Senior Ecologist Matt Cook carrying out a tree climbing bat survey

Trees provide an essential resource for all our legally protected bat species. They provide foraging and commuting habitat and shelter, with almost all of our resident bat species known to roost in trees; indeed some almost exclusively.

Tree climbing

Tree climbing is therefore a very useful survey tool for a Natural England licensed bat ecologist, enabling them to undertake assessments of potential roost features within trees at height and complimenting other survey approaches, such as preliminary assessments from the ground and nocturnal surveys. Potential roost features might consist of a split, cavity, hollow, callus roll (a tree’s response to a wound) or loose bark in or around a branch or trunk of a tree.

Ecologist Jake Robinson carrying out a tree climbing bat survey

Ecologist Jake Robinson carrying out a tree climbing bat survey

Last week, two of our licensed bat ecologists, Matt Cook and Jake Robinson, successfully acquired their Level 2 City & Guilds NPTC awards in tree climbing and aerial rescue, formerly the CS38 ‘ticket’. This means that Matt and Jake are now professionally trained and certified to safely access and work in trees by rope and harness, and also carry out an emergency rescue at height if necessary. Our Technical Director, Carlos Abrahams, has also been certified and undertaking tree surveys at height for bats for several years.

Potential roost features found during tree climbing bat surveys. Photo by Senior Ecologist, Mat Cook

Potential roost features found during tree climbing bat surveys. Photo by Senior Ecologist, Mat Cook

Following the successful completion of his course, Matt said:

“Although I’ve assessed plenty of trees from the ground during my time as a bat ecologist, and been up on plenty of roofs and ladders during inspections and whilst working onsite, I don’t think I’d been more than a few feet up a tree since I was a teenager. I’d also never done any proper climbing before – assuming a day at ‘Go-Ape’ doesn’t count!

There was therefore a lot to take in on the first couple of days of the course and I’ll admit I was quite cautious about putting my life in the hands of the knots I was tying and remembering what to do when and where when dangling twenty feet off a branch. At least I felt ok working at height, as I can imagine this is what puts many people off this kind of work. It was surprisingly tiring for the first couple of days, as several people had warned me; I’m fairly fit and enjoy running, walking, cycling and playing football, but all of these only really use your legs!

As the course progressed though, I became more competent and my confidence grew as I improved my overall technique. However, I fully expect to be honing my skills continuously each time I head up a tree, which are of course all highly variable. Overall, I was really pleased to have successfully passed the course and am looking forward to undertaking some surveys and providing subsequent advice”.

Senior Ecologist Matt Cook during his tree climbing training

Senior Ecologist Matt Cook during his tree climbing training

Indeed Matt and Jake have already been assisting an experienced ‘tree climber’ with bat surveys of trees at height this week. Their training in this specialist survey skill has therefore already directly benefitted one of our valued clients.

Bat surveys and tree climbing

Usefully, and unlike many surveys for bats and other fauna, surveying trees at height for bats can be undertaken at any time of year. This is because bats can potentially use trees all year round to roost and also hibernate. Best practice would always be to undertake a preliminary assessment of a tree from the ground for its potential to support bat roosts prior to any felling or significant pruning or coppicing etc. If a potential roost feature is identified, and the presence or likely absence of bats cannot adequately be determined from below, further surveys of this potential roost feature should be undertaken. This might include a suite of nocturnal surveys, but may also or alternatively include an assessment of this potential roost feature at height i.e. tree climbing.

Baker Consultants can offer all of the above ecological assessment services with regard to bats, so please contact us for a discussion about your project or visit our Bat Survey page for further information.