion for the field was well known to us all and his leadership through dark times for amphibians was often a source of light.

I was lucky enough to meet the great man whilst attending the Amphibian Conservation Research Symposium (ACRS) in 2019. He was a larger than life personality who lit up the event with his charismatic talks and humorous promotion of his University town Dunedin which hosted the World Congress of Herpetology in 2020. He was warm and kind in his manner and had time for everyone, from students to veterans in the field, everyone was an equal in his eyes.

All the staff and volunteers here at Manchester Museum’s Vivarium have Phil’s family and friends in our thoughts and send heart felt condolences to them all. We are sure though that his contributions to amphibian conservation will continue to inspire future generations of frog loving scientists. A legacy he certainly would be proud of, and a future which is all the brighter for amphibians thanks to him.

Professor Phil Bishop @AmphibianPhil

Ecologist Article

A great article in The Ecologist recently by Carlos Zorrilla highlighting that the fate of Ecuador’s last remaining cloud forests and hundreds of livelihoods rest on the outcome of a Rights of Nature case concerning a couple of frog species, including the rediscovered Atelopus longirostris. Both have been enlisted to stop a large-scale copper mining project that has so far been promoted by eight different Ecuadorian governments.

Read it here: If the frogs should win

Biodiversity Crisis just as important as Climate Crisis

Rediscovery Of Atelopus longirostris

Visit frogblog’s NEWS LINKS page which relates not just to frogs but to potential environmental, cultural, and social injustices, some of which are not being shared in mainstream media. 

Winter Wildlife

This year has been tough and tragic for so many, but one positive has been the chance to reconnect with our wildlife and green spaces. Besides boosting positive emotions, connecting with nature also offers physical and mental health benefits, directly reducing stress levels.

Perhaps we should think about it as an overarching beneficial loop – the greater connection we have with nature, the more we are likely to care for it, and in turn through that connection nature will help care for us. Now more than ever it’s vital to reconnect with nature for our physical, mental, and emotional health.

In winter, like much of the wildlife, it’s very easy to slip into cosy hibernation mode, but at this time of year life can be particularly hard for wildlife that’s not hibernating, or that should be. Days are short and for many creatures finding enough food to survive takes up almost every moment of daylight.

There are many things you can do to support wildlife at this time of year. Have a look at these five top tips to make your garden a haven for wildlife throughout winter. And here are some more ideas from the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

​Alternatively, why not foster a little creature yourself this winter? Many wildlife centres are crying out for people to help foster some of there injured or rehabilitating little animals, such as the great initiative set up by Preston Hedgehog Rescue. Mark and Kirsty, and their small army of volunteers at this rescue are unbelievable in their 100% dedication to saving wildlife – they deserve a medal for the countless hours of work they put in each day and the number of animals they are helping rehabilitate. It really is a wonderful wildlife rescue initiative and one I would highly recommend.

Donations, and fundraising events are great ways to support nature charities that are actively supporting wildlife through the winter, so give them a thought and help to preserve our embattled wildlife this winter.

CLICK ABOVE TO DONATE

DONATE BY PAYPAL TO SUPPORT WILDLIFE THIS WINTER: rehabilitators@prestonhedgehogsrescue.co.uk

 

Coronavirus spreads to Wildlife

6 months ago it was highlighted that COVID-19 was passed to captive mink in Denmark by humans and then passed back to them after it had mutated. The new strain has the potential to spread rapidly, as did the initial COVID-19 virus, and be undetected due to its similarity with the current strain. The new strain may render human vaccines useless.

Let us hope that it is well contained and that other captive animals, especially mammals at greater risk in captivity around the world, including ferrets, do not spread COVID-19 or allow it to mutate even further. If coronavirus spreads to wildlife through ferrets or mink escapees then it could mean devastation for many our native species, including other related mustelids such all as our wild weasels, stoats, badgers, and otters. 

CORONAVIRUS IN WILD MINK

THANK YOU DEFRA –  was it right to re-open zoos?

David Attenborough on the reason for new pandemics 

New Butterfly Atlas for 2021

A new way to explore Cornwall’s butterflies: your chance to get involved

In 2021, Cornwall Butterfly Conservation will publish a new atlas on the state and status of the county’s butterflies. Lavishly illustrated, Butterflies of Cornwall: Atlas for the Twenty-first Century will be the go-to book on butterfly population trends and distribution from Bude to Land’s End, and will include a chapter on the Isles of Scilly. 

Following the runaway success of the 2003 A Cornwall Butterfly Atlas, now out of print, the new Butterflies of Cornwall brings together the latest information with stunning images. You can find out more about the new atlas here.

The Cornwall branch of Butterfly Conservation invite you to be a Major Donor for Butterflies of Cornwall. Alternatively, for a larger donation, you can choose to be a Premium Sponsor:

 Download information about how to be a Major Donor or a Premium Sponsor

Ensure your contribution is properly recorded and acknowledged

 

Back on our map

Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) © Andrew Cooper
Duke Of Burgundy butterfly © Andrew Cooper

Last week I spent the day helping out the Back On Our Map (BOOM) team, by planting cowslips at Gait Barrows nature reserve in Silverdale in order to re-establish habitat for the endangered Duke of Burgundy butterfly. Found only in England, the Duke of Burgundy has declined in numbers significantly since the 1970’s, now remaining in only a few strongholds in South Cumbria and the North York Moors.

Gait Barrows is an area where there has previously been a healthy population, however the numbers have declined here too due to disturbance to the limestone pavements which has caused changes to the vegetation in the area and climate change causing extreme weather conditions during the flight period.

Freshly planted cowslip © Bethany Dean

Cowslips are one of only two species of plant that the Duke of Burgundy will use to  lay their eggs on, hiding them on the underside of the leaves, which the caterpillars eat away at once they have emerged. The reserve management, BOOM staff and volunteers have been growing cowslips over the summer ready to plant in the autumn months.

The Duke of Burgundy butterfly is very particular about the location of the cowslips, preferring bunches of plants that are in tucked away in sunny areas usually backed by a rocky feature or tussocks of grass, which provides an amount of shelter from harsh weather and grazing animals. The cowslips planted will hopefully restore the loss of cowslips caused presumably during the limestone destruction.

Limestone pavements of Gait Barrows © Bethany Dean

Gait Barrows is a beautiful reserve, which is extremely diverse in habitats and the species it hosts. The reserve has expansive limestone pavements, which is home to an array of plants which inhibit the grikes and thrive in the micro-climates they provide. Ancient but miniature trees grow from the grikes, stunted in growth by the lack of nutrients in the rocky terrain, making this afascinating landscape.

In May the area will be monitored by the BOOM team for flying adult butterflies and the cowslips will be monitored in June and July for evidence of damage caused by the caterpillars, which make small round holes in the underside of the leaves. Damage by Duke of Burgundy caterpillars can be distinguished easily from other animals as they never damage the leaf veins. Fingers crossed there will be news of the presence of butterflies and caterpillars in the coming Spring and Summer!

SOUTH CUMBRIA SPECIES RESTORATION

BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION ORG

GAIT BARROWS NATURE RESERVE

SUPPORT THE CORNWALL BUTTERFLY ATLAS

OUR PLANET

TODAY’S YOUNG PEOPLE WILL BE THE STEWARDS OF OUR PLANET

The future of all life depends on young people gaining the knowledge, skills and passion for nature necessary to build a more sustainable future. Whether you are a young person, an educator, a youth worker or a parent, these resources and opportunities are your portal to a deeper understanding of our planet, and the role of young people in shaping its future:

 

OUR PLANET TOOLKIT  – DOWNLOADS

Toolkit for Biodiversity action

Learning with Lucy

WWF

Saving our Planet

Life on our Planet

From aquarium to vivarium… a little about me

I’m Bethany and I am pleased to introduce myself as the new curatorial assistant here at the Manchester Museum Vivarium. Last year I completed my bachelor’s degree in animal welfare and behaviour at the University of Central Lancashire during which I carried out my dissertation on the activity and visibility of different species of poison dart frogs before and after introducing environmental enrichment to their habitats. During this project I watched my frog subjects for over 400 hours and subsequently learnt the individual personalities of each, so if I didn’t love frogs before, I certainly do now!

During my degree I volunteered at a number of small zoos and aquariums in the North West before becoming an aquarist at the Lakes aquarium in Cumbria where I stayed for over three years, gaining experience in caring for fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. For the last two years I have also helped out my local native amphibians as a toad patroller in the Lancashire and Cumbria areas.

My love for wildlife started young, largely through my parents who always enjoyed nature and wildlife and encouraged my own interest. Over the years I was lucky enough not only to have a variety of animals in the home but also to see many species on family holidays.

Namely, one experience that stayed with me was a trip to Costa Rica in 2005 where I was able to see first-hand the life that thrived in the rainforests, some of which species I am now able to work with at the vivarium.

Ten later years, during my own travels when backpacking in Mexico, Central America, the Philippines and South East Asia I was not only able to experience the native wildlife but also the destruction caused to many habitats and witnessed the threats facing many species which inspired me to want to make a difference.

I am excited to start my journey at the museum, to care for a host of amazing species and share my passion for animal care, wildlife and conservation and hope to share many more frog blog posts in the future!