29th March 2010
As spring looks like it has finally sprung, locals and visitors to the National Park are being asked to keep an eye open for some other creatures that often have a spring in their step at this time of year.
The Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Action Plan is keen to hear from both local people and visitors to the Cairngorms National Park about sightings of frogs, toads and newts. Alternatively, people can find out much more on the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme at www.narrs.org.uk NARRS is a national wildlife-monitoring project to measure trends in the conservation status of all UK species of frog, toad, newt, lizard and snake.
Cairngorms LBAP officer Stephen Corcoran said: “By providing information on amphibian numbers, where they live and what threats there are, we can build up a picture that will help ensure that these great creatures remain in the Cairngorms for future generations to see.
“Throughout the world, one third of amphibians are in decline which makes it very important that we have as much information as possible. We would like to hear from anyone who has spotted amphibians from the common frog which can be distinguished from toads by their smooth, moist skin, to palmate newt, Scotland’s smallest newt.”
The common toad can be distinguished by its rough, warty skin and their colour varies from grey to yellow to green or brown. Toads crawl or hop rather than jump, breeding from March to May where they prefer deeper water than frogs and their spawn is laid in long strings (frogs lay their spawn in clumps). Frog and toad eggs hatch into tadpoles before transforming into miniature adults.
People exploring the Cairngorms can also be on the lookout for newts. The palmate newt is the commonest newt in the Cairngorms and has a pale yellow/orange belly with very few spots and its throat is pink or pale with no spots. The smooth newt on the other hand is rarely sighted in the Cairngorms and it is slightly bigger than the palmate. It has an olive to yellowish brown body and tail and its belly is orange with black spots. It also has a whitish throat with black dots.
The very rare great crested newt is only known at one site in the Cairngorms to date. It has a dark brown or black upper body and tail with white spots on the lower flank and a skin that has fine warts.
In the breeding season the male great crested newt develops an impressive jagged crest along its body and tail, as well as a white tail stripe. Its belly is bright orange with irregular black blotches. Great crested newts and their homes are protected under law, and a license is required to handle, survey and disturb these animals.
Stephen Corcoran said: “Newts can be found mostly in vegetated ponds surrounded by rough grass, scrub and woodland from March to June and if you use a torch, you are most likely to see them around the edge of ponds at night.
“As we move into spring, wildlife sightings are likely to increase and we would encourage everyone to enjoy looking out for frogs, toads and newts – some of which are very rare indeed. These amphibians are an essential part of the ecology and biodiversity of the Cairngorms and their appearance provides a great talking point.”
To speak to someone about Cairngorms amphibians or to request a leaflet and chart for reporting sightings contact Stephen Corcoran on 01479 873535 or email Stephen Corcoran or log on to the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme at www.narrs.org.uk
Alternatively find out more about amphibians and other biodiversity by taking part in the Big BioBuzz Day which takes place in Grantown-on-Spey, Kingussie and Ballater on 22 May 2010.