Tales from the M25 part 2

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Great Crested Newt Underpass

An important part of a Field Assistant’s role on the M25 is to ensure that works do not adversely affect protected species. On one occasion Toni Harrington (M25 Project Co-ordinator) asked me to supervise the installation of a great crested newt underpass. This was critical to ensure that connectivity was maintained between an isolated part of the receptor site and the main receptor site area. Great crested newts (a European protected species) depend on aquatic as well as terrestrial habitat, so this link was vital to allow migration to the breeding pond in the spring.

The underpass was constructed underneath an access track by excavating a 1m deep trench between the two receptor site areas. Strong plastic piping was used to create the roof of the tunnel and this was then buried, leaving the ends exposed to allow the newts to enter. Although this was one of the more unusual jobs they had undertaken, Skanska Balfour Beatty construction workers scattered wood chippings on the floor of the tunnel to make sure that the tunnel was comfortable and welcoming to the newts. We hope the newts appreciate their hard work.

Building a Great Crested Newt underpass

Water Vole Hotels

A significant part of our fieldwork on the M25 in 2010 was dedicated to water vole surveys. Water voles like to colonise banks of slow-flowing brooks and ditches such as those found adjacent to large stretches of the M25. As well as looking for water vole field signs in these areas (feeding stations, latrines, burrows and footprints), it was decided that water vole rafts would be used on certain stretches. Julie Powell (Senior Ecologist) created a prototype and she and I spent the best part of a day putting together the rafts. We used polystyrene as the base to aid buoyancy and placed a three-sided wooden shelter on top, with open ends. These would mimic water vole burrow entrances and entice the water voles onto the rafts, with a little help from some chopped up apple.

We quickly discovered that the rafts were being used by water voles as the apples disappeared and water vole droppings were left on the polystyrene. Some ecologists were lucky enough to see the water voles themselves! The water vole rafts soon became known as water vole hotels – places where water voles could stop for a rest and a bite to eat away from their burrows – we like to think they enjoyed their stay.

Water Vole Raft

Daisy the defective cat

One sunny day in July, I arrived on site at Junction 29, M25 compound for what I thought to be a normal day at work. On arrival a strange meaow greeted me from the reception and a dirty, skinny cat looked up at me. The tortoise shell and white cat was found limping around the compound near the M25 works. I immediately took pity on her and after realising she was homeless, took her home.

After getting her home I soon realised that this cat had more health complications than previously thought.  Her health problems include,  being deaf, having a heart murmer, an overactive thyroid gland, bad teeth and dodgy back legs. Six months since taking her home she is on medication for her thyroid and is doing much better and has put on weight. However, Daisy lacks social skills and absolutely hates other cats and has regular stand offs with other cats through the cat flap!  Despite the complications I don’t regret giving her a new home, I just hope she prefers it to the side of the Motorway! Her dislike of other cats will stop me taking anymore in though.

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