There is a common myth that ecologists spend the winter months with their feet up waiting for spring to arrive and the hullabaloo of the main survey season. Whilst it is true that a few of our protected species hibernate or become less active over winter, the season provides excellent opportunities for undertaking a number of surveys that are either restricted to the season itself, or can be curtailed in spring and summer due to the abundance of vegetative growth at that time of year.

Carrying out surveys in winter can also be a great way to get ahead when it comes to the main survey season. Identifying notable features and preparing for spring and summer surveys in advance, all helps to reduce delays, costs and programming complications. Plus you can discuss booking the services of our ecologists in advance, to ensure that your project scheduling is kept on track.

With that in mind, let’s take a whistle-stop tour of some of the surveys that are carried out by our ecologists in winter:

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)/scoping surveys
Sometimes referred to as a ‘Phase 1’ survey and assessment, PEA can be undertaken at any time of year. The survey comprises an initial walkover of a site, identifying the main habitat types that are present and features of note in addition to consideration of the site’s potential to support protected/notable species of flora and fauna. The results of which are assessed against the development proposals, constraints and opportunities are identified, and further survey work, mitigation etc. recommended accordingly.

Bat surveys
Bats use different types of roosts across multiple sites over the course of a year. A Phase 1 survey will identify suitable features on a site that may be used by bats for roosting purposes. Whilst activity surveys and emergence/re-entry surveys are carried out in the spring and summer months, during the winter months, bats enter a period of torpor, for which, they need a roost site with specific properties to facilitate this. Accordingly, hibernation surveys are undertaken over the winter months by our licensed ecologists.

Wintering bird surveys
During winter, whilst our summer visitors have left for warmer shores, many birds migrate to the UK, often from Eastern Europe. Consequently, undertaking bird surveys over winter identifies notable species that are not present during the spring and summer months.

Dormice surveys
Whilst this iconic animal is tucked away in hibernation over winter, the season provides an opportune time to undertake nut searches. Their characteristic way of gnawing on hazelnuts is immediately identifiable.

Otter and badger surveys
During the winter season, vegetation die-back reveals features in the landscape that are often not immediately apparent during spring and summer. Field signs such as feeding remains, spraints (otter)/latrines (badger), holts (otter) and sett entrances (badger) become more prominent.

It’s safe to say that bringing our ecologists on board early in the planning of your project is always recommended. If you have a project that needs ecological input, we’d be happy to help. You can contact us via the ‘request a quote’ button at the top of this webpage.