Finalist Wales Green Energy Awards 2015

The 2015 Wales Green Energy Award finalists have been announced and Baker Consultants has been nominated alongside Newcastle University for a Contribution to Skills & Training award!

Our nomination relates to the research and development of bioacoustics survey skills for the monitoring of European nightjar, a species of bird often perceived as being in conflict with wind farm developments and operations. Nightjars are widespread in Wales and can be a considerable constraint to development as they receive special legal protection.

Bioacoustics and the nightjar

Traditional survey methods used to establish the presence of nightjars, a bird both elusive and cryptic in behaviour, are expensive and can necessitate walked transect surveys, tape luring surveys and radio tracking to map their distribution and nest sites.

During 2013 and 2014, we carried out research into the use of bioacoustics survey methods as an alternative to conventional methods.

Nightjar spectrogram (frequency plotted against time) showing a series of major (high frequency) phrases and minor (low frequency) phrases

Nightjar spectrogram (frequency plotted against time) showing a series of major (high frequency) phrases and minor (low frequency) phrases

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, says: “At their basic level, bioacoustics surveys involve placing recording devices out in the field, often for extended periods, and recording animal sounds. This has many advantages over conventional surveys techniques, as a large amount of data can be gathered over an extended period of time as recording devices are left unattended for up to three months. Such data is critical, making it possible to establish whether records of nightjar are simply those passing through or those with established territories on the site.This can provide crucial information regarding whether a development gains approval. Furthermore, the costs of bioacoustics surveys are much lower than conventional methods”.

Baker Consultants also funded research by Dr Mieke Zwart as part of a joint project led by Dr Mark Whittingham of Newcastle University. The research proved that the use of bioacoustics was much more effective than established methods and was published as a peer-reviewed paper. This established the value of bioacoustics in nightjar surveying and paved the way for wider use of this cost-effective survey technique. There is also considerable potential for further development of this technique to allow a more detailed understanding of the use of a site by nightjar and other important species.

The Awards

The Wales Green Energy Awards are in their third year, and organised by RenewableUK Cymru to celebrate the success and achievements of the green energy industry in Wales. The award winners will be announced on Friday 6 November in Cardiff.

David Clubb, Director of RenewableUK Cymru, said: “We are always delighted by the quality of submissions for the Wales Green Energy Awards, and this year is no exception. Each of the shortlisted individuals or organisations should feel extremely proud of what they have achieved over the last 12 months, often in the face of challenging political and policy decisions.”

Baker Consultants and Wales

Baker Consultants has been providing ecological services to projects throughout Wales for a number of years and this year we consolidated our presence with an office in Swansea, following increased demand in the region and growth in the renewables sector. Read more in our article here.

Contact a member of our Welsh team today to discuss your project

Last week, as part of our ongoing CPD and survey innovation commitments, two of our Natural England licensed bat ecologists attended an advanced bat survey techniques training course in Sussex at the National Trust Slindon Estate. Uniquely, this course is run via the not-for-profit Bat Conservation and Research Unit (BatCRU); something that particularly appeals to our conservation-minded ecologists. In essence, the trainees taking part in the course are also acting as researchers and funds generated from the training courses (alongside a grant from SITA) enable the BatCRU to undertake The West Sussex Bat Project with support from the National Trust.

The course has been running since 2013 and the overall aim is to use the data acquired from all the research to apply for a grant for large-scale bat habitat improvements in West Sussex, particularly for rare Annex II bat species (such as the barbastelle bats shown below) from the EU LIFE+ fund.

Three barbastelle bats in the hand, caught using harp traps and mist nets (with lures) on the course. Photo by Matt Cook

Three barbastelle bats in the hand, caught using harp traps and mist nets (with lures) on the course. Photo by Matt Cook

What bat survey skills did we learn?

For Diana Clark, Senior Ecologist at Baker Consultants and licensed at level 2 by Natural England, this was her first time on the week-long course. An experienced bat ecologist with many years experience as a consultant (and with local bat groups), Diana was keen to learn more about the use of advanced survey techniques such as mist nets, harp traps, acoustic lures, professional night-vision equipment and radio-tagging and -tracking, as well as research techniques such as ringing. Suffice to say Diana now has an excellent understanding of these methods, and when best to use them, and was lucky enough to get up close and personal with a couple of new (to her) bat species.

For Matt Cook, Senior Ecologist at Baker Consultants, this was actually his third time. Matt already holds a Natural England level 3 and 4 class licence to survey for bats using the above techniques, but is always keen to advance his knowledge further and study bat ecology in general; particularly when he can support the research being undertaken by BatCRU.

Harp trap by Simon Curtin

Harp trap by Simon Curtin

More information

All bats and their roosts are protected from harm and disturbance at all times by EU and UK law and bats’ foraging habitats also receive some protection within the planning system.

  • For more information on how our advanced bat survey techniques can benefit your project or if you have any queries relating to bats and your project, please contact Matt Cook, Senior Ecologist.
  • Read more about our bat services here.

The course Matt and Diana attended was devised and run by Daniel Whitby, Director of AEWC Ltd with additional support from Daniel Hargreaves of Trinibats. Both Daniel W and Daniel H are technical advisors to the Bat Conservation Trust and Natural England. If you would like more information on The West Sussex Bat Project or training courses to be run in 2016, please contact Daniel Whitby of AEWC and BatCRU.

Barry Wright, one of Baker Consultants’ Principal Ecologists, has along with Professor Ian Rotherham from Sheffield Hallam University developed a new system for documenting hedgerows; providing information on their biodiversity and data to inform mitigation and translocation strategies. Barry’s HEDGES system is featured in full in the Summer 2015 edition of Conservation Land Management.

Problems with current hedgerow aging system

Barry began developing his system after discovering flaws in the Hooper formula typically used for aging hedgerows. Hooper had asserted that the average number of woody species present in a 30-yard section of hedgerow could be used as an indication of its age. This is based on the assumption that hedges were initially planted with one species and have acquired more at the approximate rate of one per 100 years. However, Barry found instances where a hedge that documentation revealed as being 200 years old could, applying the Hooper rule, appear to be in the region of 400-700 years old.

Barry said: “I believe that most hedges originally consisted of more than one species and that the complex changes since their creation should not be be simplified to just giving an age to a hedge. Hedgerows are a living history book waiting to be read. We just need to learn the language”.

Barry Wright, Principal Ecologist at Baker Consultants, surveying hedgerows

Barry Wright, Principal Ecologist at Baker Consultants, surveying hedgerows

HEDGES system

Barry consequently developed the Hedgerow Ecological Description Grading and Evaluation System (which conveniently abbreviates to HEDGES!) as part of his PhD, which can be used to create replicas of historic hedgerows. One of the three levels of detail that can be recorded using the system involves recording the abundance of tree, shrub and ground flora species every four metres along a hedgerow and giving each an abundance score. This can then be used to produce a planting list that forms the basis of creating a replica hedgerow to reflect the character of the local hedgescape.

Use of HEDGES to replicate historical hedgerows

Following this method, selected lengths of seven historical hedgerows from across Yorkshire were replicated on a farm in North Yorkshire as part of the Historical Replica Hedgerow Project (HRHP). They have been replicated along a hedgeline known to have been present in 1644 at the Battle of Marston Moor, but where the majority of the hedgerow had been lost. The lengths of hedgerow were chosen specifically to represent the historical origins and development of hedges over time and the site has access as part of an educational resource provided by the farmer. The oldest examples replicated can be traced back to the Norman conquest and possibly earlier.

The replication process carried out by Barry does not aim to justify unnecessary destruction of hedgerows, but help provide further guidance as to how mitigation for loss can be made more effective and more authentic.

Extract from Barry's Conservation Land Management article Summer 2015

Extract from Barry’s Conservation Land Management article Summer 2015

Why Baker Consultants

Innovation in ecology survey methods is part of Baker Consultants’ DNA and we are experienced in mitigation and the translocation of a wide range of species, including waxcaps, reptiles and butterflies.

Read our case studies for more on:

Contact a member of our team to discuss your project