GPM Ecology has worked closely with Surrey Wildlife Trust over the last 10 years and this year we have decided to provide a small donation towards Nower Wood Education Centre New Build Appeal. In addition we are making our regular donation to Handicap International UK, an independent aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. This Christmas they are active in assessing the needs of those people suffering Typhoon Bopha, striking the Philippines at the start of December, triggering catastrophic landslides and flooding. Support HI(UK), check out their website and give a Seasons gift to someone.
GPM Ecology completed surveys of a woodland down-wind of a Composting Facility. No dormice were located within this hazel coppice wood, with fine particulates observed on leaves and dust masks had to be used during dry, windy days (see photos below). However, Dormice were located (see June-News) within 250m of this Facility and thus it was concluded that they may avoid this wood, as they are arboreal and would be susceptible to airborne particulate. Despite this impact, such facilities are very important soil conditioning alternatives to peat-based products. This well-organised facility run by Veolia provides quality-checked, reasonably priced soil conditioner.
During September 2012 First Wessex Housing Association constructed a kriblock retaining wall with a sand bank on top, utilizing sub-soil from a bank previously located on site, following surveys by GPM Ecology. This bank was colonised within two months of construction by the colonial bee Colletes succinctus, which can live in aggregations of 100's or 1000's of bees. While Common Colletes is not threatened it can be perceived as harmful and thus destroyed by house owners. Hymettus has provided an Information Sheet on this species. Photos below show the kriblock wall, sand bank on top and newly colonised Common Colletes.
During August and September GPM Ecology was involved in two reptile surveys where grazing livestock were considered appropriate control methods to passively encourage reptiles to disperse off development sites. This method is only recommended for sites where there is a low or establishing reptile population, due to a recent change in management. Using livestock should reduce labour costs and materials, compared to the conventional method. Photos below show the change in vegetation structure during September and October, following the introduction of 14 Jacob Sheep onto a 1ha field that previously supported a small slow-worm population (high count of 3 slow-worms).
On 1st August we organised an Adder training day at Stanner's Hill, specifically designed for five ecologists from DF Clark Bionomique Ltd. All participants were provided the chance to handle adders safely (see photos below), with one of the ecologists admitting to a slight phobia, which they overcame. In total we observed three adders, 21 slow-worms, one grass snake and one viviparous lizard during a transect walk, with sightings recorded as part of long-term monitoring for Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group. See April 2012 News, when this monitoring site was set-up. Later that day Wiggins won cycling time-trial Olympic gold!
GPM Ecology set-out 50 dormice boxes and 50 tubes within woodland and hedgerows around a field proposed for an anaerobic digester (see February-news 2012). Tubes are easier to set-up within scrub than boxes, ideal for hedgerows and readily used for surveys, but dormice do not often nest in them. However, within two weeks of set-up, on 20th July, we located a dormouse and nest in a tube along the woodland-edge! Although boxes do need to be sited on larger trees they provide a ‘better’ nesting opportunity, utilised by dormice for maternity nests, good for long-term monitoring and increasing potential nest sites.
GPM Ecology assisted Econserve with a final bat survey of a ten-dwelling flat-roofed bungalow estate in Hampshire. Bat roosts were identified in 2010 by GPM Ecology (see news item: November 2010), with two subsequent 2011 survey visits by Econserve. During these surveys bats were found under fascias at all ten-dwellings, including a confirmed maternity roost. A licence to disturb the roost was granted by Natural England, with the fascias blocked during early spring 2012 and subsequently demolished 6th June 2012, following detailed bat surveys of the site. This year Natural England updated their standing advice for bat surveys and planning issues:
England suffered drought in spring 2012, with Environment Agency declaring drought conditions in 19 counties from 20th February until 11th May. GPM Ecology surveyed six Great Crested Newt (GCN) breeding ponds in southern counties all with May peaks: 14 GCN on 2nd May; 95 (9th May); 25 (10th May); 3 (11th May); 6 (14th May); and 11 (16th May). GCN at one pond were only recorded during the final visit on 11th May (see photos below). This is much later than usual peaks, which are generally recorded in April (sometimes March)! Subsequently 2012 had the wettest summer since 1912 ( Met-Office).
Queenwood Golf Course Ecological Management Committee will meet for the last time, following 10-years monitoring. In 2011 Mick Finnemore’s final bat-box check recorded a small long-eared roost; Gareth counted 90+ great crested newts in a pond, following a total population of 20 relocated in 1999; and Suzie Melhuish (of EPR) recorded grass snake on site, the first time since 1999. SWT continued to record plant/invertebrate interests and all these features are present down to the commitment of Cameron MacMillan and his green-keeping team. An April 2012 work-party with ARCT was organised to set-up reptile monitoring at Stanner's Hill, owned by the Golf Course.
During spring 2012 we have conducted Great Crested Newt surveys in unusual places, including a former swimming pool built by Winston Churchill; a dangerous by-way with large 1m deep ruts in which newts and Fairy Shrimps live and breed; a pond in the middle of a busy hospital next to a cardio-vascular unit; ponds within the grounds of an early 1900s mansion; and at nine Waste-water Treatment Works! One of the ponds at East Surrey Hospital having been constructed in 2005 is now well-developed (see photos below), with management and surveys conducted this year by Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group.
Last winter GPM Ecology got involved with ecological surveys on a solar-farm in the New Forest. This February Barfoot Energy Projects Ltd commissioned a survey of a field on a farm estate in Hampshire, proposed for an Anaerobic Digester. These on-farm Digesters can provide energy from biogas generated through the digestion of farm waste, with by-products including heat, fertiliser and a reduced Carbon-footprint from green-waste. Click below for more info on the Government's commitment towards ADs.
Also new for 2012 we have added a button on our website, which will link directly to the IUCN 'Amazing Species' webpage.
During January 2012 habitat creation was completed, following on from a slow-worm translocation in Wrecclesham, Surrey (March and June 2011 News Archive). Works included felling 30-40% of a 0.5ha Norway Spruce plantation on the banks of the River Wey; 50% of the standing plantation was ring-barked; and low-density native planting of Alder, Willow, Hazel, Hawthorn, Elder, Oak, Ash, Crab Apple and Blackthorn was required, as part of a felling licence. Greenways Countryside Management carried-out the works on behalf of housing association Sentinel Housing. The photos show that the ground-cover under Spruce felled during March 2011, had greened-up by January 2012.