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Saxon Road Green Space

Saxon Road Green Space - local survey results

Earlier this year Saxon Road Green Space group surveyed local residents about plans to keep the green space. They had positive feedback from around a third of local residents and no comments against the idea. (See the full survey results in the pdf attachment, 'Pre App Survey', at the bottom of this page)

Newt article by Jerry Norman

I hope the majority of people have made their back garden's wildlife friendly, including ponds, creating habitats that urban wildlife can colonise succesfully.

At present in St Werburghs we have three native species of Newt, although it is not always apparent that they are present. All three are under threat in the UK and have suffered major decline over the last forty years, more so in Europe.

The largest of these, the Great Crested Newt, has strict safeguards under European law to protect them, although their future remains uncertain.

They live in St Werburghs, in an area between Saxon Road and Warmnster Road. As there is a proposed development in this area a second survey of the population has been carried out. The first took place in 2008. The current survey was carried out by a trained ecologist over a period of five weeks in April and May this year, to ascertain their current status and updating the results of five years ago.

Conservation of the Great Crested Newt requires enhanced habitat and high quality ponds for them to successfully breed in. Ponds that are silting up, have too much shade, are polluted and are disturbed by development do not help with the conservation of this elusive amphibian.

Despite a late cold Spring Adults numbers were up, along with overwhelming Newtpoles resuming their development as temperatures began to rise. Young land based juveniles of three to four years old were also spotted busying themselves looking for slow moving invertebrates to eat.

One adult male was measured 150mm, this size would age him at about 10 years old. He looked in good condition and could live to 17 years of age and would be able to travel about 1 kilometre. Unfortunately the fragmented urban landscape makes it difficult for him to move between remaining areas of suitable habitat. Travelling enables him to increase his genetic viability, although he is more likely to return to the ponds within about a 250 metre radius. He is likely to move in and out of different garden ponds repeatedly and is capable of foraging 120 metres in one night.

As with many of the best urban populations of wildlife they are aided by the green corridor of the railway and brown field sites. When they are in adult form and away from ponds they search out underground crevices or concealed above ground refuges in scrub land; In rough grassland they try to find shelter from predators, although they do have toxins in their skin, they fatten themselves up in readiness for the breeding season in Spring.

In 2007 the site between Warminster Road and Saxon Road had a reptile translocation exercise and the already mentioned full ecology report in 2008, with involvement from Natural England and records sent to Bristol Wildlife Records Office. This should have resulted in any development or pre site construction being overseen by a licensed ecologist. It was upsetting that a large part of the northern boundary was scrapped back using heavy mechanical diggers in June 2012, twelve metres from registered breeding ponds. As this is considered a criminal act work ceased with intervention from Bristol City Council ecology officers and the local constabulary,

In light of the history of the site and the pending results of the latest survey, ecological offsetting can be the only satisfactory outcome, to safeguard the Great Crested Newt population, and help enhance the quality of life for both wildlife and people. Although very elusive, I hope the Great Crested Newt's are around for generations to come along with their smaller cousins.

Jerry Norman
Wildlife Member
Saxon Road Green Space Group
saxonroadgreenspace@gmail.com

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