Great crested newt survey, Middlewich (2014)

153 ponds.

One of 153 ponds on site

That’s a lot of ponds for any kind of survey, let alone a great crested newt survey potentially needing at least four visits to each and every one !  Happily, the new eDNA sampling technique means that many of these ponds will be visited just once, as they are sufficiently far away from the proposed infrastructure to be of low concern.  That leaves about half of this number needing the standard survey and this is where I came in, as a member of the large survey team tackling the work.Much of work winning in ecology, especially for us freelancers, is about who you know.  Luckily I know a lot of people, and can benefit from the sometimes incestuous nature of the ecology community.  On the team for this project: two guys I met at conferences; someone I know from my bat group; one of my former staff at WYG; a lady who agreed we had met but we couldn’t remember where…….. and several new colleagues who I’ll no doubt bump into again in the future.  All lovely people and a pleasure to work with.

This was a fun site not just because of the size of it and the nice team involved, but because of the wildlife.  Yes, we found great crested newts, but we found a load of other great stuff as well, including another protected species, the lesser silver water-beetle:

Lesser silver water-beetle

Here it is swimming round in a bottle trap on the very first morning I went to the site.  We have a licensed surveyor for the beetle on the survey team, which is good, as otherwise we would have had to stop the great crested newt survey.  That could have been fairly inconvenient, as you can imagine !  The beetle is a bit of a Cheshire speciality, although it also occurs in Somerset.

The flora of the site is interesting too, with cowbane Cicuta virosa turning up in many of the ponds.  This is on the Cheshire Rare Plant Register and is another one of the many toxic aquatic umbellifers.  Another reason to wear gloves whilst surveying and always wash your hands afterwards…

There seem to be plenty of bats on the wing during torch surveys.  We also found a buzzard nest and were shouted at by upset greylag geese when we went to survey ‘their’ pond.

One of the best things about this project is that all of the ponds are going to be retained as part of the layout 🙂

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