Over the last three years Gareth has helped-out as an assistant leader at 1st Haslemere Scouts, run by the extremely dedicated Short-family, providing a great support to the youth of Haslemere. GPM Ecology has given a small donation to Haslemere Scouts towards their activities for 2012. In addition we are making our regular donations to Handicap International UK, an independent aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Presently they are active in lobbying government, asking Vince Cable to stop UK banks funding cluster bombs. Support HI(UK), check out their website and enter their cluster-bomb questionnaire.
For over six years Gareth has been involved with the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (NDMP) assisting surveys at a private 1.3ha wood on the outskirts of Haslemere. The population density at this wood is higher than average with the site, having been in the top ten out of 150+ NDMP woods over the last 5-years. This year we had 20 Dormice from 50 boxes during October and a further two still active at the final check on a very mild 22nd November. Earlier in October Dave Williams of Surrey Dormice Group became an overnight hit with his snoring Dormouse video.
Autumn is the most practical time of year to conduct pond management, with low water-levels meaning easy access and minimal impact upon pond life. During autumn 2011 mitigation at a water-treatment works refurbishment included relocation of newts. On behalf of 4Delivery, GPM Ecology removed pond plants on 21st October from a small wildlife pond at Nursling Primary School, accommodating 35 newts (smooth and palmate) relocated from the treatment works. It took 4-man hours to clear about 8m sq., allowing the school to utilise this pond again for pond-dipping. Tools for the job included: two personnel, spade, fork, manure drag and wheel-barrow.
GPM Ecology has never been so busy in September, with four reptile translocations and three surveys conducted during this month. Three of the projects were on Southern Water waste-treatment improvement schemes; two in relation to sheltered-accommodation bungalow refurbishments with a Housing Association; one at a Surrey-heathland style golf course and another on a small private housing scheme in conjunction with Surrey Wildlife Trust consultancy. On 9th September 2011 Natural England, published the long-awaited Reptile Mitigation Guidelines, which have not be updated since Froglife guidelines dating back to 1998.
POST-SCRIPT: By end of October 2011 Natural England had removed this publication.
GPM Ecology has been involved in a major housing allocation in the Midlands since 2007, proposals having included 300 dwellings, a relief road and associated Open Space. On-site monitoring has included detailed botanical, hedgerow, invertebrate, bird, bat, reptile and badger surveys. During initial 2007 surveys the proposed development cut through an 'important' hedge, protected under Hedgerow Regulations 1997, with several defunct hedges also impacted. By August 2011 hedgerow features had grown to the extent that the 'important' hedge was now over 5m wide (too wide to be considered a hedge?) and the defunct hedges had grown into favourable priority BAP hedges!
During July GPM Ecology relocated just over 130 slow-worms and 27 grass snakes for specialist housing provider English Rural, at a 0.2ha eight-dwelling plot in a Surrey Village. Half were released into a vandal-proof compost bin (see June News below) on a former horticultural site, with the remaining released into a compost converter on an allotment adjacent a lush Tropical Garden. Finding appropriate release sites is very challenging. They must be safe from future development, with enough space to accommodate relocated animals and appropriately managed. We also found late breeding Garden Warbler in scrub on 20th July, fledging by 26th July, with young calling from oaks until 1st August.
During June GPM Ecology completed a reptile translocation of a 1.3ha development site (featured in March News). 300 slow-worms, seven grass snake and three viviparous lizards were relocated from the development. The receptor site included the installation of three robust compost bins, one them designed for all four species of widespread reptile, as constructed and illustrated below:
Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group assisted at a Surrey Fire Service Wildfire Day held at Hindhead on 28th May. Low spring rainfall and dry conditions on Surrey heathland sites already caused some significant fires during spring with three separate fires alone alight on 18th April, causing damage at Lightwater Country Park, Bagshot Heath and Elstead Common. A dead adder from Elstead Common is pictured below, taken by Jamel Guenioui of Surrey Wildlife Trust and Gareth of GPM Ecology found a dead smooth snake following the Lightwater Fire. See the SARG Wildfire Site for more information.
GPM Ecology has just been involved in two planning applications with potential impact upon SPA Birds. Solent Wader and Brent Goose Strategy has been developed due to recreational and development pressures upon SPA Birds. During March 2011 we conducted bird surveys at important roost sites in close proximity to a proposed marina development. Surveys included boat passes using a Rigid Inflatable Boat to assess the potential disturbance boats could have upon a high-tide roost, with the event captured on video (see below). An Ecological Impact Assessment detailing impacts upon SPA and botanical features was submitted to the LPA during April 2011.
During 2006 and 2010 GPM Ecology was involved in conducting reptile surveys and developing a mitigation strategy for a small housing site in Surrey. A tree felling licence was issued in February 2011 to manage a Norway Spruce plantation on the banks of the River Wey, following the agreement of a management plan between the landowner, Local Planning Authority, client and Forestry Commission. Works were conducted by Greenways Countryside Management during early March to fell and ring-bark up to 50% of the plantation, in order to create new habitat for translocated reptiles to colonise and for biodiversity enhancement.
During February GPM Ecology was involved in two projects where the ecological information was queried by LPA on account there was not enough survey and mitigation info in relation to ecological issues that represented a material consideration. Interpretation does vary between Authorities! Where a site has potential to support important ecological features of material consideration (such as protected species) then Natural England Standing Advice is that planning permission should not be determined until adequate surveys and mitigation have been presented (see flow-charts below). Developers should instruct ecological surveys the correct time of year to ensure they supply appropriate information.
GPM Ecology has just been involved in an exciting project, where a Hampshire Estate is keen to diversify by installing Photovoltaic Collectors into a former arable field. The field would be maintained by sheep, seeded with an acid grass seed-mix and expected to provide overall gain to the ecology of the area. Numerous applications across the Country are being submitted, since the Government introduced the renewable Feed-in Tariff (FiT) in April 2010 and current demand has been created following a plan to reduce the rate of energy paid to solar pv generators under FiT scheme. F.A.Q. brochure below was produced by Douglas Briggs Partnership: