Protos Recovery Facility, Cheshire
Avian Ecology have assisted with baseline surveys on a number of plots within the Protos development area. The most recent development plot involved re-directing a ditch so it would no longer flow through the Site but around the perimeter. As part of the baseline ecology surveys, Avian Ecology set out to do a water vole survey. It soon became clear, that due to dense vegetation and variable deep-water levels at the site, traditional methodologies of hand searching and wading could not be adopted. Avian adopted an innovative approach, which involved placing rafts (insulation boards) at 10m intervals along the watercourse. These were left out for 5 clear and dry days and then retrieved in. (Methodologies were in line with the water vole mitigation guidelines [Dean, et al, 2016]). Due to the inquisitive nature of water voles, if present they will use the rafts and leave signs such as droppings and latrines.
The survey confirmed presence along a stretch of the Site, with a variable low to medium population. Mitigation measures were recommended to ensure legislative compliance whilst enabling the development to proceed. The application was submitted in November 2020 and a decision is pending.
The innovative use of rafts on this site ensured that an accurate picture could be established of the population of the species on site at that time, without which presence of water voles may not have been found. Crucially mitigation strategies can be determined and factored into the programming of works early, preventing any last-minute changes and delays to the scheme.