Posts Tagged ‘ecological survey’

Freshwater invertebrates survey, RSPB nature reserve

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Karl Harrison, UES’ Graduate Ecologist, recently attended a freshwater invertebrate survey run by the RSPB at Coombes Valley Nature Reserve, Staffordshire.

The caterpillar of the Argent and Sable moth encases itself in birch leaves

The site is an oak woodland located in the steep sided Coombes Valley. It attracts a variety of woodland breeding birds including; flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers. The site also has a small population of rare Argent and Sable moths (see photo).

The samples were taken from a stretch of the Coombes Brook as it passes through the nature reserve. They were collected using the ‘kick-sampling’ method, where the substrate is disturbed up stream of a hand net which collects any small invertebrates and everything else flowing down stream. The content of the net was spread out on a tray and any invertebrates carefully collected.

In the makeshift laboratory the collected samples were analysed and compared to known samples, paying close attention to the features that distinguish one family from another. The invertebrate larvae we hoped to identify were Mayflies Ephemeroptera, Stoneflies Plecoptera, Caddisflies Trichoptera and True flies Diptera.

Section of Coombes brook where Kick-sampling took place

Freshwater invertebrates are a good indicator of water quality, usually determined based on the species present and their levels. For example an abundance of Stonefly and Mayfly larvae suggests good oxygen levels and low levels of pollution.

The study of freshwater invertebrates can be very useful in ecological surveys, as they provide an indication of water quality and potential presence of amphibians.

Karl will be returning to Coombes Valley Nature Reserve to observe the larvae through their development.

For more information about the reserve or volunteering with the RSPB, details can be found on the Coombes Valley Nature Reserve Webpage.

Landscape design for bats – advice for developers

Monday, February 25th, 2013

The Bat Conservation Trust  has recently published a new guide: Landscape and Urban Design for Bats and Biodiversity. It presents a range of simple features that a developer, consultant or designer can incorporate into a project with the aim of maximising the biodiversity with a focus on bats.

Modern building designs provide little opportunity for bats, they tend to be well sealed and are generally unsuitable for use by roosting bats. There are a number of features that can be incorporated into buildings that can improve the opportunities for bats while retaining the integrity of the building. Such as Bat Bricks within the building structure or Bat Boxes on surrounding trees.

Some species of bat prefer to roost in trees, finding small crevices, holes or cracks to squeeze in. Planting of appropriate native trees can greatly improve the long term roosting opportunities for local bats and bat boxes provide opportunities in the short term.

Bats are insectivores and landscape design for bat foraging opportunities involves improving the population and variety of nocturnal flying insects. Landscape design focusing on improving opportunities for foraging bats can indirectly improve the local wildlife.

Ideal foraging habitat for bats should include a variety of flowering plants with flowering periods staggered throughout the year. Green roofs seeded with wild flowers are an example of improved foraging opportunities and can also improve the buildings insulation.

The main focus when designing landscapes for commuting bats is appropriate lighting. Most bat species are sensitive to light levels and will avoid well lit areas. The provision of linear features, such as hedgerows, planted trees or dark corridors are ideal.

Landscape design focusing on bats can greatly improve local wildlife and some projects can be awarded credits for ecological features in BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes assessment. Careful planning during the design stages can prevent the need for expensive mitigation and survey works further down the line.

UES Ltd has several years’ experience in ecological project management and has guided many large capital infra-structure schemes. UES Ltd is an expert in Landscape design focusing on protected species and ecological features.

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.


Badger monitoring surveys

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

UES are currently completing badger monitoring surveys of a site in Barnton, Northwich using remote wildlife cameras. Remote cameras are ideal for badger monitoring surveys allowing you to set it up onsite and return later to collect your images. Remote cameras can be set to take pictures or videos regularly with the time lapse facility, or when it is triggered by an animal moving into the field of view. Either way, it gives a remarkable insight into the wildlife in the vicinity.

Now is a great time to undertake a badger monitoring survey as cubs start emerging from their sett in April or early May, which gives them all of spring, summer and autumn to feed, grow, and put on sufficient fat reserves to see them through their first winter.

Find out more information here.

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

Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey & Code for Sustainable Homes in Wirral, Merseyside

Monday, January 9th, 2012

UES have recently been commissioned to complete Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys and Code for Sustainable Homes: Category 9 (Ecology) assessments for 7 sites in Wirral, Merseyside for Wirral Partnership Homes.

Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) is the national standard for the sustainable design and construction of new homes. The Code aims to reduce our carbon emissions and create homes that are more sustainable. The Code measures the sustainability of a new home against nine categories:

  1. Energy and carbon dioxide
  2. Water
  3. Materials
  4. Surface water runoff
  5. Waste
  6. Pollution
  7. Health and well-being
  8. Management
  9. Ecology

A total of 9 credits are available in Category 9 (Ecology), representing 12% of the points contribution in total. The approximate weighted value of each ecological credit is 1.33, second only to that of Category 2 (Water) at 1.50. The aim of Category 9 is to:

  • promote development on land that already has a limited value to wildlife, and discourage the development of ecologically valuable sites.
  • enhance the ecological value of a site.
  • promote the protection of existing ecological features from substantial damage during the clearing of the site and the completion of construction works.
  • minimise reductions and promote an improvement in ecological value.
  • promote the most efficient use of a building’s footprint by ensuring that land and material use is optimised across the development.

Bovine TB and badger control

Friday, December 16th, 2011

The Government’s policy on Bovine TB and badger control in England has been announced by Secretary of State Caroline Spelman MP. To help control the disease, the Government has decided to proceed with a policy of enabling farmers and landowners to cull and/or vaccinate badgers, under licence, in areas of high incidence of TB in cattle.

David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust said: “We are clearly very disappointed by this decision but now that it has been made, we will be studying it with our legal advisors to determine what action we shall take.”

Bat and ecological scoping survey in Swindon

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

UES recently completed a bat and ecological scoping survey of a farm in Swindon. Our client has plans to demolish a number of buildings on site and convert other buildings for use as a hotel.

13 buildings were surveyed in total, of which 5 were identified as having high potential for use by bats. Low number of bat droppings believed to be long-eared species Plecotus were found in the internal roof spaces of the farmhouse. UES recommended further surveys on these buildings prior to the start on site to determine how many bats are present and how they are using the buildings.

All bats and their roosts are fully protected by law. Without detailed surveys you are at risk of destroying a bat roost or foraging grounds, which could have devastating consequences for the local bat population, and could land you with a fine or even a jail sentence and some very bad publicity.

During the survey UES recognised that the buildings and trees on site were all suitable for use by roosting and breeding birds, therefore any building works should be carried out outside of the breeding bird season (March to August inclusive) in order that breeding birds are not affected. If this is not possible then either a targeted breeding bird survey should be carried out or an ecological clerk of works appointed.

All breeding birds are protected under schedule 9 of the wildlife and countryside act 1981(as amended). Wild birds are protected from being killed, injured or captured. Their nests are protected from being damaged, destroyed or taken. Several species are included in schedule 1 of the act which gives them and their young protection while nesting.

The presence of protected species is a material consideration when a planning authority is considering a development proposal. The presence of protected species and the effect of the proposed development must be established before planning permission can be granted.

Bat scoping survey in Lancashire

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

UES recently completed a bat scoping survey of a house and associated outbuildings in Lancashire. Our client has plans to demolish a number of buildings onsite and is applying for planning permission for a new build housing scheme.

The aim of the survey was to assess the site for the presence of bat roosts and bat activity within the structure of the buildings. The buildings were searched both externally and internally for bat presence and features associated with bat activity, as detailed in Bat Conservation Trust guidance (2007).

No field signs of bats such as droppings, feeding remains, rubbing or urine stains were found during the building inspections, and as such UES deemed that no further survey work was required in relation to bats.

However, house sparrows were observed breeding inside the building, and therefore mitigation and compensation measures were suggested in relation to breeding birds as ‘The Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) 1981’ states that all wild birds are protected. Under the WCA, it is an offence to kill, injure or take any wild bird, to take damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird, or to take or destroy the egg of any wild bird.

Dormouse survey in Oxfordshire

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

UES have recently completed a dormouse survey of a site in Oxfordshire. The proposed development involves the removal of a number of trees along a woodland edge to form encampments.

UES completed an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey of the site in May 2011. The survey highlighted areas of low coppiced hazel, coppiced silver birch, blackthorn and honeysuckle within the woodland which have some potential for use by dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius).

UES completed a desk study of the site, which found records of dormice in a SSSI woodland near to the proposed site, as such dormouse presence / absence surveys were completed, which involved searching the site for hazelnuts that had been characteristically gnawed by dormice.