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.



Consultation shake up for great crested newts

There may be a big shake up in the approach to Great Crested Newts on development sites. Natural England is seeking views about changes in licencing around Great Crested Newts mitigation. Read their document here

Great crested newt fence with bucket

Great crested newt fence with bucket

The policy proposals are quite a radical change and focus on spending more money on habitat creation to secure long-term populations of newts and less on consultants fees to move them. They are related to the Woking pilot :

They have 4 new policies for licences they feel could benefit European protected species whilst “improving flexibility for developers” :

  1. Greater flexibility when excluding and relocating EPS from development sites [ not always having to fence or trap out sites ]
  2. Greater flexibility in the location of newly created habitats that compensate for habitats that will be lost [ whether these are nearby or not ]
  3. Allowing EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date  [ avoids developers excluding them for worrying about colonisation ]
  4. Appropriate and relevant surveys where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted [ avoids unnecessary surveys that add no greater clarity but additional costs ]

You can comment on these proposed new policies for European protected species licences – the consultation closes at 7 April 2016 5:00pm : https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/wildlife-licensing-comment-on-new-policies-for-european-protected-species-licences

Great crested newt nocturnal surveys off to a smooth start

Gravid female Triturus vulgaris

Female Smooth newt Triturus vulgaris

The newt surveying season has got off to a smooth start this year in 2015, once the weather had finally settled.

On our very first nocturnal surveys, we came across beautiful smooth newts like the one below. This is a heavily “gravid” female, which was evidently preparing to lay its bellyfull of eggs on submerged plants.  The species is smaller than great crested newts, shares its spotted belly, but lacks its dark warty skin.  The two species often live together in the same ponds, although the smooth newts are more widespread and seem to prefer shallower and smaller sites.

Hopefully next week we will find the first great crested newt of the season!

Top 10 ecology tips for doing in the spring

Although it was cold (and gloomy with the eclipse ) this morning, the East Anglian wildlife thinks spring is in the air.  Blackbirds and song thrush are fighting over garden string for their nests, violets and celandine are in flower and we have found our first great crested newt eggs.

Inspired by a bit of spring fever,  we thought we would share out top ecology and wildlife 10 tips for 2015.

Enjoy the sunshine !

Bee on thorn blossom, March 2015

Bee on thorn blossom, March 2015

1. Watch out if felling trees

If you are doing any tree feeling or scrub clearance then you need to be very careful.  Birds have already started nesting and our prediction is that a mild winter will promote really quick breeding by most species.    If you have already missed the boat, then speak to us for advice on what to do and how to find out when they have left. You can find out how we have helped ENI Bacton here.

2. Don’t bother with eDNA tests for Great Crested Newts

eDNA tests were meant to be revolutionary for great crested newt surveys, by detecting small amounts of DNA in a pond, but have turned out not to be a damp squib. They have no more flexibility than normal nocturnal surveys, are more expensive per pond, and if you do find newts you need to do nighttime surveys anyway.  Plus if you don’t have kits and slots booked can take months to come back with a result. ADAS are pushing them hard and they do have some applications, but at present prices ask us if they are worthwhile.

3. Do book in your night time newt surveys

The key newt survey window is from April to May.  Miss the window and you might have missed the boat for the year………..ring us now and we will book it in for you.

4. Visit a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve.

The new Cley vistor Centre is being built if you want to see ( we did the landscaping plan for this). For spring flowers NWT Foxley Wood is the reserve par excellence to go.  All our profits go back to NWT so you can see where this is all being spent.

5. Buy a bird box cheep

It is actually too late to put up bird boxes as a rule.  Most species if not nesting will have already set up territories long ago.  However buying late spring may get you discounts as retailers realise they have too much stock.  We can recommend Wildcare for their excellent customer service and range of boxes, and they will sometimes haggle on larger orders. Even cheeper is making them yourself. ?…

6. Watch out for judicial review and planning appeals

A frequent feature of recent years has been challenges by developers or objectors to planning applications.   We see the same mistakes year after year by other ecology consultancy that make you think they have never read Morge versus Hants. If you think JR or an appeal might be in the air, and want your case looking at then come to us. We also offer a critique service for existing applications and an expert witness service for ecology.  Get us involved with ecology right from the start and reduce your stress.

7. Be nice to Natural England staff

There are serious delays to EPSL applications, and the roll out of the new agri-environment scheme has been repeatedly delayed, but the thin green line of Natural England staff continue to stoically slog away with their limited resources and chippa spirit, while there are now rarer than than stone curlews in Norfolk. Whenever we need their help, the staff do the very best they can,  and we recommend when you meet them offering them a strong cuppa and possibly a choccy biscuit for good measure. Well done you lot.

8. Think about green space for walking the dog

Recreational pressure on the ecology of coastal sites is an emerging issue in Norfolk and Norfolk authorities have commissioned another study similar to that leading to policy CP10 in Breckland.  We can help design development sites with sufficient provision for informal recreation, which also makes them a better place to live for residents and more attractive to buyers.  The layout of greenspace at Bradwell was designed as dog and people friendly with our help and helped overcome objections.

9. Do something small for bees

Right now thorn flowers are a great place for them, but bees are in decline, which is bad for them and bad for us.  The new “ecological focus areas” of  agri-environment will help them with special nectar rich mixes,  but planting the right flowers for summer can help them everywhere. You need to get planting soon though – if you want wildflowers we have a few recommendations.

10. Have a day off from the office and do something different

Join Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Try volunteering with Norfolk Wildlife Trust on one of their reserves, or learning about wildlife. You can go on a guided bird spotting walk on 5 April at Cley Marshes, where our new landscaping is nearly in place ( did we say that before – we are quite excited !) ….. If the boss has the money, then join NWT as a corporate member and get along to a corporate event.  Good for the heart, good for the soul.  Find out about events, here in the easy to use calendar : https://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/whats-on/calendar



Winter 2015 Newsletter available online


Our Winter Newsletter is available to download now as a pdf.

In this issue, our newsletter bring you highlights of some of our recent projects, changes to our team, and offer advice on key ecological dates not to miss in the spring. We look forward to working with you through 2015! Inside:

  • New winter homes for great crested newts, and new survey techniques for 2015
  • Creating habitats for feeding winter birds on solar farms
  • Creating a bespoke bat boudoir in downtown Bowthorpe
  • Getting stuck in the mud at Pope’s Marsh, Cley


Solar panels

Autumnal Temperatures

Following the driest September in the UK since records began in 1910, with the leaves finally turning brown and red, and with high winds and soaking showers, a wet and chilly autumn has slowly sunk upon us in October.

Since the 18th October, we have been using TinyTag data loggers to monitor the temperatures  on a site near Reepham, Norfolk – this to ensure overnight temperatures are suitable for the trapping of great crested newts [ we are using small enclosures with pitfall traps ]. Over two days, we recorded a descent of over 10°C in minimum temperature, with a lowest temperature of 3.5°C on the 21 October and also a jump in humidity from the low 80%s to almost 100%.

Temeprates for Salle 18-22.10.14

Figure 1: Graph showing minimum temperature and humidity data between 20 – 22/10/2014 recorded on a site near Reepham, Norfolk using a Tinytag data logger.

The outlook for November looks varied and unsettled, with high pressure expected to be dominant early in the month. The high pressure will probably bring dry, but frosty weather with the chance of heavy fog too. Later on in the month far more unsettled conditions will prevail, such as strong winds with gales at times and the risk of heavy rain.

I saw the first redwings, winter visiting thrushes, arriving on the 13 October.  On the 18 and 19 October, there were large numbers of chaffinch, greenfinch and brent geese blown across from the east. The arrival of these Scandinavian migrants always signifies the end of summer for me, and what a good summer it has been!

For our surveys, this onset of cold and wet weather means the end of the summer survey and newt trapping season, but having the first frosts will make surveys for badgers easier.

Fatigue from bat surveys ? AWTC questionnaire

Based on a number of anecdotes related to bat work told us each year, Norfolk Wildlife Services believe there is a significant Health and Safety issue from fatigue when driving to and from nocturnal bat surveys. We would like to be able to quantify this risk to see how widespread it is and identify safe practice.  We are working with AWTC on this subject.

Would you be prepared to complete a 15 minute questionnaire that could help save your life, and others? This can be completed in anonymity and with strict confidence.  We would like to complete this by 21/11/14, and will publish fully anonymised results subsequently.  Follow this link :


Thanks for your assistance

Chris Smith, Consultancy manager

P.S. If you want to find out more about the subject of safe breaks, there is more information about working time here  : http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/faqs/workingtime.htm

ENI Early birds at Bacton Gas terminal

Recent decommissioning work for ENI, the Italian multinational oil and gas, at the Bacton Gas terminal proved the value of bringing in specialist expertise to deal with the issue of breeding birds.  All birds with a few minor exceptions are rightly protected from destruction of their nests under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but this can present problems.

At Bacton, Norfolk Wildlife Services created a strategy for avoiding breeding birds being affected by the decommissioning works – by timing, preparation and zoning – conducted checks for their presence and then where present advised on exclusion zones and necessary adjustments in timetables to work round them.  New nest sites in the form of bird boxes were put up to provide alternative places for them.  Health and Safety constraints, the need for official HSE/EA notifications on works and contractor expenditure made adherence to strict project plans especially critical.

With this approach from Norfolk Wildlife Services, the potential impacts of the decommissioning process on wildlife and habitats in the area were minimised and vice versa the removal of delays from wildlife allowed the project to continue on-time and on-budget.

NWS have put in place a management plan for the site’s stewardship post-decommissioning, so that the wildlife value of the site for its’ coastal grassland and invertebrate communities can be maintained without creating safety issues for the adjacent industrial production facilities.