Slithering into summer: REC ecologists undertake reptile survey

nathan reptile

 

REC’s ecologists have been busy undertaking a reptile survey over the last month at a site near Chesterfield in Derbyshire proposed for residential development. No reptiles have been found thus far, however we have found some common toads (Bufo bufo). Common toads are a priority species under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 which means that they need to be considered during planning applications. This means that they are considered the same as hedgehogs (see our hedgehogs’ highway to recover blog here) as they have also suffered from serious population declines in recent years. Common toads can grow up to 13cm long, weigh 80g and live up to 4 years https://www.arc-trust.org/common-toad .

The reptile survey involves putting out artificial refugia (corrugated metal sheets or roofing felts) in suitable habitats and visiting them at least seven times to check whether any reptiles are underneath. We also check underneath natural refugia (which includes logs etc.) and have a glance around for any as we walk through the site. The reptiles obtain heat from the mats which allows them to be active. Surveys start from when the frost starts to thaw (generally March) until it freezes over again (so until October normally), but this is very weather dependent. Reptiles like to use a variety of habitats, especially if they are in a mosaic type layout across a site. They generally like grassland, heathland, scrub, patches of bare ground (for basking), woodland and hedgerows, sand dunes, allotments etc. so they are often a consideration for us during our surveys. Sometimes a reptile survey is required to determine if reptiles are present and how many there are, and then if we find reptiles, a translocation is often used to safely remove them. However, sometimes we may recommend precautionary working methods if we think the potential for them to be on site is negligible or quite low.  For more information about reptile and other ecology surveys, please contact our REC ecologists on 0845 676 9303 or email info@recltd.co.uk.

frog

 

The hedgehogs’ highway to recovery

Frightened hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, balled up on background fir and juniper branches

Hedgehogs are a native and widespread animal in Great Britain, and are one of the nations most loved animals. However, they are suffering steep declines due to habitat loss and fragmentation. A recent estimate has stated that there are approximately 1 million hedgehogs in Great Britain which represents a 97% fall from the 30 million estimated to have been present in the 1950’s.

Hedgehogs are a species “of principal importance for the purpose of conserving biodiversity” covered under Section 41 (England) of the NERC Act (2006), which means that planning authorities must have regards for the species when determining planning applications. However, how this is to be achieved has been difficult to determine.

Recently, there have been calls for hedgehogs to receive greater consideration within new developments, including a petition which gained more than half a million signatures to ensure every new housing development has built in holes for hedgehogs to move between gardens. These holes are commonly called ‘hedgehog highways’, and are achieved through incorporating a 13 cm x 13 cm hole in the bottom of a closed border fencing to allow hedgehogs to move freely between gardens. The style of fencing can also aid hedgehog movement, such as moving away from closed border fencing entirely, and utilising fences with open bottoms. These measures will also be in line with the Lawton principles of making our network of sites “bigger, better, and more joined up” as well as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2019 which aims topromote the conservation, restoration and enhancement of ecological networks and the protection and recovery of priority species”.

The call for improvements to developments for hedgehogs has been aided by a new publication by Hedgehog Street “Hedgehogs and Development” — which is a collaborative project between British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species.

In response to these new calls for action, the UK government has provided new guidance on how to protect wildlife during the construction of new homes. The new guidance states: “relatively small features can often achieve important benefits for wildlife, such as … providing safe routes for hedgehogs between different areas of habitat.”

These new guidelines will ensure that all new housing developments incorporate hedgehog highways within new builds to ensure connectivity is provided, and also for a variety of other species. These measures have the potential to help aid the recovery of hedgehog and help achieve better ecological networks across the country.

If you would like further guidance on how to incorporate hedgehog highways and other measures to conserve hedgehogs in your development, please get in touch with our ecology team on ecology@recltd.co.uk.

REC ecology team on the look out for the Black redstart

red blackstart

The REC ecology team have recently been involved in undertaking surveys for one of the rarest breeding birds in the UK, the black redstart. Black redstart originally habituated stony areas around mountains, especially cliff faces and rocky outcrops, however have recently migrated into brownfield sites in city centres (primarily London) due to the habitats mimicking these areas, such as industrial areas, brown roofs, and abandoned buildings. There are around 44 breeding pairs in the UK, with London being a stronghold for the species with up to 33% of the population.

The black redstart is on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern, is listed as a Schedule 1 species on The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and is a species of principal importance. Therefore, any large scale developments within London would need to ensure that they are protecting and conserving this species.

Unfortunately, no Black redstarts were recorded on our surveys, however the ecology team is now working with the developer to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to ensure that suitable habitat is available.

Want to know more about our Ecology services? Contact the team today on 0845 676 9303 or email info@recltd.co.uk.

What do bats say at night?

There are 18 species of bat in the UK. All of them eat insects and each species targets specific insect types and hunts them in its own particular way. All bats have very large appetites as flying is energy intensive. A common pipistrelle for example can eat over 3,000 small insects in a one night.

Bats hunt by emitting high frequency calls which create ‘echoes’ from the objects in front of them – a system called echolocation – which they also use to navigate. Bat calls are usually too high pitched for the human ear but they can be heard or recorded using a bat detector. Individual bat species emit calls with specific characteristics related to their size, flight behaviour, environment and types of prey. This means that with the aid of bat detectors we can identify many species by listening to their calls or recording them for sound analysis later on.

If you would like to hear some of these bat calls then click on the following – you’ll note the audible difference between species:

Horseshoe bat

Specialized anatomical features involved in echolocation seen on rare bat in the family Rhinolophidae

Noctule bat

noctule new

Feeding Buzz of a Pipistrelle Bat

pipistralle bat

 

REC is fortunate enough to have licences to monitor and survey bats including surveys by torch, endoscope, and hand-held nets as well as handling (Using our Class 2 licensed ecologists). The main bat survey season is May to August, however other types of bat surveys can be undertaken during the winter months including swarming surveys and hibernation checks.

If you would like to know more about bat surveys or require support in relation to a particular scheme, please contact the team at  0845 676 9303 or email info@recltd.co.uk.

Asbestos in soils – the risks and how to manage them

Image result for soil

Asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were widely used in construction prior to their ban in 1999. Many developers and contractors are aware of risks from asbestos in buildings, however asbestos in soils is becoming a prevalent matter for consideration.

It is often difficult (and sometimes not possible) to ensure that all asbestos is removed before demolition, and therefore asbestos in soil may be found in various forms such as loose fill, insulation, lagging, asbestos insulating board (AIB), and cement – with many of these fibres not visible to the naked eye.

Firstly, identifying whether there is asbestos in the soil is the main priority for developers, other things to consider after the identification include:

  • Can I leave the asbestos on site and, if not, how do I dispose of it?
  • How do I protect end users of the site, workers and the general public?

Protecting users, workers and the general public from asbestos in soil

The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012 requires actions to ensure the protection of workers and the general public from asbestos exposure resulting from work activities.

To determine whether asbestos in soils could be a potential risk, the first step is to carry out a risk assessment and soil testing via a ground investigation carried out by an experience environmental company. The thorough analysis of soil provides the accurate quantification of any asbestos fibres that may be present.

The mention of ‘asbestos’ will often ring alarm bells for developers; however, the presence of asbestos does not necessarily mean that contaminated soil needs to be removed from site. In many cases, the risk assessment may validate that the soil is safe to remain in situ if correct procedures are followed.

However, if unacceptable risks are identified, then remediation of the site is likely to be necessary.  For those involved in contaminated land projects, there are many legal and regulatory obligations that need to be considered in relation to the potential asbestos contamination of soils and made ground – speaking to a consultant and identifying potential risks early enough can help ensure asbestos compliance with minimal impacts on costs.

Asbestos Management Plans

The risks of asbestos exposure are greater for site operative and the general public during earthworks activity due to the soil being excavated, exposed and transported. This requires the consideration of different risks and control measures. Asbestos Management Plans seek to ensure compliance – ‘The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012’ require employers to carry out risk assessments where work with asbestos is necessary, to reduce exposure to asbestos and to prevent its spread.

The Asbestos Management Plan will be site-specific and the control measures will vary depending on the amount and type of asbestos present, the sensitivity of the site and the type of work to be carried out.

Early detection

The presence of asbestos in soil should not be a blockage to cost-effective and efficient development, as long as you ensure a qualified environmental consultant is involved in the project as early as possible.

REC is a UKAS accredited consultant with 4 in-house asbestos laboratories across the UK allowing us to provides clients with local delivery, quick turnaround, competitive pricing and flexible asbestos solutions.

For more information about asbestos in soils, visit our website https://www.recltd.co.uk/services/asbestos-consultants/asbestos-in-soils-faq-2/ or speak to one of consultants at info@recltd.co.uk or call 0845 676 9303.

Greenfinches and Biodiversity

Image result for greenfinches

REC was recently commissioned to undertake a Breeding Bird Survey on an area of arable farmland where a population of greenfinch had been sighted. The survey was part of an application to extend an herb and spices wholesale facility.

Greenfinch populations are under significant pressure through a combination of a parasite-borne disease commonly known as ‘bird-bath disease’ (Trichomonosis) which affects their ability to breath and feed, and the loss of countryside and farmland habitat which has also compounded the effect by forcing finches to feed in close proximity to each other on garden feeders thus increasing the spread of the disease.

Biodiversity enhancement

Fortunately the wholesaler also owned and managed the surrounding farmland for crops and REC has been able to recommend a suit of biodiversity enhancement measures to support the local greenfinch and other bird populations as well as enable the production facility to expand.

This has included boosting seed food within the farmland areas through providing uncut areas, a wide mix of crops, seed rich wild bird cover crops and managed hedgerows that are thicker and more diverse.

REC supports clients in reaching local and national biodiversity targets through our ecological advice, which helps clients to meet the ever-increasing need for sustainable developments by balancing the need for property and infrastructure build with enhancing the environment.

If a development proposal is likely to impact upon habitats utilised by breeding birds, such as arable farmland, hedgerows, woodland, or grassland, REC can provide experienced ecologists to undertake appropriate surveys and provide high-quality advice on how to ensure that there will be no detrimental impacts upon breeding birds.