On 16 May, 15 local people, including several very keen and knowledgeable children, attended a training course on identifying and surveying amphibians at Mudchute Farm. This was part of Froglife‘s “Dragon Finder” project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which aims to raise awareness and improve habitats for London’s native reptiles and amphibians.
The training course began with a fascinating illustrated talk by Victoria Ogilvy, Froglife’s Dragon Finder Project Manager. This showed what wonderful creatures amphibians are, and taught us how to identify Britain’s native species, which consist of three newts, two frogs and two toads. Once it was dark, participants ventured out to Mudchute’s wildlife ponds where, with strong spotlights, we learned how to search for amphibians at night (see photo above). We were rewarded with views of several Common Frogs and very large numbers of Smooth Newts.
Froglife have just made it easier for anyone with a smart phone to become a Dragon Finder, by launching the Dragon Finder App. The app is completely free to download and use. It can be used on iPhone and Android phones, and there will be a mobile web version too. The Apple version is out now (search for ‘Dragon Finder’ in the App Store) and the Android and mobile versions will be out in early June. The app can be used to identify species – this includes adults, tadpoles, eggs and frog/toad calls. There are lots of beautiful photos, illustrations and sound recordings to help people identify species, and there are questionnaires to work through for the trickier species. You can use the app to submit sightings on the spot: the app uses the phone’s GPS facility to find your location. You can upload a photo and fill in as much or as little information as you like. You can also submit sightings of dead or diseased amphibians and reptiles. The app also allows you to find out more about each species – there is a lots of information about the ecology, distribution, life cycle etc of each species. You can also play sound recordings and report a sighting directly from each of these pages.
The Dragon Finder project will return to Mudchute in the autumn, this time to improve the habitats for the site’s amphibians. The leaky pond and shallow scrapes on either side of the exisiting pond, which currently hold water only in wet weather, will be restored to become new permanent ponds. Marshy vegetation will link the ponds. This should allow the populations of frogs and newts on the site to get even larger.
To find out more about Dragon Finder in London, see Froglife’s website.