5 Tips For Effective Spring Biology Surveys

Spring marks the beginning of the survey season for many special-status plant and wildlife species, and working closely with project biologists can help identify biological constraints early in the process, helping a project stay on schedule.

“Depending on your site conditions, multiple surveys can be required for different types of plant and wildlife species that could occur there,” said Tricia Wotipka, a senior Dudek biologist who has completed hundreds of such surveys. “It’s important to know what type of surveys will be required and when they should be performed in order to ensure that the window of opportunity is not missed. If you miscalculate, it could set the project back an entire year.”

Wotipka suggests the following tips so land owners can get the most from their surveys:

  1. Plan ahead and contact a biologist in advance to determine what sensitive resources may be residing on the property. Because species distribution is constantly evolving, it’s important for biologists to stay well informed. Dudek biologists regularly attend workshops and seminars and consult state and federal resource databases to stay current on the latest scientific information regarding species distribution, species life history, and survey protocols.
  2. Check to see if your property is located within a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) area. Across San Diego and Riverside Counties, for example, there are numerous conservation planning efforts in place designed to streamline protection efforts for a number of sensitive plant and wildlife species. For a recent project in Riverside County, Dudek biologists avoided potential delays by reviewing owl survey guidelines developed for the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) before conducting burrowing owl surveys. The team also reviewed MSHCP survey area maps to see if the project occurred in a narrow endemic species survey area.
  3. Communicate often with the biologist to keep surveys moving forward. Sharing property information such as any previously attained reports can provide some insight into previous survey results and habitat constraints, which can save time and money.
  4. Combine surveys, when possible, to save money and time. For example, least Bell’s vireo and southwestern willow flycatcher surveys can be combined so that eight visits cover both species during a survey season. Often times, upland species such as burrowing owl, California gnatcatcher, and cactus wren can be surveyed for concurrently. This is a much simpler, cost-effective process that makes the best use of one’s time and resources.
  5. Communicate with the resource agencies and gain approval on the survey approach, especially if not all of the special-status species that can occur on the property will be covered during a single survey.