Last minute newt surveys happen every year, and 2014 was no different ! I was commissioned in early May, already half way through the key survey period, and needed to complete all survey work by the end of the month to meet the client’s requirements. By the time we had access to the site, we realised we would end up concentrating all the survey work into a two week period…. not exactly as per the guidelines but sometimes you just have to get things done.
Ideally, it’s much better to spread the surveys across the full season from mid-March to mid-June, but sometimes life gets in the way. This site’s a pretty good example of the randomness of great crested newt work, actually. Not only did we have to really concentrate the survey work, we were in quite a difficult position, as previous survey work undertaken in 2012 and 2013 produced contradictory results – a small population of great crested newts present in 2012 then, after a late and cold spring, no great crested newts at all in 2013.
Our survey recorded a medium population of great crested newts, but was it the influence of different weather in different years ? the influence of recent drainage works on the farm ? a reflection on our top quality newt finding skills (!) or just sheer luck ? In the first week, at one of the ponds, we recorded 21 great crested newts during a torch survey. The next week, we went back to the same pond and recorded nothing.
With data like these, it’s easy to argue that the introduction of eDNA couldn’t be any less hit and miss than current survey methods !!!