Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Happy Birthday Turnstone Ecology

Today is exactly one year on since the first working day of Turnstone Ecology! It has been a great year for us and in truth much more than we had hoped for from our first year of business. 
We’ve had the opportunity to work with some good clients and some old friends and colleagues on a real variety of interesting projects. In the last twelve months we have surveyed for and found a wide range of species including Great Crested Newts, bats, Dormice, Badgers, Otters, Pine Marten, Red Squirrel, Water Vole and all the commoner Reptile species as well as a variety of ornithological jobs.
Along with winter and breeding bird site surveys across the country our bird work has also included wind farms in the UK and abroad, surveys of a pSPA to provide management advice associated with new public access and a watching brief of a Peregrine Falcon nest; which saw two juvenile Peregrines successfully fledge. We have worked on a variety of job sizes from small individual housing developments to large international wind farms and have really enjoyed the variety of challenges that comes with each.

We would like to extend our warmest thanks to everyone who has been involved in the first year of Turnstone Ecology. So many people have helped along the way and it’s not possible to list them all!This has included huge help in starting up the business to the odd simple words of advice and encouragement along the way and all of this has been invaluable to us – we hope that all those who have helped know how grateful we are for their time, energy, effort and support.

 We look forward to our second year as a company and already have a lot of exciting work lined up. We are expecting that Turnstone Ecology will continue to grow, becoming involved with new clients and projects and adding to the team of experienced ecologists.
Tristan, Steve and Mark

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A New Home For Badgers

Turnstone Ecology were recently commissioned to create an artificial badger sett.  The sett  was created as later in the year a main (and currently used) badger sett will need to be closed to allow a permitted development to continue.  The sett will be closed under licence issued from Natural England and the creation of an artificial sett is central to this licence application and mitigation plan.

The new sett is located in a quiet corner of a future public open space area and had to be created in an area of open ground which was flat.  The flatness presented a slight problem but with a bit of earth-moving a two-tier mound was created; in to which plastic pipes and chambers were placed.

Due to the flatness of the area in which we were asked to create the new sett a lot of earth moving was required.
 Once the initial ground works were complete the pipes and artificial chambers were set out.

We created two larger chambers that had one or two 'open' sides which will hopefully encourage any badgers using the new sett to dig their own tunnels and chambers.

The central area between the two tiers has been left free of pipes and chambers and the hope is that this area will be 'dug out' naturally.

 Close up of one of the large central chambers.  The open sides were closed off slightly before filling in with top soil/spoil but large gaps were left to encourage the creation of natural tunnels and chambers.  The chamber was stuffed with fresh hay.

The picture (left) shows the final layout of the 'top' sett. All of the chambers were filled with soil and had a maximum of three pipes leading in to or out of the chamber.

Two-tiered artificial badger sett

Once all the initial earth-works and setting-out had been completed the final stage of the process was to cover the whole lot in approximately 1.5 metres of soil to create a large artificial earth bank.  Once completed the areas around each of the pipes was dug out (to allow any badgers to find the tunnels) and a layer of sand placed outside each entrance hole.  The sand layer is placed at the entrance holes to allow us to monitor any usage of the new sett by badgers. 

Landscaped mound showing new entrance hole.  The hole has a layer of sand at the tunnel entrance and we have scattered some fresh hay/bedding material on the 'spoil' heap.  Care has been taken to create as natural an entrance as possible.

The artificial sett will be regularly checked to look for any signs of activity and we will update our blog with what we find.

Final shot showing the finished spoil heap with a bespoke artificial badger sett.  The sett is located in an area in which the badger clan are known to forage and it is hoped that the new sett will be used very soon. 

The artificial sett will be regularly checked to look for any signs of activity and we will update our blog with what we find.

Friday, 14 January 2011


Waxwings have continued to entertain many birders and non-birders during the first few weeks of 2011.  Although the larger flocks have now headed to the south of the country and over the channel to mainland Europe there are still small numbers scattered all over the UK.  After many weeks of trying to track down birds in and around Shrewsbury, and only managing a brief distant view of 17 birds from my study (right), I was lucky enough to catch up with a small flock in the east of town.  

Up to 31 birds were present in trees in a quiet residential area, an unusually pleasant area for Waxwings that are usually found in retail parks, along road verges and a few weeks earlier on a roundabout along the A5!  The sun was out and the birds gave cracking views as they came down to feed on a single Rowan tree in a front garden.

    Favoured perching tree prior to flying down to berries on a Rowan

    Feeding frenzy

    The breeze played havoc with their hair styles!

After reviewing a couple of shots on the cameras LCD screen I realised there was one Waxwing with a number of rings on its legs.  A quick search on the web when I returned home revealed that the white ring and standard metal ring on the right leg indicated it was a bird ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group so I sent them an email with the combination of three coloured rings on the left leg. A quick response showed the Waxwing was a 3rd year male ringed in Aboyne, near Aberdeen in early November and subsequently seen by another birder in Manchester at the end of November. 

Ringing provides interesting and valuable information on bird movements so keep an eye out for ringed birds when looking at flocks of Waxwings and other species. More information can be found by following the links below:

Friday, 7 January 2011

Happy New Year ………………. Spare a thought for the birds!

Happy New Year to one and all from Turnstone Ecology!
Its been a great few months for Turnstone Ecology and this is always an exciting time of year, the snows been a real feature of the festive period and it makes for great photos but spare a thought for the birds........
During the winter our birds act a lot like ourselves; some disappear to warmer climes, some remain here to tough it out and others (such as the thrush flock pictured to the left) come from even colder areas in search of food. For those birds on our shores throughout the winter finding food and making sure they keep their energy up to survive is their greatest test.
Studies by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) showed that the cold weather over last winter (09/10) resulted in significant population declines for many resident bird populations. In particular the numbers of Robin and Wren fell along with a decline in numbers of Dunnock and Greenfinch. In contrast the study showed that our migrant species fared much better with Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and Reed warbler numbers higher than average and many migrant species produced significantly more nestlings than in recent years.

For birders who have started their 2011 lists in the last few days the cold weather has ensured we start the year with large flocks of winter birds that have been pushed into the country from north ern Europe in search of food. This winter has seen higher than usual numbers of winter visitors driven in by cold northerly winds with large flocks of typical winter visitors such as Redwing and Fieldfare being joined by scarcer species such as Northern Long-tailed Tits, Arctic Redpolls and what seems to have become this winters speciality… the Waxwing!

Waxwings typically arrive in the UK at the start of winter from their summer breeding grounds in Scandinavia, usually present in only small numbers in northern and eastern UK. The birds are immediately on the hunt for our berry trees and bushes, with Rowan a particular favourite, and with the numbers of berries already dwindling by the time of their arrival the flocks often move inland to find food, ending up in orchards, shop parades and superstore car parks.

Flocks of waxwings are usually in the tens but have been recorded at a peak of over 600 in Scotland this year with estimates of over 2500 individuals in the UK this winter. Turnstone Ecology’s winter record is a flock of around 150 in Peterborough but with the influx this winter they have been recorded in the vicinity of all of our offices.
Whilst we can only really offer food sources for Waxwing by planting berry trees and bushes we can all do our bit for other species in hard winters such as this. Top tips for feeding birds and helping them through the winter can be found from the RSPB at www.rspb.org.uk/advice/helpingbirds/feeding/index.aspx.
Just remember that by providing food and water in our gardens when times are hard we can often get better views of more secretive and scarce birds .
Good luck for the new year, get those lists ticking over and enjoy the last few weeks of our winter visitors.

Other interesting links on our wintering birds below:

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