Acorn Ecology Great Crested Newt GCN surveys

Spring is here!

Survey season is approaching! Spring is just around the corner, with the first signs already all around us. Some of the first species that we can start surveying for are reptiles and amphibians. April is when we see temperatures increase, our reptile and amphibian species have been tucked away, hibernating for the last few months but around this time of year they start to become more active.

Amphibian Surveys


Great crested newts are our most protected amphibian. Surveys for this species are constrained between the months of April and June. If you know you have ponds on site or you are in an area where surveys are likely, we advise you to get in touch as soon as you can to avoid unnecessary delays.

Why can we only survey in such a short time?

Many people assume that newts live in ponds. This is true to a certain extent. Newts congregate in ponds in spring and early summer to breed. For the rest of the year they are terrestrial, living in hedgerows, seeking shelter in log piles and eating insects. When they are living on land they are a lot more difficult to survey for. This is why ecologists need to survey ponds, and we can only do that at a time of year when the newts, if they use that pond, will be present.

We can survey using eDNA testing (these see if newt DNA is in the pond) and/or traditional bottle trapping techniques. This method involves placing traps around the edge of a pond in the evening and checking them the following morning. Newts will walk into the traps, which have a funnel-like construction, meaning they can get in, but not out again. This needs to be done 4-6 times to see if they are present and if so, what the population is like. While placing out and collecting the traps, other complementary survey methods can also be used, such as counting the number of newts present by torchlight and undertaking an egg search.

If works are likely to cause a disturbance to great crested newts, or will destroy land or ponds which are used by newts then you will need a licence from Natural England. We will be able to advise you on this following the outcome of surveys.

There are new mitigation schemes being trialled in areas of the country, but these are localised and the traditional surveys and licencing methods still stand for the majority of the country. You can find out more about the roll out of new licencing methods for great crested newts on the Natural England website here.

Reptile Surveys


We have six native species of reptiles in the UK. April is one of the best months to survey for them. You can read more about reptile surveys here. In brief, we survey for presence/absence of reptiles on a site by placing refugia in areas likely to be used by reptiles (if present). Refugia can be made from corrugated metal, bitumen roofing felt or carpet tiles. These provide reptiles with a safe location to bask and soak up the heat of the sun at the start of the day. Once the refugia have “bedded in” which takes a couple of weeks, we will then visit the site on seven occasions to survey for reptiles. We look on and under each refugia and note down the species and number of reptiles found.

If works are likely to cause harm to reptiles, or destroy habitat you will need a mitigation plan. Most projects will not require a mitigation licence if this is the case, unless the rare smooth snake or sand lizard are on site. However, not providing mitigation for all species of reptiles is an offence and therefore a mitigation strategy, be it a translocation or avoidance will be required. Acorn Ecology has produced many mitigation strategies for a variety of scenarios and we will be able to advise you on the best route forward.

If you need ecology surveys then give us a call. Our friendly and experienced team are ready to help. Remember that many surveys are seaonally constrained, so get us on board as soon as possible to avoid unneccessary delays! or 01392366512. See below for details of your nearest branch.

The best choice for your wildlife surveys

Exeter: 01392 366512

Bristol: Tel: 0117 923 2768 / Mobile: 07971 994324

London & Sout East: Tel: 01372 602372 / Mobile: 07443 652988

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