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Welcome to the Hall Ecology blog page.

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34 Responses to “Blog”

  • Marten Hall says:

    The great crested newt season is pretty much here. The newts are already back in our sample pond which we use to check whether the local GCN population is back in their breeding ponds.

    e.DNA sampling will also start soon. For those of you who do not know what e.DNA sampling is I could refer you to the guidance documents and the report showing the efficacy of the technique; but in simple terms it is a method of scoping out ponds by sampling the water for the presence of GCN DNA.

    No GCN DNA equals no GCN.

    Now this would appear to be a great leap forward for developers in that it can establish the absence of newts with a simple test which means that costly repeated surveys can be avoided. The test does require laboratory testing that can take upwards of two weeks, but it can give a conclusive result.

    However; and it’s a big HOWEVER, there are time limitations on this methodology that can have a big impact if further surveys are required. Samples can only be taken within a certain window (mid April to end of June), and if newts are found to be present then the full suite of six survey visits are required to establish a population estimate. Three of these surveys are required within the period mid-April to mid-May and if these are missed then further survey effort over the same period next year may be required.

    That’s a big potential delay to your project.

    Our advice, is that e.DNA is a very useful tool that can help to avoid costly repeated surveys. But it is best done a season before any actual surveys are to be completed and used to scope out ponds rather than a test to be relied on when your timings are tight. i.e. if you are wanting to building this year then we would suggest relying on e.DNA might prove costly in the long run. But if you have a large project and you want to scope out a pond or two in order to inform a survey timetable for next year then it’s exactly what you want to use.

    As ever, feel free to ring to discuss your ecological issues and we’ll try and help out how and when we can.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Survey season is finally here in East Yorkshire. Despite a recent cold spell, the bats are flying, the newts are back in the ponds and everything is generally starting to get going again. If you need help with a survey then get in touch.

  • Marten Hall says:

    A new and (we think) exiting development is coming to Hall Ecology in the near future. From August 2014 we will be running education and training to support local schools, colleges and universities in running environmental and ecological education events as part of their curriculum.

    We will also be running training for ecological consultants and those wishing to enter the profession. This training will include Level 1 species ecology courses; Level 2 survey and conservation courses; and Level 3 Licensing and Mitigation courses.

    Keep and eye on the website for our new Education and Training page coming soon!

  • Marten Hall says:

    One of the fun things about getting in last minute surveys for great crested newts is you get to see more of the juveniles of the species and of other sympatric species.

    Last night we were out surveying and found at least 20 common frog tadpoles that were about 10 weeks old skipping around over a layer of duckweed. At 10 weeks old the tadpoles have all four limbs, are about 1cm long in the body yet still have the tail form their purely aquatic phase. At this stage they are particularly vulnerable to all sorts of predators and they don’t sit around long to be admired, so no photographs unfortunately.

    We are pretty much past the newt season but are well into the bat season. If you haven’t sourced your ecologist for your bat survey then get in touch soon; surveys should really include June and July at least to get a good understanding of how a roost is being used by bats which makes a difference should a development licence be required in the future.

  • Marten Hall says:

    More surveys than you can handle on your own?

    Then why not let Hall Ecology help you.

    We are experienced at carrying out sub-contractor work on behalf of the larger ecological consultancies; a testiment to our competence and the trust our partners place in us.

    This year why not take advantage of our new “Name The Price” offer. The NTP offer allows our sub-contracting clients to set the scope and the price of the work which means they remain in control of the quality of the work and their profit margins.

    Contact Hall Ecology with your survey or mitigation requirements and what price you want to pay and we’ll do the rest.

  • Marten Hall says:

    …..and now the bats have returned! We have a colony of common pipistrelles who roost above our back door that use the gap between the soffit boards and the loft space as a maternity colony. I’ve been monitoring them ever since I first noticed the pile of droppings on the back step four years ago.

    They have returned just in time for the survey season to start off.

  • Marten Hall says:

    It is 22nd April and our house martins have finally arrived back for the summer breeding season. We’ve lived in the same house for last 4 years and have had house martins in residence every summer.

    What this means to our clients is that the nesting bird season has already started. We have already found blackbird eggs on a site local to us so if you are delaying your demolition or work on hedges or trees it is worth to get them completed as soon as possible to avoid any delays due to nesting birds.

  • Marten Hall says:

    It’s starting to look like spring is finally starting to make its mark here in East Yorkshire. Depending on your point of view, spring either starts on 1st March (as suggested by the Met Office) or 20/21 March which is the spring equinox. Whatever the official start date, it’s nice to finally see some decent sunshine and the beginnings of growth in the countryside.

    The bats still haven’t put in a showing in our roof, which is a bit late, but they should be back soon. With the survey season starting to pick up pace it is probably a good time to start commissioning those surveys that will be needed this season.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Hall Ecology were recently commissioned to carry out a bat emergence and re-entry survey on a house in East Yorkshire that is being scheduled for demolition.

    Our surveyors have identified it as a small common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus day roost and brown long-eared bat Plecotus auritus feeding/day roost.

    Below is a spectogram of a recording of the one of the common pipistrelle bats emerging from the building. Pipistrelle bats have a two part call shape starting with an FM (frequency modulated) sweep and ending with a CF (constant frequency) tail making them one of the easiest to identify using call analysis software.

    Pipistrelle Spectogram.  Hall 2013.

    Species identification is made by measuring the peak frequency or frequency of maximum power using a heterodyne bat detector, or in this case, fequency analysis software. There are two common species of pipistrelle in the area of this roost known as the common and soprano pipistrelles. Common pipistrelle bats have a peak frequency of around 45-48khz whereas soprano pipistrelle bats have a peak frequency of around 52-57khz. It varies for both species and there can be some overlap between the two making it difficult to seperate the species without having one of them in the hand or using DNA analysis on faeces collected at the roost. Interesting point on the pipistrelles is that they were once considered a single species only being split into two species relatively recently in the late 90s. There was some serious thought given to naming them the 45 and 55 pipistrelle but this was deemed a bit arbitray considering the different peak frequencies achieved within each individual species.

  • Marten Hall says:

    SNH tightening up on poor quality bat work.

    SNH have just sent out an email to all bat workers highlighting the increase in poor quality reporting and licence applications in relations to bats. In particular they highlight that a number of bat ecologists in Scotland are not following the published guidance on bat survey standards (see our bat pages for more details) and are not producing evidence-based species protection plans to support developments.

    Hall Ecology always advises our clients to follow the best practice guidlines. Where this is not possible due to project timeline constraints (such as when a survey has been commissioned outside of the optimal survey season) any survey and the accompanying report should be considered “at risk” from rejection by a planning department. We will always advise our clients of this at the time of commissioning.

    Careful project planning can easily avoid this. Project managers should programme any required ecology surveys into the project timeline early on so that these can be completed in accordance with the guidelines.

    Should you require any further information on this matter or any other ecology related issues you have then please do not hesitate to call or emails us for assistance.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Whilst out with my 5 year old on our bikes we heard the first cuckoo I’ve heard this year and certainly the first I’ve heard during the time we have lived in our village. Normally we have to travel down to the banks of the Humber to hear them.

    A nice end to a great weekend in the sun!

  • Marten Hall says:

    We have one of our last GCN surveys of the season tonight and one of the ponds is very interesting. It is an emergency water tank that is used to provide water for the emergency services should they need to fight a fire on one of the nearby buildings.

    The tank is approximately 10mx10m and is about 1.5m deep. We have recorded over 60 GCN of various stages of development which is surprising as the ponds has very little vegetation and has no structure.

    One thing it doesn’t have is an exit for any of the amphibians within the tank. This is likely to be the reason so many GCN and other amphibians have been recorded. We have even seen an individual that appeared to an overwintering larval form which was at least 12cm long but still had gills.

    We have advised the site environmental manager to install an exit ramp so that the amphibians can move about according to their natural lifecycle.

  • Marten Hall says:

    CIEEM has new Code of Professional Conduct.

    As of 1st June 2013 the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management has a new Code of Professional Conduct. The code “outlines behaviours expected of members for the benefit and stewardship of the natural environment”.

    Membership of CIEEM is a recognised benchmark of professionalism within the field of ecology and environmental management with CIEEM also acting as a regulatory body. The code is based upon fundemental principles of: compentence, behaviour with integrity, ethical standards, lawfulness, professionalism and stewardship.

    All of the ecologists used by Hall Ecology are members of CIEEM and we support their good work in raising the standards and professionalism of the ecology field.

    Details of the new code can be found here:

    http://www.cieem.net/data/files/Resource_Library/Professional_Conduct/Code_of_Professional_Conduct_June_2013.pdf

  • Marten Hall says:

    Had an amazing day yesterday. I spent it carrying out Bat Aerial Tree Inspections on some large sycamores that needed to be removed from a site in North Liconshire. Some were pretty big getting up to about 30m tall and I must admit, I succumbed to a bit of stage fright a couple of times when the wind got up. Always good to focus on the job in hand though.

    No bats found and some of the potential roost features (PRF) that were identified from the ground turned out to have very little suitability for bats once you got up close and personal with them. However, once again, we found many more PRF that hadn’t been spotted until we got up into the tree. Which reiterates exactly why having an in-tree survey done by a qualified bat ecologist is the best way to do it.

  • Marten Hall says:

    I have just started to work on our first NE badger licence of the year. The issue at hand is a bit tricky and because the client wants to start work as early as possible we are submitting this one well in time for the 1st July start date.

    Hall Ecology has extensive experience providing solutions to development problems involving badgers. We have worked on cable routes, wind farms and housing developments and have produced workable and cost effective solutions to our clients including designing and constructing artificial setts.

  • Marten Hall says:

    And just when you thought you had all the commissions for GCN surveys you were going to get this year, three come along all at once.

    Hectic weekend carrying out a series of GCN surveys around the UK. Glad I have a great team of field surveyors – donuts on me!

    In all seriousness, if you have further surveys to carry out due to positive results from your presence/absence surveys and you are struggling to fit them alongside the start of the bat season then give us a ring and we’ll try our best to help out.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Spent yesterday tracking Marsh Harriers on a site in Lincolnshire. 1.2m wingspan v Land Rover Defender 110. Needless to say they won but I did get to see courting behaviour. No nest site so far but it is early days.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Spent a couple of fantasticly informative days this week with Derek Gow of Derek Gow Consultancy Ltd who was helping out on a project I’m working on which requires work on ditches which have water voles present.

    We spent some time talking through the inconsistencies within the NE licensing process in general, but also the lack of clear guidance on mitigation projects involving water voles.

    He genuinely knows his subject and I benefitted greatly from his knowledge and experience and hope to work with him again in the future.

  • Marten Hall says:

    The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee received evidence from Dr Gavin Wilson and Dr Steve Carter on Bovine TB Vaccination.

    There was some very interesting information regarding mycobacterium bovis (bTB) in badgers and what efforts have so far been made in vaccinating badgers.

    The transcript is currently available here and is well worth a read if you are interested in bTB, badgers and the proposed cull.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmenvfru/uc981-i/uc98101.htm

  • Marten Hall says:

    With the onset of newt season almost upon us, this is a last call for clients wishing to conduct newt surveys for the 2013 season as our diary is starting to fill up.

    The season starts in March and runs through to June. Most surveys require four visits with at least two being conducted between mid-April and mid-May. If you miss the season then you could end up having to wait until 2014 to have your surveys carried out.

    Where the potential for great crested newts to be present on your site has been highlighted during a Preliminary Ecologicl Appraisal or Phase 1 Survey or there are historical records of newts being present within the area of your development it is highly likely that you will require newt surveys to be conducted.

    Feel free to ring us to discuss your requirements.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Just read through an EPS update from Natural England and it is worth highlighting a new development with the Habitat Regulations (2010) (as ammended).

    The main change was an ammendment to Regulation 58(1) – it is an offence for a person to contravene or fail to comply with a licence condition.

    Natural England ammended their licence conditions to relect this so it is important to note that everyone acting under a licence is responsible for complying with the conditions of that licence and understands that they are liable to prosecution if they fail to do so.

    There is a clause that states “A person is not guilty of an offence if they took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid commission of the offence; or the commission of the offence was otherwise due to matters beyond that person’s control.”

    If you are looking to apply for an EPS licence under the Habitat Regulations for species such as great crested newts or bats it is very important that you comply with all measureable outcomes included in the accompanying method statement.

  • Marten Hall says:

    A couple of days ago I notice two Wrens flying and landing on the wall above our kitchen window just as the sun was finally dipping below the horizon. They looked like minature versions of Treecreepers in the way they hopped around, climbing ever higher up the wall until they reached one of the House Martin nests from last year, under the soffit boards. They popped in and out a couple of times before finally staying in. It all took about 2 minutes and I decided to try and see this behaviour happening again.

    Tonight I counted at least 14 Wrens all doing the same thing, but this time in three of the old nests. The most I saw entering was seven. I am hoping to set up my IR camera tomorrow and see if I can record them doing it. If it works, then I will try and work out how to post on here.

    It really is amazing to see. You normally see them individually and to see more than one at a time is rare. But to see seven sharing the same nest site is truly remarkable.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Carried out a bat hibernation survey at our local church in East Yorkshire. The village has at least three Common pipistrelle summer roosts (that I know of with one being my own house) with the church providing another. The church also has Natterer’s and Brown long-eared bats in residence. Unfortunately, we haven’t managed to find any this time but we’ll go back next weekend to continue and see how we get on.

    The level of activity in the village of Humbleton over the last year has been quite low. My own roost seemed to disappear for a couple of months only to reappear in late August. We have had a particularly wet summer which may explain the records of failed maternity roosts that I have been told about. The purpose of the hibernation survey is to create a start point as the numbers have never been counted before.

    Let me know if you want to get involved.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Was having a nice walk today with Ebby our Labrador and noticed some high pitched squawking coming from the next field. Once we got up to the hedge and looked through we could see a barn owl being mobbed by a kestrel. At one point the kestrel got hold of the talons/legs of the barn owl and dropped with it to the ground. I know this type of behaviour happens from reading the literature but had only seen barn owls being mobbed by corvids before. An interesting end to our walk!

  • Marten Hall says:

    If you haven’t already caught this gem of a guide by Henry Andrews called the Bat Tree Habitat Guide you need to download a copy before he realises his mistake at allowing it to be downloaded for free.

    It’s great and its here: http://www.aecol.co.uk/Pages/41/Downloads.html

    Go grab a copy and let the world of bat roosts in trees be opened up to you!

  • Marten Hall says:

    Hall Ecology welcomes contact from other consultancies who may be wishing to sub-contract some of their work. We can offer support in a number of areas. Call to discuss you options.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Merry Christmas to all our clients. Let’s hope that 2013 is a prosperous one!

  • Marten Hall says:

    Hat tip to one of my colleagues postioned further south than Hall Ecology.

    He has photographs of a female great crested newt laying eggs on submerged vegetation taken during the past week.

    In order that you do not miss the early peak numbers during a GCN survey, I would recommend you start your surveys by at least mid-March at the latest.

    Happy newting!

  • Marten Hall says:

    Had a great experience with a barn owl yesterday.

    The site is quite special in that the resident pair managed to rear a couple of chicks which fledged in early December. It was possible because our winter in East Yorkshire has been largely non-existent. Today is the first snow of the winter season which meant they could hunt relatively well during the colder months.

    Barn owls are a specially protected species of bird as they are listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. A Natural England licence is required to survey for barn owls if one is likely to disturb a nesting pair.

    If barn owls are present on your development site, then Hall Ecology can provide mitigation advice and practical solutions to enable them to thrive as part of your development.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Newt season is almost upon us and I have been refocused by reading a cracking book called “The Crested Newt – A dwindling pond-dweller” by Jehle, Theismeier and Foster. This book was originally written for the wider European market but has since been translated into English and re-written with a UK slant.

    Highly accessible and well referenced, this little book is a gem of a read for anyone interested in GCN or indeed, anyone like myself who is about to enter another season of newt surveying.

    Interesting fact – peak pond immigration is around mid-March with some newts staying around until late into the year. The early colonisers are usually older adult GCN ready for the breeding season. They also leave early with the young of last year, on average, staying later.

  • Marten Hall says:

    Another hibernation survey today, but with the excellent West Yorkshire Bat Group. We surveyed the old castle and quarry tunnels around Harewood House, just north of Leeds.

    Apart from enjoying the great company of very knowledgeable people, we also got to enjoy the company of three red kites that took an interest in our work.

    Total count was two confirmed, previously unrecorded, hibernation roosts of three species: common pipistrelle, Natterer’s and Brown long-eared.

    As previously posted, I highly recommend going out and helping with the good conservation work our local bat groups are currently doing. You never, you might even see a bat!

  • Marten Hall says:

    Haven’t had chance to update this blog since we started the website which has left me with several posts to get out of the way tonight whilst I have the chance.

    Went along to an inspiring talk given by John Altringham organised by the West Yorkshire Bat Group in Ilkley last week. The talk was about how bat groups could get more involved in conservation and raised several issues that my colleagues and I are still discussing.

    If you are not familiar with John’s work with bats then it is well worth checking out his page at the University of Leeds website. I would also highly recommend his bat books, in particular, Bats – Biology and Behaviour, which gives the reader a wider picture of bat ecology and doesn’t just focus on UK species.

    He also has a new bat book out called “Bats: From Evolution to Conservation” which I have yet to read but have heard nothing but good reviews about.

    His talks are always fascinating and well worth travelling some distance to if you get the chance.

  • Marten Hall says:

    I went along with the East Yorkshire Bat Group to my first hibernation visit with them of 2012 at a tunnel site very near to Wharram Percy near Malton.

    I don’t normally have time to help out on bat group surveys so this was a real pleasure. Especially when we found Brown long-eared and Natterer’s bats. I noticed that they appeared quite a bit fatter than in the previous two winters (2009/2010 and 2010/2011) which is more than likely explained away as due to the rather mild winter we are having over in the east of England.

    Bats at this time of year are still when in their hibernation period but will be periodically coming out of torpor to hydrate, feed if there is anything about and to kick start their body systems. If the weather is particularly mild (which it has been) they will take these opportunities more often.

    EYBG will be having a follow up survey on a different section of the tunnel at the end of the month so will post an update then.

  • Admin says:

    Welcome to the Hall Ecology blog page. This is where you will find out latest news, and lets start with:

    Welcome to our new-look website. It has been redesigned from the ground up, and has new features such as this blog page, news feed, survey calendar and much more on the way.

    Keep checking back for our latest blog entries.


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