Great Crested Newts are all about planning

It is that time of year again when ecologists emerge from hibernation and look to plan surveys for the coming season. The first milestone are Great Crested Newts with the survey season spread between mid-March and mid-June, with half of the visits needing to occur between mid-April and mid-May. Although this is a rule of thumb for the past few years this has generally been when weather conditions allow for surveys to take place.

Great Crested newt surveys can be very intensive with an initial site visit and Habitat suitability Index assessment needed prior to determining which ponds to fully survey. Planning these initial assessments (which can be carried out year round) is very important to ensure that the survey season is not missed. I work closely with my clients to ensure that every attempt is made to fit all surveys in but I have lost count of how many new or competitor’s clients call me asking if surveys can still be completed in July. Planning for these early also means survey prices can be hugely reduced due to Ecology by Design being able to combine site visits.

Do not miss the window and suffer delays until 2016 act now and contact Ecology by Design:  07487 700305.

Frequently asked questions:

Q. When can surveys be completed?

A. Surveys must occur between mid-March and mid-June (weather dependent) or they risk being rejected if works involve submitting for planning and/ or applying for a licence to mitigate for newts on your site. Half of the required survey visits must be conducted between mid-April and mid-May.

Q. How many surveys are completed?

A. Initial site walkovers and assessment identify all ponds within 250m and 500m of a site boundary. If possible these ponds are accessed and undergo a Habitat suitability Index assessment which scores a pond against ten criteria resulting in a score of suitability for supporting newts. Ponds deemed suitable within 250m are then recommended for pond survey.

Pond surveys include between 4 and 6 visits, 4 to determine presence or absence and then if newts are found an additional 2 to determine a population estimate.

Q. What is involved?

A. Each visit includes using 3 of 4 standard methods; torching, bottle trapping, egg searches and netting.

A new method has also been introduced although it is not widely available commercially yet. This method is called eDNA and involves taking water samples at 20 locations around each pond and then analysing the samples in a lab to determine if any DNA of Great Crested Newts are present. Currently this method can only be used between 15th April and 30th June. This new method will be subject of a future news article but could revolutionise newt surveys. This method greatly reduces survey prices and gives a presence or absence result after 1 visit. Contact us if you wish to discuss this option.

Q. We have forgotten a site, can we still squeeze surveys in?

A.  Ecology by Design can always discuss surveys with you and if possible squeeze new sites into the season at late notice. There can be some value to conducting surveys out of season but these are unique to a certain situation and should not be relied upon.

Do not miss the window and suffer delays until 2016 act now and contact Ecology by Design:  07487 700305.