Spring has finally sprung and the Thomson Ecology 2016 survey season is now in full swing. This means watching briefs and surveys for breeding birds, great crested newt surveys (starting in mid-March), badger, hazel dormouse, and reptile surveys (starting in April) and bat surveys (starting in May), interspersed with otter, water vole and inveterate surveys (occurring throughout the summer). Thomson Ecology ecologists are busy people in the summer!
Thomson Ecology regularly has clients that question the survey timings proposed, wondering why the work may not be completed before a set deadline that does not take into considerations the seasonality of our surveys. Sometimes we are even contacted in September and asked to undertake a suite of surveys, which cannot be undertaken until the following spring or summer, thereby resulting in significant project delays. Survey timings and effort is guided by species-specific guidelines, produced by interest groups and supported by Natural England.
Thomson Ecology’s ecologists and project managers need to ensure that surveys follow this best practice guidance. In some instances it is possible to deviate survey methodologies from the guidelines, however, justification relating to a species’ or habitat’s ecology needs to be provided to demonstrate that the survey outcomes are still valid, despite a different survey methodology being used. This is not always possible, given the site’s ecology and ‘our client wants the project completed by this date,’ is not sufficient justification!
In our experience, the best method of managing this is through education. The more our clients understand the basic principals in ecological surveys, the better they can plan their projects. We have therefore been providing our clients with some training, in the form of seminars, for this purpose. This has been particularly well received and also provides our clients with an opportunity to ask ecology-related questions to a specialist ecologist.