2018 great crested newt eDNA “closes” 30 June

Some of our clients were not aware that you can carry out surveys for the presence of great crested newts using “environmental DNA” until the end of June. This may prevent you having a delay in the planning application for your development until spring 2019 – the next survey window – and is worth considering.

Confirming newts are absent at a development site confirms that a development does not have a significant impact.  Waiting until 2019 for “traditional” surveys may simply confirm absence, but a year later.

Presence from an eDNA survey may be sufficient for planning consent and/or obtaining a licence. This may therefore resolve your planning application in 2018 rather than mid-2019.

The survey technique is not always suitable. Whether to use it needs to consider your particular development and situation. We can advise you whether the technique meets for your needs based on our knowledge of regulations and our years of experience.

We can also assess the impact of your development on newts and say what to do next if they are present, guiding your through any necessary licencing process later and finding solutions for compensatory habitat on or off-site.

If you do want to proceed though, there is a limited window left to make the last Great Crested Newts “last survey date” on 30 June. As such we suggest that you contact us immediately.  We can book a laboratory analysis slot for you now.

If you have more questions about great crested newts, read through our in-depth article or ring us to find out more about survey and assessment options.




Invertebrate survey successes for Cley Marshes

coastal lagoon

Ben Christie sampling lagoonal invertebrates


Our follow-up survey on Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s new marsh at Cley has found five invertebrate species of conservation importance, including lagoon sand shrimp Gammarus insensibilis (legally protected) and mud snail Ecrobia ventrosa.

The Trust commissioned a specialist baseline study on their new land at Cley Marshes when they purchased it in 2014. This was surveying the plants and invertebrates in the site’s ditches, dykes and scrapes.

Since then, the Trust has carried out extensive work on the marsh to convert it from wildfowling ponds to a nature reserve and wanted to repeat the surveys. The plan was to compare with the 2014 baseline and identify any changes resulting from the work.

Twelve sample ditches and lagoons sites from the 2014 survey were re-surveyed for aquatic invertebrates, following the same methodology. For each, we took two dip-net samples to collect a crosssection of the aquatic invertebrates in the water: one in underwater vegetation near the shore; and one reaching out into the depths of the open water.

Ben Christie, our invert specialist said: “By first grouping inverts into taxonomic orders and then using specialist microscope keys for identification, we were able to efficiently identify the specialist communities for every sample site. This allowed both a direct comparison of communities in 2014 and 17, but also showed distributions for five invertebrate species of conservation importance.

“Norfolk Wildlife Trust can now fully assess the benefits of their management on invertebrates as well as the birds and other wildlife who are dependent on them in the food chain.”



Students Go Batty For Work Experience


An unusually warm autumn has meant more bats out in the evenings later in the year than normal. This provided students from East Coast College with a chance to gain bat survey experience on two different dusk surveys.

Ben Moore, Assistant Ecologist at NWS, said: “Our first site was along a stretch of the upper reaches of the river Bure surrounded by wet grassland and woodland edge. We had great views of noctules, one of our largest bats, as they foraged high in the twilight over the open grassland”.


East Coast College students gain experience by helping with bat surveys

“The students heard the characteristically slow slapping calls of the noctule, which distinguished it from most other species. Once it had become darker, we saw bats over the water, their white underbellies still visible. Coupled with distinctive rapid ‘machine gun’ like calls, this identified Daubenton’s bats using the river to feed on mosquitoes and other tasty morsels of the flying insect variety.”

“The second survey site was along a stretch of the Marriott’s way, a well-sheltered commuting and foraging route for bats with its tree-lined embankments. Here we observed common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle and used a handheld frequency detector to tell them apart as they zipped up and down the disused railway.””


Urban wildlife : using IR cameras for badger surveys

It can be difficult to prove the presence or absence of badgers, as they are shy when near their setts. Badgers also have an extremely good sense of smell and can detect the scent of humans easily. To stand a better chance of recording them a camera can be used to reduce human scent near the sett.

We recently used our night vision trail camera to assist a client on the outskirts of Norwich who is seeking planning permission for a new build. We had identified a badger set in close proximity, which may have been home to not only badgers, but also other burrowing animals who often co-habit or move in, if the burrow has been abandoned.

The camera works on an infrared motion trigger, capturing pictures or videos of animals moving nearby. In this case there was a family of foxes and some hedgehogs, but we were able to prove there were no badgers present at the sett.

Camera catching a passing fox

camera shy squirrel

A newt direction for species licencing?

As March and the great crested newt survey season approaches, you may be wondering whether the vote to the leave the European Union changes the surveys required for planning ?

Great crested newt

There are currently no plans to abolish protection of European Protected Species (EPS); protection we presume will be transposed into UK legislation by the Great Reform Bill, although the species was already fully protected under UK law prior to its European designation.

However as part of the Red Tape Challenge, Natural England are reviewing their approach to licences. In December 2016 the agency released the results of a public consultation held in spring 2016 on 4 potential new policies for EPS licensing :

Policy 1: Greater flexibility when excluding and relocating European Protected Species (EPS) from development sites.

Policy 2: Greater flexibility in the location of newly created habitats that compensate for lost habitats through development.

Policy 3: Allowing EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date.

Policy 4: Appropriate and relevant surveys where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted.

Policy 1 and 2 both look at the idea of “mitigation banking” – which is previously built mitigation that developers can buy into. This changes the emphasis from spending time trapping and removing newts to building a resilient network of pre-planned habitat for them. These two policies should provide developers with more certainty around costs and any delays that might be incurred. However this non-conventional exclusion and relocation technique is controversial and may not yet be approved.

Policy 3 allows newts access to land where development will temporarily create habitat likely to attract EPS, such as mineral extraction. On completion of development it will be necessary to provide well-prepared management plans to ensure gains to the target species. This would only work where the conservation status of the local population would not be detrimentally affected.

Policy 4 is intended to avoid duplicating effort where the distribution of newts is well known and can be inferred from existing data. This policy is intended to reduce costs and increase benefits to EPS through varying licencing approaches to suit site-specific circumstances.

For more information have a look at the pilot in Woking where major urban expansion allows for a planned approach for mitigating for newts.

Happy dog, happy wildlife

Dog walking can be one of the best ways to get people out and about experiencing nature but our faithful hounds and our beloved wildlife often have conflicting needs, making it difficult to create green spaces suitable for both. Follow these top five tips to plan a greenspace that will result in happy dogs, and happy wildlife:

Happy dog, happy wildlife

Emily and Stig (the world’s first water vole detection dog) enjoying a dog walk and experiencing nature.

  1.  Provide areas of enclosed greenspace. Offering safe areas for dogs to run off-lead makes dog-owners more likely to respect on-lead areas.
  2. Create a circular dog walking route, with clear, defined paths. Obvious paths will encourage dog walkers to stick to a set route meaning they are less likely to disturb more valuable wildlife areas.
  3. Ensure these areas and routes are within 500m of new homes. Placing suitable areas within walking distance will deter owners from driving to areas further-a-field that they perceive to be suitable greenspace.
  4. A range of all-weather surfaces with a naturalistic feel will guarantee dog walkers consistent access without having to invest in walking boots.
  5. Construct an area of clean water with safe access for dogs. Providing an assigned ‘splash-about’ area will keep dogs out of water which contains sensitive wildlife.

If you’d like more advice on planning for wildlife and dogs, Hampshire County Council have produced a wonderful document: Planning for dog ownership in new developments: reducing conflict – adding value.

Stig, pictured is the world’s first water vole detection dog. He is trained in the art of water vole poo detection. To find out more about Stig, his partner in training Lola, and their handler Ali, visit Ecology Dogs. Alternatively, keep regularly up-to-date with their water vole finds by following @EcologyDogs on Twitter.



Impact of lighting on bats

Here at NWS, we are often asked to advise on the ecological impact of lighting on bats. Generally we recommend keeping lighting to a minimum and directing it away from any potential bat roosts or foraging and commuting areas because bats can be very sensitive to both the light itself and its consequent effects.

Illuminating bat roosts may cause bats to abandon their roost as the light delays their emergence and shortens the time available to them for foraging. A peak in insect abundance occurs soon after dusk, so this delayed emergence means they miss out on important feeding. Many of these night-flying insects that constitute the bat’s diet swarm around street lighting. However, certain species of bat, notably the rarer species, avoid street lights, meaning they miss out on this abundant food source.

Lighting can also cause barriers to commuting bats therefore isolating populations. It can also make them more vulnerable to predation. Kestrels (an avian predator to bats) have been observed hunting at night under the artificial lighting along motorways.

We now use a lux meter to measure light intensity during bat surveys. The result from the lux meter can help us advise on the impacts of installing lighting to an area and from this we can offer recommendations on how best to limit the effects.

Dr Emma Stone, a researcher at the University of Bristol is conducting ongoing research into the effects of lighting on bats. From Emma’s research, an overview and guidelines surrounding this issue have been produced by both Emma and the Bat Conservation Trust. However, as part of their Bats and the built environment series, the BCT has produced a condensed, user-friendly version of these guidelines: Bats and lighting in the UK.

Lux chart showing impact of lighting on bats

Lux chart showing the emergence of different species at varying light levels.

Bat roosts and trees

Schwelger box in holly tree

Schwelger bat boxes like this one in a holly tree can provide excellent homes for bats.

Bats have been found roosting in variety of places and require different kinds of roosts throughout the year to meet their various needs. One of the most popular roost sites is in trees.

Native broad-leaf tree species, such as oak, beech and ash, are particularly suitable for bats, but nearly all woodlands and trees have the potential for bat roosts. The older the tree, the better!

Bats cannot dig or bore into trees meaning they use naturally occurring holes and crevices in the tree’s structure. Our native bats evolved to roost in trees however, due to the decline in trees of a suitable age, bats now prefer roosting in built structures.

According to Bat Conservation Trust guidelines, when carrying out any tree work you will need to consider if the tree in question has any bat roost features such as: cracks and splits in the bark, a hollow trunk, loose bark, cavities in the trunk, or dense ivy on the trunk. If the tree does possess one of these qualities, it is likely to have ‘bat potential’. Advice will need to be sought from an ecologist who can establish any impacts the works are likely to have. The ecologist should also be able to help with any European Protected Species licences that maybe required.

Jordans Farm Partnership to start

Pollen nectar strip and Sally

Sally McColl, Ecological Consultant, assessing a pollen nectar strip for her JFP environment plan

A new farming model known as the Jordans Farm Partnership has been created. This
is a unique partnership between the Wildlife Trusts, Jordans, Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), and the Prince’s Countryside Fund, which will aim to promote wildlife-friendly farming.

Jordans get grain from  42 arable farms, three of which are in Norfolk. Under the new partnership, each farm will be working with an advisor from their local wildlife trust to compile a unique farm environment plan to complement the arable production on the farm.

In Norfolk our ecological consultancy, Norfolk Wildlife Services, will act as the advisor on behalf of Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Sally McColl, ecological consultant, will be working with the three farmers to write and implement  the environment plan for each site, advising on wildlife enhancements to their farms and assisting with Countryside Stewardship Scheme applications. Each plan will ensure that a tenth of the farm is used to support nature. This includes growing crops to provide food for farmland birds, and pollen and nectar for butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects, to create wildlife corridors around the farm and to have well-managed hedgerows and water courses.

Tony Juniper, the President of The Wildlife Trust welcomed the new partnership, commenting: “The Jordan’s Farm Partnership could not be more welcome. Finding ways to tread the common ground that already exists can help forge a new path toward more enlightened practices. That, in turn, will bring benefits right across the board, including for the farmers who are in a powerful position to make a huge positive difference.”

This new scheme is being trialled on five farms and will be rolled out across the other 37 farms over the next two years. Part of the scheme will involve field trials and knowledge sharing as well as help with implementing the farm environment plans.

Together the farms within the partnership manage over 44,500 acres of land, so once fully up and running, that will make at least 4,450 acres of land that will help wildlife.

New level 1 GCN licence

Ben Christie Assistant Ecologist

Ben preparing for the great crested newt season in 2017.

NWS is proud to announce that our assistant ecologist, Ben Christie, recently acquired his level 1 great crested newt (GCN) class licence. Great crested newts are European Protected Species, meaning a license is needed to work with the species. Ben has worked exceptionally hard to obtain his license which permits him to survey great crested newts by hand, net, torch, aquatic funnel traps and bottle traps.