There are six species of amphibians found naturally in the UK: common frog (Rana temporaria), common toad (Bufo bufo), natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita), palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus), smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) and great crested newt (Triturus cristatus). Great crested newts (GCN) and natterjack toads are protected under UK and European legislation. It is an offence to deliberately or recklessly disturb a GCN or natterjack toad (including injuring, capturing and/or killing), or damage, obstruct, alter or destroy their breeding or rest site. The four widespread species of amphibian (the smooth and palmate newts, the common frog and common toad) are also protected, but only against sale, barter, exchange, transporting for sale and advertising to sell or to buy.
Echoes Ecology has a team of ecologists with extensive experience in surveying for amphibians, and with licences from NatureScot and Natural England to survey for great crested newts. We undertake a wide range of survey techniques including:
- Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) Survey: This is an initial appraisal of the waterbodies to determine their suitability for GCN using the Habitat Suitability Index. This survey can be carried out at any time of year
- Presence/Absence Surveys: This involves a suite of techniques (i.e. bottle trapping, torching, netting and egg searching) where each visit usually involves an evening survey (torching and installation of bottle traps) and early morning survey (to collect in bottle traps installed the evening before). In order to establish presence or absence, four survey visits are required between mid-March to mid-June, with at least two visits between mid-April and mid-May.
- Population Size Class Estimation: If GCN are confirmed during the presence/absence survey, a population size class estimation is usually carried out, as it as a requirement for a Habitats Regulations licence. This involves an additional two visits using the same techniques as for the presence/absence surveys. In combination with the four visits for the initial presence/absence survey, a total of three visits must have been made between mid-April and mid-May.
- eDNA Surveys: this is a technique for testing water samples for presence/absence of GCN based on environmental DNA. These have to be carried out between mid-April and the end of June.
If GCN are detected within a site and avoidance measures cannot be implemented, a European Protected Species (EPS) licence must be issued by the licensing authority, so as to permit an otherwise illegal activity. In order to obtain a Habitats Regulations Licence, mitigation and/or compensation will almost certainly be required which may include:
- Habitat creation or restoration works
- The erection of temporary and/or permanent amphibian exclusion fencing, pitfall trapping and translocation of GCN to a suitable receptor site
- Hand-searches, destructive search and watching briefs
- Post-mitigation monitoring
For more information on licensing for great crested newts within Scotland visit NatureScot’s website here.
There are three reptile species which are native to Scotland: slow worm (Anguis fragilis), common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) and adder (Vipera berus). The sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) was introduced in 1970 to the island of Coll in the Inner Hebrides and a small colony still survives around the release site. It was generally believed that grass snakes (Natrix natrix) do not occur in Scotland, however, there are occasional sightings in Dumfries and Galloway.
For the common reptiles which are native to Scotland (slow worm, common lizard and adder) it is an offence to:
- Intentionally or recklessly kill or injure
- Sell, transport for sale or advertise for sale.
Echoes Ecology has a number of ecologists competent in reptile surveys and with a wide range of experience. Our surveys of a site initially involve a site appraisal to assess the suitability of the habitat. If deemed appropriate, further surveys involving the use of artificial refugia are undertaken. Artificial refugia (e.g. carpet tiles or roofing felt) are laid in areas of habitat with high suitability for reptiles, with at least five refugia per hectare of suitable habitat. They are left for at least a week to ‘bed in’ before the surveys commence. Usually seven walkovers of the site are then undertaken in suitable weather conditions, spaced at least one day apart, during which all refugia are checked for reptiles that may either be basking on top or sheltering beneath. The surveys need to be carried out during the reptile active season (March to October), with the optimum period usually between March to June and September to October.