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

Woodland Champion Award for our Arboricultural Consultant

Jim Allitt, Woodland Champion Award

Our Arboricultural Consultant Jim Allitt was awarded a 2017 Wildlife and Woodland Champion Award for his work on a joint project run by Bat Conservation Trust and Natural England.  Jim volunteered his time to support the “Woodland Bat Project” which is a pioneering study on how bats use woodlands. 

Jim said “I am delighted to accept this award – it is a great project to be involved with and it is a privilege to work with some delightful people in a very inspiring place”.

Jim brought extensive knowledge of trees and woodland management to the project.  As well as offering his experience as a bat worker, he regularly carried out transects and roost counts within the woodland.   Other survey work associated with the project included vegetation surveys, pitfall trapping, moth and butterfly surveys, bird surveys, and deer impact surveys.  The data collected provides a useful baseline to monitor how the woodland is changing and what effects that climate change will have on the species associated with the woodland.  

The project is always looking for volunteers to help throughout the surveying season.  Transects run regularly throughout the summer and it is a great way to experience and learn about the history, past use and wildlife interest of the woods.  The project has been running for a number of years and recently acquired Heritage Lottery Funding to employ a part time volunteer co-ordinator post.  If you would like to learn more about the project you can contact the Bat Conservation Trust or email sreveley[at] bats.org.uk

If you have any questions regarding woodland management or any aspects of bats and trees please contact Jim Allitt via email jamesa[at]norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk or phone 01603 625540.

Spring Newsletter 2017

All our latest wildlife news in our Norfolk Wildlife Services’ Spring Newsletter 2017.

In this issue we bring you :

Or click to download a pdf copy

Blackthorn flowers and hedgerow assessments

March marks the meteorological start of spring and it’s also the time to start looking out for the first blackthorn [Prunus spinosa] flowers.

blackthorn flower

Photo © Ian Calderwood

Blackthorn flowers are easy to spot because they appear before any of the hedgerow leaves.
As soon as you spot the first flowers you’ll suddenly begin to notice whole swathes of them.  At this time of year of you might be forgiven for thinking all hedgerows are predominantly blackthorn, but our hedgerow assessments can offer an insight into the diversity of hedgerows.

 

Why are hedgerow assessments important?

Hedgerows are protected under the Hedgerows Regulations Act 1997 and these are part of planning regulations. The Regulation was brought into effect due to the changes in agricultural practices which saw a rapid removal of hedgerows from the countryside.

“Hedgerows have their part to play in helping us to respond and adapt to climate change, providing conduits through which wildlife may move, and protecting soil, livestock and property against extreme weather events. They even help to lock up carbon and provide a sustainable source of fuel. ” Hedgerow survey Handbook (2007)

This protection covers hedgerows over 30 years old and over 20 metres long (or if shorter, connected to other hedgerows at both ends or part of a longer hedgerow).

Hedgerow removal is a tricky subject and a landowner who wishes to remove a hedgerow must serve a Hedgerow Removal Notice in writing on their local planning authority. The authority then has to determine whether or not the hedgerow is ‘important’ and whether or not to issue a Hedgerow Retention Notice.

What makes a hedgerow important?

This is where hedgerow assessments come into their own.

hedgerow

Photo – Emily Nobbs

We need to assess how many woody species are within the hedgerow, how old it is and whether the hedgerow is associated with any archaeological sites of interest.

There are lots of different combinations of features that make a hedgerow important, such as being at least 30 years old and have a minimum of 6 woody species and a supporting bank and/or ditch running along its length.

Woody species include alder, wild cherry, dogwood, black-poplar, hawthorn and of course blackthorn.

The NWS Arboriculturist can help

Jim Allitt is our resident Arborculturist and can help with any questions you have regarding hedgerows and what you can and can’t do.  Having a hedgerow assessment early on in any proposed development will allow you to understand more about the hedgerows you are working with and help you to plan any mitigation.

So the next time you see a hedgerow full of blackthorn flower don’t dismiss it, you may be looking at a very important hedge!

Survey season ahoy!

It’s that time of year again when we start planning for the forthcoming survey season.

However, don’t think we have been twiddling out thumbs since November!  There have been Phase 1 surveys to carry out and arboricultural impact assessments to write – but now we’re coming up the busy season.

By planning ahead and taking account of various seasonal constraints posed by many protected species we can help project managers avoid potential delays in submitting planning applications or enabling construction works.  For example the breeding season for great crested newts typically starts in mid-March and continues until mid-June (subject to weather), which dictates the optimal window for surveying.


Survey calendar

 

Click on the image to view a calendar that identifies the seasonal constraints associated with ecological and protected species surveys.

 


In anticipation of the survey season we’ve been tidying up the equipment shed, ensuring we have all the kit needed for the months ahead:

  • The great crested newt bottle traps have been made making sure all the associated canes all have hazard tape on so we don’t lose any.
  • The bat detector batteries are all on charge and the pencils have been sharpened.
  • There have been trips to the DIY store and roofing felt cut to size for reptile surveys.
  • The life-jackets have been sent for a service ready for water based surveys and our wellies have all been cleaned.

We look forward to working with you during this survey season and throughout the year.  If you have any questions about surveys and when they can be undertaken please do let us know.

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.

Calling all recent UEA graduates!

calling all UEA graduatesWe have been working with UEA to develop a Business Development Assistant internship opportunity with us at Norfolk Wildlife Services.

If you are a UEA graduate who is passionate about customer care and looking for some hands-on marketing experience then this could be the role for you.

Apply now for this chance to join the team and help us to deliver ecological and arboricultural consultancy services in the Norfolk area.

Working closely with the Consultancy Manager, you will assist in developing the marketing of the consultancy and also maintaining high quality standards of customer care.

Your role will include helping to design marketing materials as well as identifying and applying for external funding opportunities.

For more information check out the advert

A winter view of field margins

Back in October our Ecological Consultant Sally McColl posted about the work she has been doing for the Jordan’s Farm Partnership and ever since then I can’t go past an arable field without checking out its field margins.  The environmental management plans that Sally has been working on aim to make a tenth of each farm used specifically to support nature.  This includes well managed hedgerows and arable field margins.

Walking round my local patch in North Norfolk there are plenty of areas where the hedgerows seem to be all you see and now its winter those hedgerows are without leaves.  This means you can peer through the bare twigs to the fields beyond and see the field margins.

In the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), cereal field margins, in particular, are a priority habitat and are managed specifically to provide benefits for wildlife, such as providing:

Arable field margin

Photo © Richard Webb

  • nectar sources for bumblebees and butterflies;
  • corridors of long grasses used as cover by beetles and grasshoppers, as well as mammals such as brown hares and field voles;
  • nesting opportunities for skylarks, corn bunting and grey partridge.
  • acting as a filter area to control run-off from fields.

Advice varies as to how wide a field margin should be with some organisations saying even a 1 metre margin can offer benefits to wildlife.  Many of the field margins I see in Norfolk are quite wide but just as many are almost non-existent, the field having been ploughed as close to the boundary as possible.

As well as farm management plans we also incorporate the idea of field margins into other reports we write, for example for residential developments. For each planning proposal we study the plans and make site visits to enable us to recommend tailored enhancements, such as buffer zones of wildflowers or grasses (the residential equivalent of field margins).

I like to think we’re doing our part to maintain and create corridors for our wildlife to thrive
.

New addition to our Arboricultural Service

Featured

Jim Allitt, Arboriculturist

Jim Allitt surveying trees

As introduction I am James “Jim” Allitt – the arboricultural consultant – at Norfolk Wildlife Services, where we can offer you full tree surveys and advice to British Standards BS5837. I am also a fully qualified tree surgeon with a Level 4 diploma, a Lantra Professional Tree Inspection award and full tickets for aerial inspection and MEWPs. I like to think I have a combination of the planning and the practical. I will also be blending these arb skills with ecology advice, where my 8 years working on National Nature Reserves in North and West Norfolk comes in handy.

Our vision is of a fully joined up ecology and tree consultancy service, helping client’s projects to success and sustainability.

Trees and woodlands have been a great fascination to me from the local woods of my youth in Yorkshire to my time in Ireland with Coillte ( the Irish Forestry Board ) as an arborist. Once area I have a specialist interest in is Ancient trees and landscape history. We will be offering a ‘Valuing and managing veteran trees’ lunchtime seminar in March. I hope to meet some of you then. Keep in touch and let me know how I can help you with your projects.

Take a look at our Tree Surveys and Consultancy page for more information on the full range of services we can offer.

Get a tree-mendous survey

On development sites trees are both important assets, but also potential constraints. Did you know that NWS offers the same development-advice service for trees as it already offers to clients for ecology ?

On the positive side, when managed well trees form key opportunities for wildlife, offer visual amenity to complement the architectural elements and can add a strong sense of place to new developments. They also create micro-climate buffers to sites by contributing screening and shade, reducing wind speed and turbulence, intercepting dust and rainfall, and stabilising temperatures. Mature trees add significant value to properties.

Conversely though, development that doesn’t consider tree roots, hazards, future growth and how the built environment relates to these natural assets will swiftly run into problems. Planning authorities – normally via a BS5837 survey – will carefully check how any new development relates to trees in and around the development site, and how they will be managed in the future.

Tree surveysAs part of the BS5837 survey report, we will assess the value of trees based on their health, remaining lifespan and amenity impact. We provide a Tree Constraints Plan (TCP) showing root protection areas and existing and future crown spreads in a format to suit the client. This is used to initially inform architects when designing site layouts. The TCP helps to inform future tree management and immediately identifies necessary tree works – including hazards.

An Arboricultural Implications Assessment (AIA) follows final design, where the impact of the design proposal on the surrounding trees is assessed as well as the interaction the trees will have on the finished development. This information informs the Tree Protection Plan (TPP) which gives advice on protective measures for the trees on site. The TPP also gives clear indications of potential conflict between trees and the proposed site layout.

Often following planning permission is the Arboricultural Method Statement (AMS), which specifies tree protection measures and any specialised construction techniques. An AMS provides the information package for contractors to fully protect trees during construction and is helpful for tendering works. In our tree surveys and reports, we will also offer guidance on replacements for trees removed and any new planting specifications.

If you have questions about the services offered by our new arboriculturist or if you would like to discuss how a tree survey would help your planning proposals please contact Jim Allitt on: Email: jamesa@norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk Telephone: 01603 625540