The last two months have proved very busy for CGO Ecology Ltd. Normally the spring is the busiest season, but the warm autumn in 2011, and a rash of new contracts, has made for a very busy season.
With a warmer autumn than usual, the active season for reptiles and amphibians has been extended, enabling mitigation projects to continue as long as the weather allows.
Normally, as the weather deteriorates over the autumn, detectability declines dramatically, and surveys and capture operations have to cease. Newts, frogs, toads, lizards and snakes start winding down towards hibernation, and only a few individuals are seen above ground.
This year, the extended 'Indian Summer' brought temperatures approaching 30 degrees centigrade in some parts of Britain in late September and early October, and days have continued to be warmer than usual throughout October. Some reptiles are still detectable on such days.
Furthermore, nights have generally been mild recently in southern England, and couple with wet weather, this means that amphibians are still active. For example, great crested newts are still moving at night, and can be found hiding under objects by day. Refugia-based surveys are therefore still turning up good results, and look set to do so until at least the end of October.
Despite the Natural England GCN mitigation guidelines advising that terrestrial surveys should cease in mid-October, CGO Ecology has found that mild weather can allow terrestrial detection of newts right up to the end of the month. The key factor is effort levels. If enough refugia are used, then the issue of declining detectability is counteracted.
CGO Ecology has been involved in the following projects over the last two months:
- Great crested newt and reptile survey in a sand quarry in Wiltshire.
- Reptile capture and habitat management at a residential development in Surrey.
- Great crested newt survey at a private residence in West Sussex.
- Reptile capture at a residential development in Dorset.
- Reptile capture at a large residential development in Somerset.
- Mitigation report for a residential development in Monmouthshire.
- Archaeozoological research into subfossil remains from a cave in Morocco.
- Evening lecture for Dorset Wildlife Trust.
- Voluntary survey for ARC Trust's NARRS project.