Posts Tagged ‘tree survey’

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

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.

Bats and badgers in Buckinghamshire

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

UES conducted a full bat survey of a barn in Marlow, Buckinghamshire in September 2011. Our client plans to change the use of the barn from agricultural to a dwelling.

Low numbers of common species of bats were observed using the area to forage and commute. The species recorded were Common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus and Soprano pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus.

During the course of the survey some evidence of badgers was found including feeding remains and a latrine. A single badger was also observed in a hole on the northwest corner of the barn.

UES are currently completing badger monitoring surveys of the site in Buckinghamshire 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.

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.

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.

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.

On the hunt for orchids

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

There are 56 species of wild orchid in Britain and Ireland (out of around 25,000 known species worldwide). In the UK wild orchids can be found in a variety of natural habitats including woodland, grassland, marshes, heaths and sand dunes, as well as in managed sites such as abandoned pits and roadside verges. Each orchid species has its own blooming season, which can run from as early as April in the case of the Early-purple orchid to as late as September for the Autumn ladies tresses.

The main threats to wild orchids in the UK are habitat change and destruction. In Britain, orchids are protected by the Wildlife And Countryside Act, 1981, which states that it is an offence to uproot them unless you have permission from the land owner.

UES spotted these wild orchids whilst completing ecological surveys in Cheshire, Liverpool, and Hampshire.