Natural England is looking to notify much of the West Pennine Moors as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), for its wildlife and the peatland's excellent carbon storage capacity. They needed to know whether the amphibian and reptile populations met the criteria to be included in the designation and we were selected to conduct the surveys and analysis to find this out.
We were not commissioned until late April but the late spring worked in our favour, and we re-arranged the survey programme to undertake all frogspawn and toad counts immediately. Counting over 1300 toads at one site gave us confidence that we hadn't missed the peak in breeding activity. Two survey teams then conducted amphibian surveys of 26 varied waterbodies across the using the great crested newt survey methodology. Palmate newts were widespread but we were pleased to discover a previously unrecorded great crested newt population.
We also carried out reptile habitat assessments at three large sites and used these to design a survey using refugia and direct observation transects. Though we confirmed the presence of breeding adder at one site, we found that in general reptile numbers were low, likely due to the prevalence of mist and low cloud providing sub-optimal conditions.
We concluded that, though we found some excellent amphibian populations, overall, these and the reptiles do not meet the criteria for inclusion in SSSI designation.