Archive for August, 2011

Breeding bird survey in Knutsford, Cheshire

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Ivy covered wall. A potential habitat for breeding birds.

UES have completed a breeding bird survey of a site in Knutsford, Cheshire in order to meet planning conditions. A breeding bird survey involves recording bird activity that is likely to indicate breeding. Behaviour considered likely to indicate breeding includes singing, display flights, mating and courtship displays, nesting, carrying of nesting material and birds showing fidelity to a particular area of ground or vegetation.

Breeding bird surveys and vegetation searches were carried out on site. 18 species of bird were heard or seen on or local to site but no evidence of breeding birds within the site boundary was found. Wren was recorded singing on site and could possibly of been breeding. Suitable habitats would include mature trees and/or an Ivy covered wall on site.

Other species heard or seen on or local to site included Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Cormorant, Pied wagtail, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Robin, Goldcrest, Carrion crow, Song thrush, Jackdaw, Magpie, Blue tit, Nuthatch, Coal tit and Dunnock.

Grasses, sedges and rushes course in the Yorkshire Dales

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

At the beginning of August Toby attended a week-long professional development course on grasses, sedges and rushes run by Judith Allison at Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales.

Malham Tarn NNR is designated a Grade 1 SSSI by Natural England and is an excellent place to study grasses, sedges and rushes due to the diversity of habitats found there, including heather, moorland, peat bogs, limestone grassland and limestone pavement, ash and oak woodland, high altitude fens and calcareous flushes. Malham Tarn also boasts that one third of the c.107 British members of the sedge family (Cyperaceae) can be seen within walking distance.

Toby encountered over 50 different species of grasses, sedges and rushes in the field. The trip proved to be a great experience and a real help to identifying different species of grasses, sedges and rushes.

Images of species encountered can be seen at

Great crested newt pond scoping survey in Lower Peover, Cheshire

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Great crested newt larvae

UES were commissioned in June 2011 to conduct a great crested newt pond scoping survey to assess potential presence of great crested newts within 250m of the development footprint.

Development works within 250m of a great crested newt pond are often subject to a Natural England European Protected Species Licence (EPSL). It is stressed by Natural England to try and redesign a project to remove any potential impacts on great crested newt populations and associated habitats in order to remove the need for licensing.

The field methods used to survey ponds are:

  1. Bottle trapping
  2. Egg search
  3. Torch surveys
  4. Netting

Natural England recommend using at least three of the methods outlined above when conducting a pond survey. Smooth newts and great crested newt eggs and larvae were found in ponds within 250m of the development.

UES proposed that by designing the project timings and working methods to avoid impacts, any potential impacts on local great crested newt populations and habitats could be effectively removed, or reduced to a negligible level thereby removing the need for protected species licensing.

Moth monitoring surveys

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

UES have now spotted 72 species of macro-moth so far during monitoring surveys, including the Lime-speck pug moth. Moths with narrow outstretched wings are ‘usually’ pug moths, members of the Eupithecia family.

The Lime-speck pug is very distinctive with its lime white wings and large dark ‘speck’ on the leading edge of wing. It is thought that this species may resemble a bird-dropping and thus reduce attraction to predators.

Other species observed recently include Dark arches, Flame carpet,  Small phoenix, Buff arches, Buff tip, Common wainscot, Early thorn, Light arches, Riband wave, The Clay and The Olive moth.

A Fresh Start For Hens

Monday, August 15th, 2011

This year UES has been involved with A Fresh Start For Hens, a national organisation which relies on volunteers to help distribute and rehome ex-battery hens. Hens are purchased from farmers just before their slaughter date (around 1 year old), when their production drops below the 6 eggs per week that is required to make them commercially profitable.

UES has been appointed the Cheshire Co-ordinator for A Fresh Start For Hens and rehomed 60 ex-battery hens at the end of July. Battery hens are raised in tiny cages no bigger than a sheet of A4 paper, which prevents them from opening their wings and suppresses all of their natural instincts. However, through A Fresh Start For Hens and volunteers such as UES these ex-battery hens become lively engaging creatures within days of release.

Bat survey in Cranage, Cheshire

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Fitting a bat box

UES have completed a bat presence/absence survey at a site in Cheshire. Our client intended to demolish a building and so a bat survey was required in order to inform the planning process.

The building was searched internally and externally for signs of use by bats, and emergence and return roost surveys were carried out. The surveys found bats roosting in the boxed soffits of the building and also under the roof and ridge tiles.

UES recommended that a licensed bat ecologist be present during the demolition in case any bats were found within the building.  During demolition a male pipistrelle was found roosting under the roof tiles and so was carefully rehomed to a new bat box that UES had positioned on site.

Extended phase 1 survey in Connahs Quay, Deeside

Monday, August 15th, 2011

UES have completed an extended phase 1 habitat survey of a site in Deeside, North Wales in order to inform the client of any potential impacts their development would have on habitats and species.

Semi-improved neutral grassland

The site was defined as semi-improved neutral grassland. The species composition and pattern of growth reflect an unmanaged and ungrazed grassland dominated by course-leaved tussock grasses notably False oat-grass, Cocks foot and Yorkshire fog.

As part of the extended phase 1 habitat survey, specific observations of wildlife were also recorded. Wildlife observations focus on protected species, invasive species or species of conservation interest. Numerous species of birds were recorded during the survey which could have been breeding on or local to site.

In terms of the surrounding area the development of the site in Connahs Quay presents only a minor loss of habitat quality. UES suggested that landscaping should aim to promote species diversity by the appropriate design of habitats and habitats mosaics which promotes natural linkages and hence dispersal of target species. Suggested ideas that may be beneficial to wildlife include, planting of berry and nut bearing shrub species when landscaping, use of nectar bearing flowers, creating a wildflower garden, creating bird feeding stations and the hanging bat and bird boxes on site.

National Vegetation Classification survey in Cheshire

Monday, August 15th, 2011

UES have recently completed a National Vegetation Classification (NVC) survey of a woodland in Cheshire in order to inform the client of any potential impacts their development would have on species on site.

Canopy and field layer

To survey the woodland canopy, 50 x 50 metre quadrats were used and all trees within those quadrats were recorded and assigned a frequency score. To survey the field and ground layer, a 2 x 2 metre quadrat was chosen and again all plants recorded and given a frequency score.

UES concluded that the woodland was a National Vegetation Classification community W10 Quercus robur – Pteridium aquilinum – Rubus fruticosus woodland typical sub-community, which is common throughout England. Field layer growth has been restricted by the dense tree canopy and so it is unlikely that any increased activity within the woodland as a result of the client will have any negative effect.

UES suggested that management of this woodland should be focussed on creating open areas by the removal of some of the Sycamore trees and non-native species such as Rhododendron. The removal of Sycamore will thin out the canopy increasing the light reaching the ground flora, which will encourage the growth of the field layer.

Water vole survey in Tarbock, Liverpool

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Tarbock Hall is a 86 hectare parcel of land west of Liverpool on which developers intend to restore the dilapidated farm buildings as luxury houses, and also create a golf course.

UES has been involved in numerous surveys on site including bat surveys, National Vegetation Classification surveys (NVC), macro invertebrate surveys, breeding bird surveys, great crested newt surveys and water vole surveys. As part of the on-going ecological management of the site additional ecological surveys and monitoring were recommended to our client, one being water vole.

UES returned this year to conduct further water vole surveys in order to monitor the local population. The results were positive as various water vole field signs were found including, latrines, feeding remains and burrows. Other notable wildlife includes a moorhen’s nest which was found within a reed bed.

Discussions are now taking place on how best to increase water vole occupancy on site by way of appropriate management of invasive and dominant vegetation, creation of additional wetland habitats and increased connectivity measures.

Extended phase 1 habitat survey for Seddon Homes in Lancashire

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

UES have completed an extended phase 1 habitat survey of a site in Lancashire in order to inform the client of any potential impacts their development would have on habitats and species.

A phase 1 habitat survey is a standard method of environmental audit. It involves categorising different habitat types and habitat features within a survey area. The information gained from the survey can be used to determine the ecological value of the site, and to direct any more specific survey work which may need to be carried out prior to the start of work, such as badger surveys, barn owl surveys, bat surveys, great crested newt surveys, dormouse surveys, water vole surveys, breeding bird surveys, hedgerow surveys and tree surveys.

Male Palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus)

Seddon Homes applied for planning permission for a new build housing scheme which was subject to a ‘Code for Sustainable Homes’ (CSH) assessment. The aim of the Code for Sustainable Homes is to encourage development on land that has a limited value to wildlife, and discourage the use of previously undeveloped land.

The site was surveyed and all species on site recorded. The development site was deemed to be of moderate ecological value due to the neutral grassland with associated mature trees and species-rich countryside hedgerows. Numerous species of birds were also recorded during the survey which could have been breeding on or local to site. Further surveys for great crested newts (GCN) were conducted due to a pond on site being identified as suitable for amphibians. Palmate newts were found on site.

It was decided that enhancement measures were required in order to secure an ecological benefit at site level and achieve the maximum number of CSH ecological credits. The client welcomed the suggestion of incorporating bat and bird boxes into the design of the new buildings, which could provide a real benefit to local bat and bird populations.