Posts Tagged ‘ecological surveys’

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.

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.

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.

Bat research workshop in Crete

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

During September Toby attended a week long bat research workshop in a small coastal village called Sougia in Crete. In 2008, 17 bat species of bats had been recorded on Crete, some of which only occur in the eastern Mediterranean. The European free-tailed bat (Tadarida teniotis) is the most widely recorded species, but also found on this island are Blasius’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus blasii), Long-fingered bat (Myotis capaccinii), Kuhl’s pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhli), Savi’s pipistrelle (Pipistrellus savi), Hanaki ‘s dwarf bat (Pipistrellus hanaki), plus Kolombatovic’s long-eared bat (Plecotus kolombatovici) and Mountain long-eared bat (Plecotus macrobullaris).

Toby was involved in carrying out an inventory of bats in the southwest of Crete by a combination of bat detector surveys, trapping at underground site entrances and at ponds, over streams and in gorges, including the 17km long Samaria Gorge, which is one of the longest gorges in Europe.

Species Toby recorded in Crete;

  • European free-tailed bat
  • Lesser horseshoe (Rhinolophus hipposideros)
  • Greater horseshoe (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)
  • Blasius’s horseshoe bat
  • Kuhl’s pipistrelle
  • Savi’s pipistrelle
  • Hanaki ‘s dwarf bat
  • Long-fingered bat
  • Lesser mouse-eared bat (Myotis blythii)
  • Whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus)
  • Lesser mouse-eared subspecies
  • Shreiber’s bat (Miniopterus schreibersii)
  • Mountain long-eared bat
  • Kolombatovic’s long-eared bat

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.

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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tobyhart/sets/72157627445592338/

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.