In her latest update ARC’s Education Officer for Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR), Janet Ullman fills us in on what the team have been up to come rain, snow or sunshine!

April for the Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR) project began in between snow showers and freezing temperatures on Saturday, 2nd April. I had been working with Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust’s (KLCT) Ranger, Heather Beaton, for some months on a big and exciting plan for a community wetland’s day at the Plock, Kyle of Lochalsh. I had secured the time of local community Artist, Robyn Sands and Skye Rivers Trust had committed to take part. The 2nd April was agreed as a perfect time to celebrate emerging amphibians and reptiles, the Plock being well known for frogs spawning in its pond.

It had snowed the day before, leaving us all apprehensive as to whether the event would happen at all. However, the Saturday dawned clear and bright, with snow capping the peaks of the surrounding hills and the Chuillin range on Skye. At 11am happy family groups were gathering around Robyn wanting to paint rocks for a giant toad mosaic set into the side of a newly excavated pond. Heather was soon organising troops of children into happy mud larks as they helped her build dams in the ditches as parents looked on thinking about their car upholstery. The Skye Rivers Trust had a wealth of electro fishing kit and large eels to show the fascinated public and I was happily pond dipping and playing games with enthusiastic pond dippers. Meanwhile photographer Emilio Perez Pittaluga was taking photos of the event for SSAAR and making a film for the KLCT website.

By 2pm the temperature had risen above freezing, enough for a few common lizards to make an appearance around the refreshment tent. We all took it as a sign of approval for our commitment whatever the weather!

The SSAAR project went from freezing to hot and sunny when we joined the Friends of Holmshills and Clyde ARG for a Community Pond Dip on the 9th April at Holmshills Community Woodland, South Lanarkshire. The afternoon was incredibly busy as more and more people joined the throng around the pond, we were glad of all the amazing Friends’ and ARC volunteer support on the day. It was a day full of tadpoles, caddis fly larvae, damselfly nymphs and the stars of the show the masses of smooth newts that could be seen in the depths of the pond.

Later the same day SSAAR had sponsored a nature photography workshop with Hannah Absalom, the workshop was oversubscribed and produced over 400 photos. From this event the Friends of Holmshills are launching their monthly photography workshop.

The last public event for SSAAR in April was with the Friends of Fernbrae Meadows LNR, South Lanarkshire on the 30th April. What should have promised sunshine and spring flowers delivered torrential rain for the whole day. Undeterred the volunteers from the Friends’ group, ARC volunteer Pete and I set up marquees and waited. With the help of face painter, Isabel Blackburn, on site, family groups braved the weather and soon children were sitting patiently for dragonflies on their nose or newts on their cheeks. The rain started to ease and we were soon able to go kick sampling in the burn, finding caddis fly and mayfly larvae. ARC volunteer Pete had an uncanny piece of luck when a frog jumped into his net.

As well as many public events and work behind the scenes to develop educational materials and programs for schools the SSAAR team have been busy forming partnerships and gathering support of amphibians and reptiles in Scotland.

My colleague Rachael Cooper-Bohannon, ARC’s Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR) Project Officer, recently launched our metabarcoding project (a method to identify species from their DNA in water samples). Using NatureMetrics kits we are hoping to be able to identify great crested newts and other amphibian species in ponds. The team involved visited five sites in Perth & Kinross, Angus and Inverness with collaborators from Highland Amphibian and Reptile ProjectTayside ARG, Friends of Angus Herpetofauna (FAH), Fife ARG (FARG) and NatureScot.  

It has been an amazing spring for SSAAR, with activities and events working with so many amazing people, some of which have missed a mention here but will be in the next edition of ARC’s member’s magazine, coming soon. We appreciate all the enthusiasm, help and fun of working with our partners. An extra thank you to Emilio Perez Pittaluga and Andy Wilson for use of their beautiful photographs. We look forward to seeing what the summer brings!

If you’d like to find out more about the Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR) project and how to get involved please visit the project page. If you would like to support our work in Scotland please visit to make a donation or create a fundraising page.

We are very grateful to our funders, The Helvellyn Foundation, The R S MacDonald Charitable Trust, The Bannister Charitable Trust and Thistledown Trust, who have made this project possible.