Summer 2018 Newsletter

Find out what Norfolk Wildlife Services has been up to over the Spring and Summer 2018. Read highlights of our projects and work in our 2018 summer newsletter, or alternatively you can select individual articles from the newsletter below.

This issue:

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Keep in touch, if you need any advice or protected species surveys undertaken please contact us!

Mason Bees

An often-heard concern each spring and summer is “bees are destroying my house!” Residents of older buildings will notice bees industriously excavating their south-facing brickwork, and understandably worry that this will compromise the building.

These bees are one of the several species of mason bees in the UK. The commonest is the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis). The red mason bee (like most bees) face a range of pressures, including habitat loss, pesticides, disease and climate change. They are hugely important pollinators of our crops and flowers, the red mason bee being particularly effective at pollinating fruit trees.

Unlike honeybees and bumblebees, mason bees are ‘solitary’, meaning neither living in colonies nor having workers. Once mated the females cleans out an existing hollow (e.g. gaps in window frames, roof tiles or airbricks ) or excavates one from soft mortar or sandy material.

Red mason bee

Within these tunnels she moulds a series of cells, laying an egg in each, fills with pollen and finally sealing with mud. Over the year, eggs develop via larvae and pupae into an adult bee – digging their way out the following spring to begin the cycle again.

Most of the time, the effect of mason bees is inconsequential. They are often attracted to a wall because its’ mortar is very old and/or in poor, soft condition. In very large numbers however (and/or with unmaintained pointing) they can lead to significant damage, particularly if there is water ingress.

Why not try to give them an alternative nesting place besides your house by installing a bee hotel. These need to be in a sunny sheltered spot, > 1m off the ground and near a rich source of flowering plants.

INVERTEBRATE SURVEYS: Ask us about our specialist site surveys for insects, arachnids and molluscs etc., including river and coastal habitats.

Mitigating for bats in buildings

Following bat surveys, a site licence for bats (European Protected Species Licence) from Natural England is often required before development works can take place.

Where bats are affected by building works, a licenced mitigation strategy must be provided. This can include many different options such as special bat lofts’ bat boxes and access tiles and even stand-alone buildings bat-cotes.

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and Exeter University have recently published a study looking at what does and doesn’t work effectively.[1] Its conclusions were that:

  • Retaining existing bat roosts as far as possible “in situ” the development, even if modified, has the best outcome for bats, particularly when associated with re-roofing works;
  • Special ‘bat lofts’ within buildings worked better than bat boxes;
  • Bats may take several years to colonise newly built roosts, irrespective of bat lofts of boxes.

We are currently providing mitigation advice for a building conversion at Barnham Broom, which includes a brown long-eared bat maternity roost. The clients set-a-aside part of the barn to create a new roost area exclusively for bats. When we visited 1-year post-construction, there were bat droppings and an adult brown long-eared bat already using the ‘bat loft’. Our client, Julie Eagle was delighted “I am thrilled bats are continuing to use our site, and we want to encourage all wildlife here.”

Please contact us to discuss your project, and how best to incorporate bat mitigation strategies and licensing into your development.

[1] https://www.cieem.net/bat-mitigation-strategies-research-project

Brown long-eared bat

Framework wins for newts and agri-environment

NWS has won places on two major frameworks with Natural England and DEFRA in open national competitions. Firstly NWS has won a place on Natural England’s eDNA ‘great crested newt’ survey framework, via our strength in logistical management and specialist herpetology skills. this is an innovative project which will provide baseline distributions for new approaches to newt licencing.

Great Crested Newt on hand

Shortly after NWS won onto the DEFRA framework for botanical monitoring of agri-environment schemes to investigate the effect and efficiency of the English schemes. Collaboration with our supply chain and partners in other Wildlife Trusts consultancies was an important factor.

The government nationally holds a target of 33% spending with SMEs by 2022, and both Natural England and DEFRA are committed towards strengthening engagement with SMEs.

These tenders represent a positive opportunity for NWS to fly the flag Norfolk business and the Wildlife Trusts in national procurement.

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

FOLLOW-UP SURVEY ON TRUST’S NEW COASTAL LAND REVEALS IMPORTANT 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

Quote

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”.

students

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.