Volunteers on a new wildlife project are going to be putting North Pennines reptiles right on the map when they start helping to record the area’s lizards, adders and slow worms.
The North Pennines AONB Partnership’s three-year WildWatch project, supported with more than £300,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, attracted more than 120 people to launch events in Weardale in County Durham, Allendale in Northumberland and Melmerby in Cumbria recently, where audiences heard from some of the local wildlife experts helping with the project how they could get involved.
Project Co-ordinator Andy Lees said he was delighted with the interest shown in the new website created especially so that people could log their own wildlife sightings: “Even before the launch, more than 250 people had registered with WildWatch on the website and after only a month of the website going live, more than 500 new records for the North Pennines have been gathered.”
To make sure that reports of sightings are accurate and to increase the amount of good quality data, a series of free training courses will run in different parts of the AONB. Early courses include bat survey, an introduction to invertebrate identification and identifying woodland birds by sight and sound. All the course details and booking information are on the WildWatch website at www.northpennines.org.uk/WildWatch
Andy said that a priority for 2012 is to gather as much information as possible on reptiles: “Postcard survey forms are being distributed around the North Pennines to supplement records through the website, and we’re hoping that this big push will help us get a really good idea of the important places for lizards, adders and slow worms in and around the AONB. More information about the AONB’s reptiles, how to look for them and how to identify them, is on the website.”
Next steps for the project might include carrying out a ‘health check’ on the North Pennines’ adder populations by setting up annual counts for adders emerging from hibernation. As the project grows many more opportunities to get involved with wildlife and habitat survey work will be developed, from botanical survey of important Local Wildife Sites to regular butterfly or bat survey transects to occasional moth or small mammal trapping.
Andy said: “WildWatch will be shaped by its participants and by the partner organisations working with us on the project. The partners will help us decide our priorities for survey and the participants will decide what they want to learn, and what they want to get involved in.”
WildWatch North Pennines is open to anyone regardless of previous experience or knowledge. People can start recording wildlife straight away by registering with WildWatch on the website, where there is also useful information on wildlife identification, and all the latest training and survey information.
Once registered, participants will receive regular updates about events, new training courses, survey opportunities and more. For even more regular news snippets, including some of the more interesting wildlife sightings and wildlife news, people can follow WildWatch on Facebook (WildWatchNorthPennines) or Twitter (@NorthPennWild).
For more information on WildWatch, contact Project Co-ordinator Andy Lees or Events Officer Fiona Knox on 01388 528801, email email@example.com or fionaK@northpenninesaonb.org.uk.