Posts Tagged ‘Cheshire’

Winter tree ID course

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

After a smattering of overnight snow, the traffic leading out of Cheadle, north Staffordshire, was stationary. It wasn’t the best start to the day, but I arrived at the training course safe and well, if a little late. As I sat in the traffic, I developed concerns about missing the introduction of the training day, but my concerns were put aside as soon as I entered the room. I was greeted with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and Mark Duffell, the course co-ordinator, spent a few minutes getting me up to speed.

The course first covered certain diagnostic characters which can be used to identify trees in the winter. A large proportion of trees are identified by their leaves alone, but in winter this is no longer possible. Instead, the key characters to look at are the buds; how many, their arrangement, their shape and the presence of bud scales or hairs. Other characters to look at include the twigs, bark, growth form and fruit (if present).

Some tree species are immediately identifiable by their buds, such as the Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) which has conspicuous black buds in winter. Cherry trees (Prunus sp) are instantly recognisable due to their horizontally striped bark. However, other species require further investigation. All attendants in the room keyed out a specimen with Mark, who explained how the different identification keys worked and how the different characters should be judged. This first example turned out to be Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). We then worked in smaller groups and keyed out species which you might not come across as often, such as Wayfaring-tree (Viburnum lantana), Common walnut (Juglans regia), Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), and Wild service tree (Sorbus torminalis). Our group even managed to find a leaf scar which looked like the face of either a sloth or ET. Sadly, this last character did not feature in the books provided.

Despite arriving late, I had a thoroughly worthwhile time on the training course. I feel confident in identifying trees in winter, and even if I cannot recognise the species immediately, I know how to work it out. Many thanks to Mark Duffell and MMU on another excellent course.

Declan, UES Graduate Ecologist

Bats and development in Cheshire

Monday, February 25th, 2013
Common pipistrelle

Common pipistrelle, the most common UK bat

Many people in the UK share their buildings with bats and are unaware. As a result when Local Planning Authorities refuse planning permission in relation to bats home owners and developers can be surprised. However with the correct ecology surveys, appropriate planning and ecological advice from bat experts development can proceed.

Local Planning Authorities will refuse planning permission if they believe that bats may be affected. This can occur on projects of any size from a loft conversion to a major infrastructure development.

In some situations a bat survey such as a bat scoping survey will be sufficient to confirm the absence of bats.  A bat scoping survey can be carried out at any time of year and can inform a prospective developer of any issues that may arise. Early recognition of bat presence and appropriate planning can remove the need for further survey works.

If bat presence is likely then a bat presence/absence survey may be required, construction can be postponed and planning permission will be refused until the necessary surveys are completed. These bat surveys can only be carried out within a specific window of 6 months across spring and summer. If evidence of significant bat presence is found you may be required to obtain a European Protected Species Licence from Natural England.

UES is an experienced ecological consultancy and has been providing ecological advice and services for several years throughout the UK. UES has worked on a variety of projects where bats are present, and is experienced in obtaining European Protected Species Licences for various types of development. UES is aware that delaying projects has major financial consequences and works hard to try and prevent any issues that could cause delay.

3 reptiles down, 3 to go

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Our native reptiles include three lizards and three snakes; Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), Common lizard (Zootoca vivipara), Slow worm (Anguis fragilis), Grass snake (Natrix natrix), Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), and Adder (Vipera berus).

During a recent visit to Collyweston Great Wood and Eastern Hornstocks SSSI & NNR in Northamptonshire, UES found 3 of our 6 native reptile species; Slow worm, Grass snake and Adder.

Slow worm

Slow worms are often found in gardens and are widespread throughout the British Isles. Slow worms are lizards, though they are often mistaken for snakes. Unlike snakes they have eyelids, a flat forked tongue and can drop their tail to escape from a predator.

Grass snake

Grass snakes are found throughout England andWales. This is the UK’s longest snake, growing to well over a metre in length. Feeding primarily on fish and amphibians, grass snakes can occasionally venture into garden ponds in the summer months, particularly in rural or semi-rural parts of the south.

Grass snakes are non-venomous and are extremely timid, moving off quickly when disturbed. If cornered they can feign death, and if handled frequently, produce a foul-smelling excretion.


The adder is the most northerly member of the Viper family and is found throughout Britain right up to the north of Scotland. In Scandinavia its range extends into the Arctic Circle. It is not, however, found in Ireland. Adders like open habitats such as heathland, moorland, open woodland and sea cliffs, and rarely stray into gardens.

The adder is the UK’s only venomous snake. However, their secretive nature and camouflaged markings mean they often go unnoticed.

Slow worms, grass snakes and adders are protected by law in Great Britain against being deliberately killed, injured or sold/traded in any way.

For further information see our reptile page or the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) website.


Ancient woodland indicators

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Bedford Purlieus National Nature Reserve (NNR) in the Soke of Peterborough, is home to more plant and insect species than most other woods in the country. During a recent visit to the NNR we observed a number of ancient woodland indicators; Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), Primrose (Primula vulgaris), Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), Common dog-violet (Viola riviniana), Early dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana), Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) and Stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus).

Ancient woodland indicators (AWIs) are species that are usually more common in ancient woodland than in more recent sites. They are most commonly vascular plants, although they have been identified in other plant and animal groups (e.g lichens, invertebrates).

Indicator species are often chosen for the following characteristics; poor dispersal ability, short-lived seed banks, poor ability to compete with more generalist species in sunlight, an adaptation to deep shade and low nutrients, and reliance upon vegetative propagation via rhizomes, stolons or suckers.

Further examples of AWI plants include:

  • Yellow archangel
  • Wild strawberry
  • Dog’s mercury
  • Herb paris
  • Wood spurge
  • Wood forget me not
  • Red helleborine
  • Green hellebore

Lesser Horseshoe bats found roosting in Cheshire

Monday, January 30th, 2012


Toby and Stewart were out with the Cheshire Bat Group on Sunday when the group found the first confirmed Lesser Horseshoe Bat roost in Cheshire for a number of years.

The group found a single bat free hanging in a cave during part of the regular annual round of monitoring surveys. A subsequent search of a nearby cave found a further single lesser horseshoe bat roosting.

All in all a good days work for the group and good find for Ged Ryan who spotted the first bat.

Keep an eye on the groups facebook page for more info.

Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Mike Crabtree, our landscape architect, is a chartered member of the Landscape Institute (LI). The LI is the Royal Chartered body for landscape architects and promotes professional development to ensure landscape architects deliver the highest standards of practice.

Chartered membership of the Landscape Institute is an internationally recognised badge of excellence, formally recognising a member’s technical and professional competence as a landscape architect in the UK.

Landscape design is an important part of any development project and has a major impact on the final appearance of a project as a whole. Good landscape design can improve the working or living environment for people using the area and landscape design can also help to improve the quality of habitats for local species of wildlife.

Examples of landscape design by United Environmental Services Ltd:

Caring for chickens!

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Ex-battery hens. Source:

An estimated 24 million egg-laying chickens are kept in battery cages in the UK at any one time. As the impending ban on barren battery cages draws closer many farmers are looking to empty their barren cages.

United Environmental Services Ltd think all laying hens deserve to enjoy natural freedoms whilst they lay tasty eggs for us to eat; that means freedom to roam on green pasture, freedom to enjoy sunshine, freedom to scratch for insects and freedom to lay an egg in a nest.

The British Hen Welfare Trust is looking for volunteers to take care of the last UK battery hens. If like UES you think you can care for some ex-battery hens, register online on the British Hen Welfare Trust website.

Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

UES’ Graduate Ecologist, Kathryn James, has been accepted as a graduate member of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM). Kathryn is the most recent member of the UES team to become IEEM qualified.

IEEM is the professional body that represents and supports, over 4000 ecologists and environmental managers in the UK, Ireland and abroad. Members are required to meet specific levels of training and experience, as well adhering to a professional code of conduct.

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.

Moth monitoring surveys

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

There are over 2500 species of moth in Britain. As there are so many species of moths, experts split them into two groups, the larger (or macro-) moths and the smaller (or micro-) moths.

UES has been lucky enough to spot 51 species of macro-moth so far during monitoring surveys, including the impressive Eyed hawk-moth so called due to the large and beautiful spots on each of its hind wings, and the Peppered moth whose white with black speckled patterning across the wings make it well camouflaged against lichen-covered tree trunks which it rests on during the day.

Other favourite species observed include Burnished brass, Elephant hawk, Garden tiger, Ghost, Light emerald and Lime hawk-moth.

UES contributes to the National Moth Recording Scheme (NMRS), which brings together sightings of all macro-moths across the UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands in a bid to create full ‘Britain and Ireland’ distributions for all species.