Wildlife volunteers get to grips with amphibians

volunteers surveying amphibians at night
14 March 2014

Last weekend, our amphibian and reptile training course gave our volunteer Wildlife Champions in Scotland not only the opportunity to learn about the common characteristics, habitats and behaviour of those species found in Scotland, but also the chance to put their wellies on and take part in an amphibian survey after dark.

Our biodiversity project, Greener Greenways, is now well underway in Scotland and to date we have recruited over 50 volunteer Wildlife Champions across the country. 

It’s hard to put into words how great it made me feel. I am so glad I signed up for this project.

- Wildlife Champion
These volunteers have been assigned a mile-long stretch each of our traffic-free routes, and have been undertaking wildlife surveys on them. 91 surveys have been undertaken in Scotland since the start of January 2014!

Wildlife Champions have access to regular training. In Scotland, seven wildlife training sessions have been delivered so far either by our Greener Greenways Ecologist, Lenka, or in conjunction with partner organisations, Kinross Ecology, Peak Ecology and Amphibians & Reptiles Conservation Trust (ARCT). They provide the volunteers with the necessary skills to survey their greenways.

Guided by Pete Minting from ARCT and Lenka, the Scottish Wildlife Champions found over 40 great crested newts, as well as palmate newts and smooth newts, as they migrate from their winter hibernation sites to the ponds to breed.

Great crested newts are a European Protected Species and a GCN licence from Scottish Natural Heritage is needed to handle or otherwise disturb them – Pete and Lenka both hold this licence, so the volunteers were able to get unusually close.

Our Wildlife Champions are now excited about getting out with their torches, with 19 surveys expected to take place over a range of routes from Dumfries & Galloway to Midlothian, and the results submitted over our online recording system.

The survey results build a dataset for Sustrans which will be shared with relevant local biological records centres, the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Gateway and our external partners. January 2014 survey results fed into the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and in February 2014, volunteers collected just over 250 records of mosses and ferns through dedicated surveys.

Lenka will be using this growing dataset to inform the habitat management plans she is creating for our four main routes chosen for the project this year. These will lead to habitat management tasks, which our Wildlife Champions will carry out, in conjunction with our local volunteer Rangers. We also hope to hold events for the public to publicise what wildlife we are finding and how we plan to

Read more about becoming a Wildlife Champion for Sustrans, or checkout our current volunteer vacancies.

Or for further information about becoming a Wildlife Champion in Scotland, please contact Laura White (Volunteer Programme Coordinator) on [email protected] or call 0131 346 3016.