RAUK - Archived Forum - Looking at new project

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Looking at new project:

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spaniel
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Joined: 16 Oct 2004
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Posted: 16 Oct 2004

Hello all

This is my first post  and feel a bit reluctant/shy!

I have been reading through alot of the posts and feel abit lacking in the knowledge department (green) but guess we all have to start somewhere.

I am looking to start a research project for my HNC and hopefully it will be used as a starting block for the continuation reasearch and vitale data as to local adder population in the assigned area.

Excuse me if I am being abit sheepish with details but all is not set in stone.

The project is looking to be very big well in my eyes. If I may ask for help in the near future, if a specialist or even the forum would like to take me under his/her wing then I would be forever thankful.

My HNC is is in wildlife and countryside, the project is over two years with possible extension to an unlimited time scale.

The possible project is looking into adder population and possible effect by certain land practices in my local area. I am hoping to get some help with the study as I can't do it alone and this is looking good. The right people are on myside and willing/backing it for it to be a great success.

So if okay I will be posting for info and technical help

 

many thanks


GemmaJF
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Joined: 25 Jan 2003
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Posted: 18 Oct 2004
Welcome! Don't be shy I ask the daftess things when I'm not sure and that is part of the reason why this forum exists. Out of interest which county will the project be in?
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
spaniel
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Joined: 16 Oct 2004
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Posted: 18 Oct 2004

Many thanks for the warm welcome to the forum.

The County is Staffordshire and has fantastic variation of wildlife with some amazing adders.

The people I know have asked why adders since  2 of my dogs had adder bites last year in the same area as I want to do the study.

My reasons are I can't hold anything against the adder and secondly I know very little about it so how can I form any type of opinion!

 


Vicar
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Joined: 02 Sep 2004
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Posted: 18 Oct 2004

Spaniel

Presumably, your first step will be to write up some sort of plan. Outlining what you want to achieve (goals) and then a broad outline of how to go about it (method).

From personal experience, starting to write up a plan forces you to think logically about the ideas whizzing around your brain, and is the fastest surest way to highlight where your thoughts are clear, and where they are fuzzy and need direction.

As you flesh out the 'plan' you can start to rationalise the scope of the 'vision' and start tangible planning which can be taken forward into effect.

Just my thoughts !


Steve Langham - Chairman    
Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group (SARG).
GemmaJF
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Posted: 18 Oct 2004

I would start by wondering what it is I'm setting out to achieve. From what you have said I think you have established presence already! (out of interest were your dogs bitten in the spring?).

So I pressume you will be looking at either population estimates or relative population estimates and monitoring of the population over time. There is a vast difference between the 2 and how they approached, relative estimates being useful from a conservation stand point and easier to achieve.

Other issues with adder are whether or not you are prepared/able to handle them if for example photo ID is required. Adder survey isn't restricted to the use of refugia either, they are one species where I would thoroghly recommend visual survey, not only is it very effective in early spring for locating animals but also very rewarding when you see behaviour such as males mate searching and the legendary dance of the adder ;0)


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
spaniel
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Joined: 16 Oct 2004
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Posted: 18 Oct 2004

Well guys that gives me something to look into!

I have spoke with my course tutor tonight and seemed pleased that I was considering undertaking this project, so it looks like all is starting to fall into place.(fingers crossed)

I have started to draw up a rough plan for a meeting that I have with the wildlife officer of the intended area and see what guidance he can give.

My first thoughts was to conduct the survey with the use of refugia, Looking deeper into this it seems right location and material used play a massive factor into results obtained including time of year.

By the looks of it this survey hasn't been done before on this site which is also habitat dependent through the forestry process and how they alter the environment.

 

My plan is to take 4 areas in which the forestry process is at different stages and assess the habitat and adder population for that area and do a comparison as to the changing state of habitat Vs population over time and hopefully giving an answer as to what effect it has on numbers. does this sound do-able and any advice or changes, recommendations

 

I need to establish best method and way to assess population, what would be the best?population estimates or relative population estimates

Thickness showing - what is the main difference and method deployed.

Oh Gemma my dogs were bitten march and april.


GemmaJF
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Posted: 19 Oct 2004

Refugia survey is all well and good and I would certainly use them as a tool for this project also but as you said your dogs were bitten in March and April.. this is when adder are slow after hibernation and very approachable. (for the rest of the season they would be off like rockets, hence why dogs are often bitten in the spring as this is when they are most likely to encounter the snakes). If you can start your project from mid February onwards you can take full advantage of this fact and include visual survey.

The reason I'm saying this is I know for a fact that it can take up to a year for adder to use refugia, I've seen this more than once. For adder use tin, you would be wasting your time with roofing felt unless they were extremely large and also get the refugia down early say the end of January to allow them to 'establish'.

Using visual in the spring will quickly give an idea of population size. It will also allow you to identify hibernacula, which are a vital feature of adder ecology. For example if during your project a communal hibernacula was destroyed it would skew any results as the entire population might perish!

A relative population estimate can also use a mixture of refugia and visual survey so make the most of both methods. The Froglife methodolgy for estimating relative population size is straightforward.

You can use both refugia and visual survey. The maximum density of refugia should not exceed 10 per hectare (this is a vast number of refugia at most sites and few people would use such a high density in practice)

All you do is check your refugia and carefully look for snakes. The best count you get for a single day in any given survey period is your relative population estimate. The only stipulation is that the count must be by a single observer.

Once you have your number the population is estimated as follows

<5 Low Population

5-10 Good Population

>10 Exceptional population

 

As you will be recording areas over time you will be able to monitor if populations increase of decrease as a result of the management work.

There is a little book in the Shire Natural History Series by Peter Stafford simply called 'The Adder' ISBN 0 85263 879 5. It costs about 2.50. I would recommend it to anyone setting out to work with adder, it gives a very good description of visual survey techniques and when and how to find them. There is also a fairly good background of 'facts' though some might be disputed these days.

Just to emphasis the point about visual, if at one site last year I had relied on refugia only to estimate the population after 12 visits the population would have stood at 1 neonate adder.

Visual survey revealed that the population was actually 'good'.

Oh just one more point, relative population estimates are based only on adult animals, you can't count juveniles and sub-adults.

The difference with relative population estimate is you don't have to capture all the snakes and mark them or at least photo ID them, so it's much easier and a lot less stressful for both you and the snakes!

administrator38279.4391203704
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
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Posted: 19 Oct 2004
Just to add another angle, you may want to modify your methodology to include neo and juveniles (you would certainly want to record them even if they don't count towards a relative population estimate) as they are good indicators of colonisation, so as each managed area matures you may well pick-up neo snakes. Also neos will use refuga especially tin. administrator38279.4441898148
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
evilmike
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Joined: 15 May 2004
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Posted: 19 Oct 2004

track down the herp workers manual, jncc that will provide you with techinques and was very helpful when i did my Viper berus dissertation.


Mike Lister BSc hons Ecology & Env management
spaniel
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Joined: 16 Oct 2004
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Posted: 19 Oct 2004

I can't thank you enough for all the info, books etc this will keep me busy for a few weeks or so.

I think the visual is going to be a very good idea to include based on your past findings. I think all the info that you all have given is great and can only increase my success.

thank you all so much and will keep you posted on the progress.


calumma
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Joined: 27 Jun 2003
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Posted: 19 Oct 2004
You may want to attend the herp workers meeting early next year. There may be a talk that suggests ideas for adder projects ;-)calumma38279.8897685185
Lee Brady
Kent Herpetofauna Recorder | Independent Ecological Consultant

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spaniel
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Joined: 16 Oct 2004
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Posted: 07 Nov 2004

Well I have been to see the sites on offer and feel abit overwhelmed by the size of the areas! I feel that I could take too much on if I'm not careful due to all the sites are large and slightly different.

Would you think maybe take 2 sites and work them to get a better survey rather than a greater number?

I think if I take any more for my first project if could be too much to cope with!

The way round it I think is to survey the areas in mind and state that due to the variation in sites further surveys for these areas would be advisable to get better results.

Do you think this idea would be acceptable?

 

Any ideas or further help greatly recieved

 

 

Ian


Vicar
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Joined: 02 Sep 2004
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Posted: 08 Nov 2004

Ian,

I think there are a few factors to consider which will help you to determine the size of a survey site.

Which survey techniques will you use ?

How frequently will you visit the site ?

How long can you spare for each visit ?

Species targetted and terrain type ?

I'm no expert, but have had to consider the same issue lately, and have personally decided a rule of thumb....obviously open for comment by the forum.

For open heathland, combining refugia and belt transect visual encounter survey methods, visiting the site fortnightly (about 20 visits per season) and staying on site 1-2 hours, I think I can cope with a 25 hectare area. If I interleve areas either by visiting weekly, or by staying on site longer, maybe two 25-hectare areas.

If you want to work out the area of your site...try: www.magic.gov.uk where you can use the interactive map to zoom into your site of interest and use the polygon tool to assess the area of interest in hectares.

If you want a basic idea of habitat coverage over the site, use multimap (www.multimap.com ?) to zoom onto your area, then switch to the aerial photography tab to view culture. Its not the best way to determine culture coverage, but certainally targets the areas which you may choose to walk for a visual (ground) survey prior to your herp survey.

Just my thoughts :P


Steve Langham - Chairman    
Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group (SARG).

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