It is that time of year that we are cleaning off our bottle traps and checking our torch batteries as the great crested newt survey season is about to get into full swing.
Standard great crested newt surveys can be undertaken between mid-March and mid-July, and half of the visits need to be completed between mid-April and mid-May.
If you just need to show whether newts are likely to be present or not, four visits are required. If you need to show how large a population is, six visits are needed.
eDNA surveys, where water samples are taken from a pond and sent for lab analysis, can be completed between mid-April and the end of June. This will tell us whether newts are present in a pond, but can’t help with a population size estimate.
More information on great crested newt surveys can be found here.
To book an ecology survey, visit this page.
Monitoring data from UK bird surveys between 1970 and 2017 have been published by DEFRA.
Why monitor bird populations?
Bird populations have long been considered to provide a good indication of the broad state of wildlife in the UK. This is because they occupy a wide range of habitats and respond to environmental pressures that also operate on other groups of wildlife. In addition, there are considerable long-term data on trends in bird populations, allowing for comparison between the short term and long term. Because they are a well-studied taxonomic group, drivers of change for birds are better understood than for other species groups, which enable better interpretation of any observed changes. Birds also have huge cultural importance and are highly valued as a part of the UK’s natural environment by the general public. However, the bird indicators presented in this publication are not intended, in isolation, as indicators of the health of the natural environment more widely.
What is the DEFRA National Statistics?
This annual DEFRA National Statistics Release presents data trends up to 2017 in populations of common birds (species with a population of at least 500 breeding pairs) that are native to, and breed in, the UK, with trends overall as well as for four main habitat groups (see Annex A for a list of birds in each group). The release also presents trends for wintering waterbirds, some of which also breed in the UK. The charts presented combine individual species indices into a single indicator to provide an overall trend for each group mentioned above. The indices are considered to give reliable medium to long-term trends but strong reliance should not be attached to short-term changes from year to year.
What are the results?
In summary the all species index has changed little over the period, although this hides losses in all but two of the categories – wintering birds are up 98% and water and wetland birds have no significant changes. There are significant losses to farmland birds, woodland birds and seabirds.
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This post contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
Read the full report here.
Protection of Pollinators Bill
Ben Bradley, MP for Mansfield has launched a campaign to save Britain’s pollinators in connection with Buglife, the charity devoted to the conservation of insects and other invertebrates.
The Bill is designed to help support pollinators including bees, butterflies, wasps and moths. More than two thirds of Britain’s pollinators are in decline and 35 of the UK’s bee species are currently under threat of extinction. The loss of wildflower-rich habitat is one of the main threats to their survival.
Ben’s Protection of Pollinators Bill, asks the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help bees and other insects by protecting their habitat and supporting the creation of “pollinator corridors”.
The Bill is based Buglife’s B-Lines scheme which is a series of planned “insect pathways” or pollinator corridors running through our countryside and towns. These paths are formed of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones which link existing wildlife areas together, creating a network that weaves across our landscape allowing bees and other pollinators to roam freely across large areas. The benefits of such a scheme will also be felt by a range of other species, such as birds and bats.
The Government’s National Pollinator Strategy focuses on temporary habitats, and patches of protected countryside. Although these provide benefits, pollinators movement is constrained by barriers. Ben’s Bill calls for the creation of B-Lines as a solution.
Ben’s Bill puts a duty on Defra to bring forward a map outlining a continuous national network of pollinator corridors (B-Lines) containing spaces rich in wildflower habitat. It also asks public authorities in England to help to improve the connectivity of wildflower-rich habitats within the B-Lines Map.
Funding for Pollinator Habitat Mapping
In addition to the Pollinator’s Bill, Environment Secretary Michael Gove launched a £60,000 fund to develop and test pollinator habitat mapping – identifying where new habitats will provide the greatest benefit for bees and other pollinators.
This will help to boost the number of pollinator-friendly landscapes and protect the health of our bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths and hoverflies, as set out in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
These species are critical to our countryside and the food industry through the work they do to pollinate plants and crops.
The project will involve partnering with organisations such as Natural England, Buglife, The Wildlife Trusts and other bodies working on habitat mapping and the conservation of pollinators.
What does this mean to our clients?
We will be looking at how our work with developers can contribute to Bug Life’s B-Lines. Where development is within a B-Line area, we will investigate opportunities for our clients to contribute to the strategy.
Should the bill be passed, these corridors may also end up with local policy designations.
The B-line map can be seen here.
We already encourage our clients to include wildlife habitats within schemes to maintain stepping stones and it will be interesting to start to compare our sites with the location of B-Lines to see if there is more that we can do to contribute.
A new residential development Nieuwkoop (Netherlands) has been constructed with red street lights. The development is next to the Nieuwkoopse Plassen nature reserve, which is part of the Holland-Utrecht low fenland region (called the Groene Hart (transl. Green Heart)) of the Netherlands. This nature area of 2,000 hectares is among the most important wetland regions in the Netherlands.
The reserve is important for a range of species, but one key issue with the proposed development was the potential impact of artificial light on bats.
The development proposal looked at a range of ecological issues, but the interesting thing to draw on for us is a novel approach to lighting. So as not to disturb the nocturnal feeding and night time activity of the bats, a special light recipe was developed by Signify (formerly Phillips Lights), the University of Wageningen and ecology NGOs. Normal street lights can affect a bat’s flight and overall night time behaviour as well as their insect prey which tend to congregate around the lights.
“Bats don’t see red light as particularly bright, if they see it at all,” says Maurice Donners, a senior scientist and innovation specialist at Signify, which designed the new street lights. “So if you have certain bat species that are really avoiding light, we thought the obvious thing to do was take a portion of red light which is visible to us, but is much less visible, or perhaps even invisible, to bats.”
For humans, Donners says the lights perform as well as typical LEDs–the brightness meets the same requirements for rural neighbourhoods, and human eyes quickly adapt to the colour. “We have a mechanism in our visual system which is much like the automatic white balance in a modern camera, which will tell our brains actually the lighting which you see, is white,” he says. “So it will adapt your perception. After a couple of minutes, you won’t notice anymore that it’s really red.” A mix of a few other colours in the light, including a little blue and yellow, makes it possible to distinguish colours–for example, when you’re trying to find a car in a parking lot.
The lights can be set to dim late at night, and brighten when an ambulance or fire truck drives by. The system can also automatically brighten lights when pedestrians or cyclists approach, though that function isn’t used in this neighbourhood.
The company is also working on lights that can benefit other wildlife. Migrating birds, Donners says, typically aren’t disturbed by ordinary residential streetlights. But if an area is particularly bright and surrounded by darkness–for example, an oil platform in the middle of the ocean–that can make birds swerve off-course. Another light recipe, a blue-green colour, in this case, can help birds. Signify plans to use those lights on an island off the Dutch coast in the North Sea, replacing the island’s entire public lighting system to help migrating birds. (The bird-friendly lights, notably, aren’t any better for bats than ordinary streetlights–there’s no solution for all species, yet, other than darkness.)
The new lights for bats likely only make sense in certain locations. “In a really big city centre with lots of noise and traffic and all kinds of other irritating factors for bats, it might not be that useful to do something like this,” he says. “In areas where lighting is a predominant disturbing factor, and there is actually a reason to focus on bats and not on some particular other species, then this might be a good solution.”
Nieuwkoop is the first town in the world to use smart LED street lights that are designed to be friendly to bats. When developing our unique housing program our goal was to make the project as sustainable as possible, while preserving our local bat species with minimal impact to their habitat. We’ve managed to do this and kept our carbon footprint and energy consumption to a minimum.
Guus Elkhuizen, City Council Member, Nieuwkoop municipality
Prime Environment will be drawing on this new technology in our recommendations for projects where there are significant potential impacts on bats from lighting.
Read more here:
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