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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Wilson Ecology’

I estimate, that mid-June in each and every year, is approximately the middle of the calendar year; and approximately the middle of the main ecology survey season (in the UK).  With an enforced few days in the office given the weather (cool, grey skies and damp conditions), why mention the blues?

Well, I don’t want readers (Yes! it is still the plural) to think I have sunk in to a depression given the imminent EU Referendum (I haven’t).  It is just that as an invertebrate ecologist (mainly it would seem nowadays), I seek, I crave, I aspire to the blues.  Blue skies.

 

Blue skies over flower-rich grassland.  An invertebrate and an invertebrate ecologist's delight

Blue skies over flower-rich grassland. An invertebrate and an invertebrate ecologist’s delight!

Blue skies equals, in a UK summer, high pressure.  Meteorologically and work wise.  It means that I am busy, in the field surveying.  In 2016, I have been, and will continue to be surveying in various locations between south-west Scotland (near Stranraer) and east Kent (east of Canterbury).  And various places in between.  But today is a grey day so I am ‘stuck’ in the office.

A form of invertebrate survey, be it an initial appraisal or more detailed surveys are increasingly being asked for pre-planning by local authorities and environmental consultancies.  I don’t know why this seems to be the case.  It might be merely a consequence of an improving economy and an increase in house building (for example).  But it might also be that ecologists in consultancies, ecologists in local authorities and environmental co-ordinators within larger developers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to understand what invertebrates, be they individual species, assemblages or guilds such as pollinators, could be or are present on site.  May be developers, business & industry, and local authorities ‘connect’ with the concept that insects such as pollinators are ‘useful’ (as are dung-beetles which are more than proverbially useful)?  Whatever the reason, 2016 is exceptionally busy for me and I am very grateful to all my clients for commissioning me to work with them.

Indeed, it is so busy that I have, with the client’s agreement, delayed a survey until 2017.  So whilst I will be very busy during the second half of 2016 (be it the calendar year or ecology survey season), it remains a good time for others to consider if a site might need an invertebrate survey.

Like the appearance of blue skies, it is gladdening to know that invertebrates are increasing their profile and recognition within the planning and nature conservation sector.

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Today, I am heading south as some of our first spring migrants are heading north.  I’ve yet to see my first ones; but may be, as the Urban Birder (David Lindo) suggests, when I arrive in London, I should look up (but may be not like the image on his website!).  And indeed I might.

SONY DSC

Sand martin (Riparia riparia) by Nigel Wedge (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence)

The purpose is to attend CIEEM’s spring conference on advances in Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA).  I am particularly interested to hear one of the talks which will be on ornithological EcIA and a standardised approach by Biocensus’ Tim Hounsome.  I am hoping that it will include some thoughts, opinions and conclusions on number of survey visits (at least 4 is my hope!) and methods (modified version of the CBC territory mapping methodology is my hope! [see section 2.3.1 of this document.]).

 

Walking to and from my daughter’s primary school, albeit between 08:20 and 09:10 hrs each morning, I am beginning to get a picture, though not an accurate one, of the breeding bird assemblage within my neighbourhood.  So far, I can reasonably assume, that blackbird (Turdus merula), dunnock (Prunella modularis), greenfinch (Chloris chloris), goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) and house sparrow (Passer domesticus) are likely breeding species in gardens.  Red kite (Milvus milvus) are displaying over farmland to the north and viewable from our front garden.  Male and female siskin (Spinus spinus) are still present in our garden, feeding on the bird feeder so am not sure if they will hang around to breed.

This brief blog is to really say that the breeding bird season has genuinely started – not at full throttle yet, but certainly the early birds are beginning to show interest.  Tim’s talk is well timed and I am genuinely looking forward to hearing it…so Tim, no pressure!

So if you are reading this and joining me in a ‘reverse migration’ (like water pipits (Anthus spinoletta)) to London and the CIEEM, conference, perhaps find me and say hello.

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Woodland, hedgerow and field in typical lowland England scene.  Habitat offers a wide range of nesting habitat for bird species.

Woodland, hedgerow and field in typical lowland England scene. Habitat offers a wide range of nesting habitat for bird species.

March. The first month of spring.  It always seems to me that this month marks the beginning of the end of damp, cold weather and the beginning of the beginning of slightly warmer temperatures, slightly warmer damp!  It also marks a colour change.  For the last few months, since autumn, the predominant colour has been green and brown, unless there is snow on the ground, in which case it is briefly white.  Come March, the first yellows appear, in the form of dandelions and colt’s-foot; and the first white, in the form of blackthorn and willow; and the first lime-green flecks of emerging leaves.  And there is an audible change too.  Dunnocks (or hedge accentors if you prefer the official name) are singing on the garden hedges, wing-flicking and generally thinking about nests and eggs.  Always a good indication that the breeding bird season has started.  And if the breeding bird season has started, now is the time to think about your development site and think about breeding bird surveys.

And it is not just the birds that are think about building ‘homes’.  So too are house builders (though I doubt they are singing or doing their equivalent of wing-flicking).  The UK Government issued a press release on the 4th March 2015 that enough public sector land has been released to build over 103,000 homes.

But legislators have also thought about the ecological consequences of building new homes.  Ecologists and developers are well-versed in the need to protect nests and eggs for all our species; the oft quoted bit of legislation is Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  It is an offence to “…take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built…” so vegetation clearance is aimed to be timed outside the breeding bird season.

However, there is recent legislation, that amended the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.  This amendment requires decision makers, such as local planning authorities (LPA), to “…take such steps in the exercise of their functions as they consider appropriate to secure the objective [of]…the preservation, maintenance and re-establishment of a sufficient diversity and area of habitat for wild birds in the United Kingdom, including by means of the upkeep, management and creation of such habitat, as appropriate, having regard to the requirements of Article 2 of the new Wild Birds Directive.”.

In my view, what this means in practice is that any planning application where a proposed development will impact on the preservation or maintenance of habitats that support bird populations, an appropriate and proportionate survey effort would be necessary to enable the LPA to fulfil their obligation under Regulation 9A of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended).  The type of habitats that I foresee this being relevant will include:

Brownfield site (north-east England) with patches of scrub & open areas offering nesting and foraging habitat for breeding birds.

Brownfield site (north-east England) with patches of scrub & open areas offering nesting and foraging habitat for breeding birds.

So, where there is a development likely to impact hedgerows, woodlands and shelter-belts, grasslands (including agricultural fields/ pasture), the margins of waterbodies (e.g. reedbeds, marshes, ‘bogs’); or brownfield sites within urban areas, then there is likely to be a requirement to undertake a pre-submission dedicated breeding bird survey.

If you have a site which is coming ‘on-line’; and you are commissioning surveys on the ground, then now is the time to get the breeding bird season booked in.  Robust surveys, enabling the LPA to fulfil their legal obligation should commence by early May and be completed by July.  You can contact me via this website; or via my LinkedIn profile for further advice.

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Today sees my fourth client newsletter.  Please click on the icon below to upload it.  Note that blue underlined text is hyperlinked and will direct you to third party websites.

 

Client Newsletter (Issue 4: Winter 2012/ 2013)

 

With best wishes for 2013

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The sun.

Do you remember it?  That bright disc in the sky.

Since the beginning of April and apart from a brief spell in the second half of May, the summer here in Yorkshire has been, well, how can I put it? Dull and wet (or wet and dull).  Its been the wettest extended period for as long as I can recall.  I wonder when the last complete 5-day period was when it didn’t rain in Yorkshire – can anyone tell me?  For an excellent summary of the spring and early summer weather in Yorkshire, take a look and read this blog.

Talking of reading, its been a while since I last published a client newsletter, so I have taken the opportunity in a gap between surveys (and while it has been raining), to pull together a short summary of what I’ve been up to since spring 2012.  It’s illustrated with nice pictures (all mine) so if you don’t feel like reading the text, enjoy the images.  And I’ve included some scenery with blue sky…for all those who cannot remember what this lools like.

Click on the image below to bring up the newsletter.

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Horizon scanning.  It can mean different things to different people.

An ornithologist for example, may scan the horizon to spot a distant bird of prey (raptor) or flock of waders, identify the species, annotate a map and estimate their height (absolutely or in height bands) and the time spent (e.g in 15 second intervals) at each height/ height band.  Of course, they could be doing this to support a potential wind farm/ turbine application.  It is part of the suite of ornithological and ecological surveys necessary in many instances to support such a planning application; and in this instance, it is probably part of a series of vantage point surveys.

For someone else, for example, a meteorologist, horizon scanning may be watching out for impending changes in the weather.

And for a pilot, the failure to horizon scan may result in this.

But in all seriousness, horizon scanning is an important element of running a business.  Analysing trends to identify future opportunities – there is even a law (Moore’s Law) to describe this.

So what relevance does this have to ecology and developers? (more…)

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You may have noted a reduced output of blogs this last few weeks.  This is owing to a large number of surveys that I am undertaking (largely breeding bird and amphibian related) and I have been away from my desk a fair amount.  However, it does remain for me to point out that the next four months are the peak period for ecology surveys so if you have any queries or need for an ecologist, please explore my website and contact me via e-mail or mobile phone; both of which can be accessed by me in the field (thanks to modern technology)!

I’ll be hoping to provide a more news orientated blog in the next week or so.  In the mean time, the survey calendat below may prove to be of use.

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