Water vole ecology and survey course 2017

Want to learn more about the elusive water voles and how to spot their signs ?  Then come along to our informative training day at NWT Hickling Broad Nature Reserve and learn about their ecology, habitats and surveys.
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© Alex McLennan

The course will give you :

  • an introduction to water voles and their ecology,
  • current population trends and distributions
  • updates on the most recent legislation,
  • a practical outdoor session looking for water voles “in the wild”
  • what signs to look out for on the river banks that show water voles are living there.

The morning session will include an introduction to water voles and their ecology; covering water vole lifecycles, habitats, food, predators, the problems they face, reasons for population decline and current legislation. In the afternoon we will venture outside looking at survey techniques and recording forms, equipment, safe surveying, how and where to look for signs, identifying potential water vole habitat and field signs.

HousekeepingMuch of the afternoon will be spent out in the field; we will also have use of the Visitor Centre facilities.

Please bring wellington boots, suitable outdoor clothes and waterproofs.  We recommend bringing a pair of practical gloves for ground searching and a strong walking stick or similar (for support and for parting vegetation). It is also advisable to bring insect repellant.

Hot drinks and biscuits will be provided, but please bring your own packed lunch.

Workshop Leaders: Sue Traer

Date and Time: Wednesday 21st June 2017, 10:00am – 4:00pm

Location: NWT Hickling Broad, Norfolk (NR12 0BW)

Cost: £75.00 plus V.A.T (£45.00 plus V.A.T for concessions)

Booking: To book a place, contact Carolyn Smith at Norfolk Wildlife Services by emailing carolyns @ norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk, or by telephoning 01603 625 540.

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

What chemicals can I use in bat roosts ?

Natural England guidance on chemicals not affecting bats is hard to find on gov.uk. We have uploaded a copy of “Natural England Technical Information Note TIN092 Bat roosts and timber treatment products” [TIN092_Bat_Friendly_Timber_Treatment], which is the First edition dated 15 March 2011. This gives a list of those commonly available products currently approved as remedial timber treatment chemicals and products in bat roosts. This was an update to the information in the 3rd edition of the Bat Workers Manual.

We know the list is not comprehensive. If you can’t find what you are looking for, you may be best to get us to ring Natural England on your behalf.  They are very friendly and generally able to make a quick response on the subject.

Schedule 9 invasive plants and development

Schedule 9 plants are invasive and generally need controlling on a development site. After talking to a client about yellow archangel, we thought a list of schedule 9 would be helpful. It is an offence to “plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild invasive non-native plants listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.”

A lot of the most invasive are aquatic or live in marshy environments e.g. Crassula helmsii, but brownfield sites also harbour species such as knotweed.  We can advise on control methods to incorporate into construction management for you.

Plants listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales

Common Name Latin Name  
Elodea (waterweeds) eg Canadian waterweed Elodea Canadensis All species of the Elodea genus Aquatic – widespread in Norfolk
Curly waterweed Lagarosiphon major Aquatic
Duck potato Sagittaria latifolia Aquatic
Entire-leaved cotoneaster Cotoneaster integrifolius Garden escape
Knotweed Fallopia japonica x Fallopia sachalinensis (a hybrid knotweed) Brownfield sites
False Virginia creeper Parthenocissus inserta Garden escape
Fanwort (Carolina water-shield) Cabomba caroliniana Aquatic
Few-flowered leek Allium paradoxum
Floating pennywort Hydrocotyle ranunculoides Aquatic – highly invasive
Floating water primrose Ludwigia peploides Aquatic
Giant hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum Fairly commonly encountered
Giant knotweed Fallopia sachalinensis Brownfield sites
Giant rhubarb Gunnera tinctoria Too cold in Norfolk
Giant salvinia Salvinia molesta Aquatic
Green seafingers Codium fragile
Himalayan cotoneaster Cotoneaster simonsii
Hollyberry cotoneaster Cotoneaster bullatus
Hottentot-fig Carpobrotus edulis Too cold in Norfolk
Indian balsam Himalayan balsam Impatiens glandulifera Water courses and rivers
Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica Brownfield sites
Japanese rose Rosa rugosa
Montbretia Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora
New Zealand pigmyweed (Australian swamp-stonecrop) Crassula helmsii Aquatic – highly invasive in Norfolk
Parrot’s-feather Myriophyllum aquaticum Aquatic
Perfoliate Alexanders Smyrnium perfoliatum
Purple dewplant Disphyma crassifolium
Red algae Grateloupia luxurians
Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum Acid soils only
Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum x Rhododendron maximum Acid soils only
Small-leaved cotoneaster Cotoneaster microphyllus Garden escape
Shallon Gaultheria shallon
Three-cornered garlic Allium triquetrum Too cold in Norfolk ?
Variegated yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. argentatum Garden escape
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia Garden escape
Water fern Azolla filiculoides Aquatic
Water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes Aquatic
Water lettuce Pistia stratiotes Aquatic
Water primrose Ludwigia grandiflora / Ludwigia uruguayensis Aquatic
Yellow azalea Rhododendron luteum Acid soils only

Summer bat surveys

The bat survey season is well and truly underway and at NWS surveys are taking place almost every day of the week. Initial surveys are undertaken to look for evidence of bats and if found then a minimum of three nocturnal surveys (dawn and dusk) may be required during the main survey season, i.e. May to September.

During a dusk survey, surveyors watch the building from 15 minutes before dusk and 2 hours after dusk to watch for any bats emerging from the building. A bat detector and a recording device are used to record any bat calls which are then analysed to confirm the sightings and to identify species. Target notes are also recorded on a map so any points of entry can be identified.

During a dawn survey, surveyors watch the building for the 2 hours before dawn (which means a very early start!). The same method is used as in a dusk survey but the surveyors are mainly watching for bats to return to roost.

These surveys can be really interesting and exciting if there is lots of activity at the site but they can also be a bit boring if there isn’t much going on (you are essentially staring at a building for 2 hours…. potentially at 2.30am!). It can be worth getting up super early though if you get a close encounter with a bat like at a recent site where Brown Long-eared bats were roosting just above our heads in a barn.

Brown long-eared bat

Brown long-eared bat

Mitigating for great crested newts

Since starting great crested newt surveys in mid-March 2015, about 20% of the 75 ponds surveyed across Norfolk contained newts. For these sites, their development may now require a “European Protected Species Mitigation” ( EPSM ) licence, granted by Natural England after planning permission is given.

Lemonade and great crested newts

Bottle Trap

Bottle trap used in great crested newt surveys

We devise the mitigation strategy for clients based on where and how many newts are present.

To estimate numbers, we make six nocturnal counts via netting, with “bottle traps” (1.5 litre lemonade bottles) and spotlights. This indication of population size is used to devise a proportional strategy, ensuring that your development does not adversely affect newt populations.

Compensatory habitat

The EPSM licence needs to provide “compensatory habitat” at least equal in extent to that lost by development.  Newt habitats include scrub, grassland and woodland, but also often brown field areas, especially near old gravel or brick pits.  Ideas to think about when designing “compensatory habitat” are:

  • Restoring existing ponds to make them more suitable for great crested newts by clearing out shading scrub or desilting.
  • Creating brand new ponds: often also an attractive landscape feature (but no fish please and balancing lagoons aren’t suitable!)
  • Making wildflower meadows: good foraging habitat for newts plus an attractive feature managed well;
  • Planting woodland belts and hedgerows makes excellent shaded habitat for newts with leaf litter and logs, plus good for site landscaping, and corridors for newts to travel along to safely get from one area to another.

The bucket stage

If work cannot avoid impacting great crested newts, the development will need fencing off and trapping out with “pitfall traps” (buckets) to capture them and move them to safety.   Trapping normally takes place in autumn or early spring as it requires both suitably wet weather, but reasonable temperatures for the newt activity.

The number of nights trapping depends on the population, varying between 30 and 90 nights with additional needs where breeding ponds are removed.  If the fencing fails during building, then retrapping may be required, so investment in a decent spec fence is worth some thought. Generally you will need to keep the perimeter up from start to finish.

To create the compensatory habitat for a site near Dereham, we cleared ornamental shrubs and seeded the bare banks with wetland wildflowers around an existing pond, creating excellent refuges and invertebrates to hunt. Enclaves of wildflowers and trees were connected via thick hedgerows running around the boundary of the development, linking to hedges and ponds in the landscape.  Post development, the 2015 recount of newts showed numbers of breeding newts have remained consistent at 85, and that the mitigation had been successful.

What does NPPF say about ecology or wildlife ?

National Planning and Policy Framework has quite extensive consideration of ecology and wildlife, including the need for a landscape scale approach to planning and for wildlife gain during development.  We find it quite a big document to download, so the following are the relevant extracts from the National Planning and Policy Framework. We have added in titles for ease of navigation. Continue reading

Photo gallery for bat mitigation