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NE Publish Reptile Mitigation Guidelines

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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2011 at 10:50am
Yes I agree, we have run mitigation in the summer and often did the capture work later than 18.00.

My own concept of a 'weather window' though is much less easy to define. It's I guess around 40 minutes on any given morning or afternoon when the mats simply produce animals. Hitting that precise window is for me what this is all about. As an example on my current volunteer survey I arrived onsite at 08.30 knowing it was a little early, found two grassies and went walkabouts before going round again to record a further two. Comparing this to my previous survey I figured it was more of an 'afternoon' site. So the next step was to go off to my flying club for lunch and return at precisely 15.00. Walked round and did a peak count for the survey. It's as hard as hell to explain this, but anyone with field experience will know exactly what I'm talking about. It's a sort of 'knowing' that only comes from years of experience. This is why we charge a 'session rate'. I might only do 40 minutes of mat checking, but I'm onsite for the entire morning or afternoon to hit that all important 40 minutes. For sure I might do other stuff like just wander around taking things in but I know exactly when the mats will produce. Some days in overcast this might extend to a 2-4 hour window and then of course during a mitigation one would work the mats until too exhausted to lift another!

Going back to the inexperienced surveyors for a moment, it becomes a cultural thing, the more senior partners remember that reptile survey for them wasn't very rewarding, they then send out the junior members who haven't a clue how to survey for reptiles either. They get no or very poor results and actually believe it is normal not to find reptiles so it becomes a culture in the company to not question negative results. 

This is very real and I have had the opportunity in the past to put a few of these junior people on the right track. Unfortunately the problem for them is that their company charges an hourly rate. This forces them to survey at the wrong times rather than sit it out on a given day like we would for that precise window.

It's a real shame because many of these peoples when they actually get to see the animals are excited as I am, but much of it is to do with how companies are set-up and run and charging an hourly rate simply doesn't fit with something which at times simply won't fit a rigid timetable. 

And to add (again) often this is the mechanism by which reptile specialists are undercut by generalist consultancies. As a specialist I charge a session rate because I KNOW that is what is required. Generalist consultancies regarding reptile work as 'second rate' will often charge an hourly rate to meet guidelines and carryout X visits - it really doesn't matter much to them if they find the animals or not in my experience, the whole thing becomes a 'tick-box' exercise.


Edited by GemmaJF - 19 Sep 2011 at 1:56pm
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Matt Smith View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Matt Smith Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2011 at 2:11pm
Originally posted by GemmaJF GemmaJF wrote:

Going back to the inexperienced surveyors for a moment, it becomes a cultural thing, the more senior partners remember that reptile survey for them wasn't very rewarding, they then send out the junior members who haven't a clue how to survey for reptiles either. They get no or very poor results and actually believe it is normal not to find reptiles so it becomes a culture in the company to not question negative results.


Just out of interest, the IEEM have recently published a series of "Competancies for Species Surveys", including one for Reptiles (plus GCN and other licenced species) These can be downloaded from the IEEM members section. Worth a look in terms of the comments above. If anyone can't access the site and wants me to e-mail them a copy, let me know.
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sussexecology View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sussexecology Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2011 at 4:16pm
Originally posted by GemmaJF GemmaJF wrote:

Yes I agree, we have run mitigation in the summer and often did the capture work later than 18.00.

 It's as hard as hell to explain this, but anyone with field experience will know exactly what I'm talking about. It's a sort of 'knowing' that only comes from years of experience. T


Know exactly what you are talking about Gemma, and totally agree with your comments on the "weather window".  The guidelines can outline these "weather windows" but this is never going to be enough for a newcomer to herp work or a junior member of staff.

This is why I think it takes at least a couple of seasons to become fully competent as a minimum - because a handbook isn't going to give you that invaluable information  And thanks Matt for that info on the "competencies" info too. I know the competencies info sheet says something along the lines of 20 hours?? for somebody to become competent in field work of reptiles, but I personally think it should be much longer than this.

I can't explain it either, but maybe will try a bit later after my cup of tea.
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2011 at 8:24pm
Good luck with explaining it! I figure it as, how much cloud and what type, yesterdays weather, last weeks weather, the wind, shading at the site, national location, season (how high in the sky the sun is), in fact I haven't figured it as the list could go on and on and it all adds up to there being no single predictable time on a given day within the reptile season. All there is, is the fact there is a right time and that is when one ought to check the mats to get any sort of result. Some of us know when that is, and people with very little field experience don't and won't ever figure it out if all they do is keep getting negative results or very few sightings.

A funny anecdote is that if it is too hot to wear my favourite fleece while walking around (T-Shirt weather), it is too hot to check mats. If it is too cold and have to put my coat on, it is too cold to check the mats. Funny but it's been proven often! Wink (No I certainly won't reveal what make of fleece it is lol)


Edited by GemmaJF - 19 Sep 2011 at 8:27pm
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sussexecology View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sussexecology Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2011 at 10:35pm
Originally posted by GemmaJF GemmaJF wrote:

Good luck with explaining it! I figure it as, how much cloud and what type, yesterdays weather, last weeks weather, the wind, shading at the site, national location, season (how high in the sky the sun is), in fact I haven't figured it as the list could go on and on and it all adds up to there being no single predictable time on a given day within the reptile season. All there is, is the fact there is a right time and that is when one ought to check the mats to get any sort of result. Some of us know when that is, and people with very little field experience don't and won't ever figure it out if all they do is keep getting negative results or very few sightings.

A funny anecdote is that if it is too hot to wear my favourite fleece while walking around (T-Shirt weather), it is too hot to check mats. If it is too cold and have to put my coat on, it is too cold to check the mats. Funny but it's been proven often! Wink (No I certainly won't reveal what make of fleece it is lol)


And the last time it rained is important too.

Thank you for explaining it though! I was trying to come up with one word that would explain it all, but my head was so tired after being out in the field all day.

Have you had a look at the trapping days calculations yet?  Would love to know other people's thoughts on this. Still can't get my head around the survey day calculations though...

Love the idea of the fleece. That is such a good indicator and makes perfect sense. My best policy is you have to think like a reptile to find one,





Edited by sussexecology - 06 Apr 2012 at 9:48pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2011 at 11:06pm
I agree it is all very complicated, refugia density is very high and I actually think I'm going to be forever stating to NE, "hey look we got the results, is that OK by you?".

I worried about this long before the guidelines were published. They appear to be an attempt to bring people with no experience 'up to speed' but unfortunately end up forcing good surveyors to jump hoops which are not necessary. Many of the issues covered would have been better left as consultancy decisions in the case of a good consultant but unfortunately the guidelines work to the lowest common denominator. 

I know largely how this has come about. If in the end it will do good I'm really not sure but I hold all the same reservations I did in the past regarding much of the content of the guidelines. I can certainly see a lot of client 'backlash' in the future. Sadly I lot of it may well be justified.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2011 at 12:31am
A quick visualisation of survey effort required, I'm working on a more sophisticated spreadsheet application but for now here are the raw calculations of species, month, minimum effort for the widespread species:

Minumum Number of survey visits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Slow-worm

 

MSEW

NR

NR

2

5

5

5

3

2

4

2

NR

NR

25

 

Visits

N/A

N/A

13

5

5

5

9

13

7

13

N/A

N/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Lizard

 

MSEW

NR

2

3

5

5

5

4

3

5

3

NR

NR

30

 

Visits

N/A

15

10

6

6

6

8

10

6

10

N/A

N/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grass Snake

 

MSEW

NR

NR

3

4

5

5

3

3

4

2

NR

NR

30

 

Visits

N/A

N/A

10

8

6

6

10

10

8

15

N/A

N/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adder

 

MSEW

NR

2

4

5

4

3

2

2

4

1

NR

NR

30

 

Visits

N/A

15

8

6

8

10

15

15

8

30

N/A

N/A

        


Edited by GemmaJF - 20 Sep 2011 at 12:31am
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2011 at 12:45am
Problems I see immediately, 15 visits for adder in February when I can intercept practically the entire male population on a site in 15 minutes! The N/A for two other widespread species will I think mean this month will be skipped by most consultancies. (Though I totally understand the thinking behind this, that NE do not want to see a survey conducted ONLY during February).

Grass snake, adder and common lizard all get a 30? Does anyone else here believe that common lizard are as hard to find as Grass snake or adder in general?? I would say of all four widespread species they practically throw themselves at me. (Well at least they are all over Onduline the minute it hits the ground Big smile)

In general though now I've seen all the numbers I feel they are OK and certainly workable. We could say the 'new standard' for survey is 8 visits during April/May or September for sites which may harbor the four widespread species which is workable. I don't agree with all the weightings ( I would say for example that refuge survey for Grass Snakes in September is at least as good as May, but not a huge hike in effort required, so a minor niggle). 

I would have loved to have seen Onduline thrown into the mix. I'm assuming most of the data behind the weightings came from LB using tin/roofing felt?

PS if I've fluffed up the calculations in the post above someone let me know, long day and late night!


Edited by GemmaJF - 20 Sep 2011 at 1:04am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2011 at 1:32am
And just as one more thought before I collapse from exhaustion tonight, perhaps the above tabulated data is a little easier to digest than the worked examples in the guidelines?

The addition of a table such as the one below might be acceptable?

Minumum Number of survey visits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slow-worm

 

Visits

N/R

N/R

13

5

5

5

9

13

7

13

N/R

N/R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Lizard

 

Visits

N/R

15

10

6

6

6

8

10

6

10

N/R

N/R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grass Snake

 

Visits

N/R

N/R

10

8

6

6

10

10

8

15

N/R

N/R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adder

 

Visits

N/R

15

8

6

8

10

15

15

8

30

N/R

N/R




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Matt Smith Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Sep 2011 at 10:41am
Hency my comment regarding the species weightings - it would be much simpler just to go with "30" as the calulation factor for all widespread species and do away with all the tables.

I still think the guidelines are a good idea, in the main as a way to be able to say things along the lines of "no - we can't get this all done in October" or the like (insert your own favourite survey request anecdote here).

My concern is that these will go the same way as the GCN Mitigation Guidelines, in that they become seen as "the rules which must be followed - no exceptions" (eg when doing a PCA of a known GCN site and trapping 40+ GCN per night, I am told must also do an egg search as "the guidleines say so".).
Independent Consultant Ecologist ¦ Berkshire County Herp Recorder
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