It's been another hectic year of great crested newt survey work at Calumma Ecological Services. Of particular interest was monitoring work undertaken over several years at a site in Ashford. A large population of great crested newt breeds in an old pond close to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link near the centre of town. Counts of over 100 animals have been seen in at least two of the last three years. This year, the highest count was achieved in March. This trend of early high counts was evident in much of the year's surveys at other sites as well, and although we are still within Natural England's 'peak count' period, the gcn season is pretty much finished in Kent. Survey work can still be undertaken, but this will only really help to confirm presence. Even then, I would be suspicious of any negative survey results generated from work starting at this time of year.
Calumma has also continued to collect data on the relative merits of torch and bottle-trapping surveys. Torch surveys generally produce the highest counts of newts, but can be constrained by murky or weedy conditions. Bottle-trapping tends not to produce very high counts of newts, but is an effective method for confirming presence in situations where torching is ineffective. Of course, at the 'right kind of pond' great crested newt eggs can often be found within just a few seconds.
Rob Oldham's habitat suitability index, continues to prove its worth and we are pleased that the revised method that Calumma helped to develop on behalf of KRAG has been adopted by ARG UK (ARG UK Advice Note 5).