Is your project or development ready for the 2022 survey season?
Peak survey season for 2021 is already behind us, with wintering ecological surveys being a relaxing change to the madness of spring. Before we wind down entirely for winter, enjoying those mince pies, warm fires and tipples as we enter Christmas season, it’s worth considering the 2022 survey season and what surveys your development may require.
Covid19 has delayed a host of different developments during the last 2 years, so 2022 is anticipated to be extremely busy – don’t get caught out and delayed again because you haven’t accommodated for a bat survey, breeding bird survey or have found an unexpected badger sett. It is advised to consult an ecologist as early as possible for any project or development, enabling you to factor ecology into your design, timetable and budget.
So what aspects should you be considering right now for your site? Check out the below or simply contact a member of the team today
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) establishes the potential environmental impacts of a proposed project. An EIA is often required prior to the granting of planning permission so needs to be considered extremely early in your project.
The first step from an ecology point of view for any development is an Extended Phase 1 habitat survey; these surveys are ideally conducted between April and September and are used to obtain a rudimentary understanding of the kind of habitats present, an understanding of previous ecological records, as well as obtaining “Target Notes” which pertain to potential protected species present e.g. there may be evidence of bat roosts, barn owls, rare plants, otters or water voles.
Does your development involve developing existing buildings which may contain bat roosts? Is it a new development that could influence habitat features used by bats such as hedgerows or woodlands? Surveys and reports are required for all developments that could impact bats. Surveys required include preliminary roost assessments (PRAs), transect surveys and emergence surveys.
All wild birds, their eggs and their nests are protected by law and some species have additional protections when nesting. Surveys are required if the project will have any adverse impacts on natural habitats, agricultural buildings such as barns, tree works and floodlighting near woodlands, hedgerows or water. This includes breeding birds, wintering birds, red and amber list birds of conservation concern and birds listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).
Otters, Badgers, Red Squirrels, Water Voles and Dormice are all protected under British Law (Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981) and will require surveys to ascertain their presence or absence, how they use the site and mitigation plans that need to be put in place.
Otter surveys involve looking for spraints (dung) tracks, holts, tracks and feeding remains and should only be conducted by a licensed surveyor. Although otters can be surveyed throughout the year, depending on the weather, it is easiest to survey them in spring when evidence of otters is most apparent.
Badger sett surveys (finding a sett in active use) can be undertaken as early as February but should you need to exclude a badger sett, this work must be done under license between July and November and an alternative artificial sett must be built for them.
Red Squirrels and their dreys are both protected. Your project may impact red squirrels if it involves removing suitable trees – usually trees 15years of age or more in both conifer and broadleaved woodlands or work that could cause disturbance to dreys such as tree removal within 50m of occupied dreys between February and September. Surveys are conducted by consulting the previous historical ecological records to see if red squirrels are present, simple presence and absence checks or a more intensive systematic search for dreys and breeding activity.
Water vole surveys are required if there is any historical records of them previously being present on the site or if the habitat is suitable for them e.g. silt-shored river banks for burrows with deep and slow-flowing water courses. Similar to otters, surveying for water voles involves looking for faeces, burrows and footprints but also latrines, feeding stations and runs. Water vole surveys are best conducted in early Spring, from March onwards.
Dormice can be surveyed by looking for gnawed hazelnuts (which is rather charming) between September and December when Hazel trees are fruiting. This survey method cannot be used on its own, however, unless the removal of dormouse habitat is extremely minimal and thus must be followed by more intensive survey methods such as a nest tube and/or nest boxes. The boxes and tubes will need to be left in place from April or May for an entire season and checked at least every 2 months.
Reptiles are protected under British Law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981); this includes Adders, Grass Snakes, Common Lizards, Slow Worms, Smooth Snakes and Sand Lizards. Surveys for reptiles should be carried out in late spring into early summer on days of intermittent sunshine. If mitigations on your site are not viable, it may be necessary to trap and translocate reptiles to a suitable receptor site.
If you have waterbodies on your site or within 500m of your site boundary, you may have Great Crested Newts. GCNs are one of the most vigorously protected species in the UK and are considered a species of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England and Wales. GCN surveys are conducted using bottle trap surveys, eggs searches and torch searches on each waterbody up to four times, with the method of survey and when it can be conducted differing slightly.
For further information on how Nevis can assist with your project: