Ecological survey carried out to protect the seriously-endangered great crested newt in Harborough's Welland Valley

The great crested newt is an endangered and listed protected priority species in the UK

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 12:02 pm
An in-depth ecological survey has been carried out in a bid to protect the seriously-endangered great crested newt as well as all other wildlife in the stunning Welland Valley.
An in-depth ecological survey has been carried out in a bid to protect the seriously-endangered great crested newt as well as all other wildlife in the stunning Welland Valley.

An in-depth ecological survey has been carried out in a bid to protect the seriously-endangered great crested newt as well as all other wildlife in the stunning Welland Valley.

The exhaustive six-week study has gone ahead as parts of the Welland Valley are classed as a Red Zone for great crested newts.

That means that the beautiful slice of countryside on the South Leicestershire-Northamptonshire border boasts crucial habitat for the under-threat newts.

“But despite registered sightings there is very little contemporary data available on size and health of the local population," said the Residents Action Group of Middleton

“As a result of recent local sighting, villagers around Middleton and a range of other conservation donors raised funds to commission a comprehensive ecology survey."

The eco-investigation targeted a 1km (0.6ml) stretch of the Welland Valley between Ashley and Middleton.

“The area has numerous ponds, ancient fields and hedgerows, ideal habitat for a large diversity of wildlife.

“The great crested newt (GCN) is an endangered and listed protected priority species in the UK.

“It is our largest newt, breeding in ponds during the spring and spending the rest of the year feeding on invertebrates in hedgerows, marshes and grasslands,” said the residents’ group.

“They need the right habitat to survive and thrive and their breeding and resting sites are protected under UK and European law.

“However, these habitats are increasingly under threat through development and climate change, which can disturb breeding and destroy the environment they need to survive.

“Five ponds were surveyed, from six identified within the survey area. Weather conditions in April and May were unseasonably cold, but despite this, the majority of the ponds surveyed scored well on the Habitat Survey Index (HSI),” said the villagers.

“The ponds contained a wide range of amphibians and invertebrates - , and pond trappings captured four great crested newts and 18 smooth newts.

“These positive survey evaluation conclusions have clearly established that the area provides suitable habitat for great crested newts.”

Mature established hedgerows, woodland blocks and grass tussocks provide “connectivity in all directions”.

“These features all provide suitable overwintering habitat.

“The ponds themselves will hold water over the year, only likely to dry up during prolonged dry spells.

“The survey was undertaken by accredited ecologists Lockhart Garratt and involved detailed surveying and monitoring of the ponds over six weeks,” said the residents’ group.

“Apart from providing invaluable data on GCNs, the survey also recorded evidence on other important species in the area - including bats and protected birds.

“Two bat species were recorded - the pipistrelle and the Daubenton’s bat.

“The survey identified a number of bird species which are listed as UK Birds of Conservation Concern (BOCC).

“Three red-listed, protected bird species were recorded - the cuckoo, song thrush and yellowhammer.

“Red-listed birds are globally threatened species with severe UK decline in breeding populations,” said the passionate supporters of the local environment.

“They are considered UK priority species, which should be included in local Biodiversity Action Plans.

“Amber-listed birds are species with an unfavourable conservation status in Europe, suffering decline and with less than 300 breeding pairs in the UK.

“The survey recorded three amber-listed species - the dunnock, green woodpecker and tawny owl - along with 13 other species identified from the BOCC listing - buzzards, red kites, grey heron, reed warblers and chiffchaffs.”

If you would like more information, please email the survey commissioners at [email protected]