Posts

An Unseen Problem

It is fair to say that, when discussing the environmental impacts of offshore wind, birds and marine mammals have certainly been at the forefront of the collective thinking of regulators, consultants, academics and the industry in general. In our experience, it is very rare that we are asked to consider bats in our approach to pre-construction surveys or impact assessments. In attending last September’s Conference on Wind Energy & Wildlife Impacts in Portugal, we found that studies regarding bats formed a very small proportion of the overall representations of the assembled experts from around the world. However, the evidence that was presented was intriguing, and most certainly a clear warning that we are not doing all we should to consider the potential impacts on bats from these installations.

The problems are clear – bats are small, nocturnal animals and, if they are crossing our seas, the chances of detecting them on radar systems (designed to detect flocks of migrating birds), or observing casualties of such a tiny animal in a vast waterbody like the North Sea are minimal. We do know, however, that various bat species cross our seas, and perhaps even forage further away from the coast than we would think is feasible. Anecdotal evidence, and increasing numbers of localised studies, show bats of several species feeding up to 10km offshore, and occasionally even beyond that, as well as being observed resting/ roosting on offshore installations such as oil rigs, and even wind turbines themselves (Ahlen et al 2007). In the right conditions, large numbers of bats could be following significant aggregations of insects far out to sea, possibly placing them in harm’s way as more and more wind farms spring up around the Baltic and North Seas, as well as Europe’s Atlantic coastlines.

Regulation & Guidance

The lack of evidence, and the difficulty in collecting that evidence, has posed a problem for the organisations tasked with ensuring that the environmental impacts of offshore development are minimised and mitigated for appropriately. To date, only Germany has devised formal guidance for offshore bat study and impact assessment. Other nations propose an approach based on the EUROBATS publication ‘Guidelines for consideration of bats in windfarm projects’ (revised 2014). The primary function of the EUROBATS initiative is to conserve Europe’s bat populations, and it is recognised that we simply do not know enough about offshore bat activity to rule out significant problems for the populations of several species, most notably Nathusius’ pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii, soprano pipistrelle P. pygmaeus, and noctule Nyctalus noctula (Arnett et al 2015).

Broadly, the guidance recommends that any boat-based surveys be conducted during April and May (inclusive) and August and October (inclusive) to cover the vital migratory season. For installations closer to shore, or in narrower channels, land-based surveys conducted from headlands will supplement this work, with additional surveys in June and July to cover periods of higher foraging activity in calmer conditions.

A Bespoke Approach

In interpreting this guidance, and ensuring that any development complies fully with regulations and minimises any ecological impact, it is vital that the programme of survey work is designed to provide us with a strong, evidence-led basis for our assessment. All potential offshore turbine sites will present their own unique conditions and challenges. We would always aim to make the most efficient use of our time by combining other necessary work, such as boat-based bird survey, with the deployment and retrieval of bat detection equipment, and simultaneous nocturnal bird and bat activity surveys.

The use of appropriate technology will be crucial to any study of offshore bats. Automated bat detectors would be used on land (at potential crossing points) and, where feasible and necessary, at sea on platforms such as rigs, buoys or night operating ferries if they are in the vicinity of the proposed wind farm. As well as hand-held bat audio detection equipment on our boat-based transects, thermal imaging cameras will be utilised to visually monitor the area and add as much as possible to the dataset.

As technology advances, our work, and collaborative efforts with academic institutions, will assist our understanding of where, when and how bats are using the open sea. Studies involving radar and GPS tags (available now for even the smaller bat species) will be consulted to broaden our understanding of this phenomenon, and how we can combine this with our data to design meaningful mitigation for bats as part of the spectrum of ecological considerations at future offshore wind farms.

References

Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World; Chapter 11 – Impacts of Wind Energy Development on Bats: A Global Perspective, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-25220-9_11. E.B. Arnett at el (2015).

EUROBATS Publication Series No. 6: Guidelines for Consideration of Bats in Wind Farm Projects – Revision 2014. L. Rodrigues et al (2014).

Bats and Offshore Wind Turbines Studies in Southern Scandinavia (Swedish Environmental Protection Agency). Ahlen et al (2007).

 

A significant proportion of our work could be described as ‘rescue’ jobs, where a client approaches us to pick up from another ecologist’s work, because for whatever reason they cannot continue with the project. Mostly, it is simply that the previous consultant does not feel comfortable appearing as an expert witness at a public inquiry (it’s not for everyone), or they do not have the specialist knowledge for a particular aspect of the work.

In all cases, a thorough review of the previous ecologists’ work is conducted to ensure that nothing has been missed. The most common failing that we find is in regards to bat surveys. It seems that many ecologists are using now out-dated equipment to capture survey data including heterodyne, time expansion and zero crossing detectors. This creates a series of problems: the data collected is inaccurate as it doesn’t capture accurate GPS readings or misses bat activity; and data processing is more time-consuming, can lead to misidentification of bat species, and therefore will be unrepresentative of the site population. More concerning is when modern equipment is used but then incorrectly analysed. This effectively loses a large proportion of the collected data, fails to follow best practise, and can cause serious implications further in the project.

This is a highly technical issue, of which most clients may be unaware. However, incorrect use of bioacoustics technology can pose a significant risk to a project, especially in obtaining planning permission or as part of a Habitat Regulations Assessment. As industry leaders, Baker Consultants uses the latest full spectrum detectors which capture all signal information and output it in real-time. The data collected is highly detailed, suitable for analysis using automated bat recognition software which is manually validated by experts. In Layman’s terms, large amounts of valuable data can be collected and analysed cost-effectively and accurately. This method undeniably produces better results for the project long-term.

Figures 1 and 2 further highlight the differences between zero crossing and full spectrum data. The two methods processed the same bat data record, however, zero crossing (Figure 1) failed to confidentially identify the Myotis bat species and the social calls from the soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus).

 

Figure 1. Bat data analysed in Kaleidoscope (Wildlife Acoustics Inc.) using zero crossing output; soprano pipistrelle identified.

 

Figure 2. Bat data analysed in Kaleidoscope (Wildlife Acoustics Inc.) using full spectrum output; soprano pipistrelle with social calls and Myotis species identified.

 

So how do you ensure that your ecologist is using the correct technical equipment to protect the outcome of your project? Simple, just ask! Specify full spectrum recording in the work brief both at the recording and analysis stage. The use of time expansion, heterodyne or zero crossing devices on your project should not be accepted. Technology has moved on, and you need to ensure that your ecologist has moved on with it.

 

Nottinghamshire Bat Group has recently been undertaking research on the rare barbastelle bat.

Read more

A recent academic paper on automated classifiers (‘The use of automated identification of bat echolocation calls in acoustic monitoring: A cautionary note for a sound analysis‘) highlights the importance of a key part of our bat call identification method: manual checking of automated classifiers’ results.

All bats and their roosts are protected from harm and disturbance at all times by EU and UK law, and their foraging habitats also receive some protection within the planning system. Licensed professionals, such as ourselves, carry out a range of bat surveys at sites varying from large housing developments to the removal of individual trees or buildings. These surveys are a legal requirement and integral to planning permission submissions.

Spectrogram showing pipistrelle bat call

Spectrogram showing pipistrelle bat call

A useful tool to support surveys of bats is the use of automated classifiers. These analyse and attempt to recognise bat calls from recordings made by detectors such as SM2+s, and can provide an indication of the likely species. However, as the recent publication by Russo and Voight (2016) demonstrates, “no classifier has yet proven capable of providing correct classifications in 100% of cases or getting close enough to this ideal performance”.

Because of this, at Baker Consultants, our bat experts manually check each call following the use of automated classifiers to ensure accuracy. Automated classifiers remain an extremely useful tool when surveying bats, which are by their nature nocturnal, elusive and often cryptic, but, as this research shows, expert opinion is still needed to validate the results.

Read more about our bat survey capabilities here.

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.

 

 

 

 

Five of our ecologists contributed to a Nathusius’ pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) research project that featured on The One Show on BBC1 as part of the film Bats Without Borders by Icon Films! Our Senior Ecologist Matt Cook led the project for Nottinghamshire and Rutland Water and four of our other ecologists, Courtenay HoldenKatie Watson, Rich Hall and Kelly Clark have also been involved.

Background to the project

After a Nathusius’ pipistrelle was found to have migrated from Great Britain to the Dutch coast in 2013, scientists’ previously held assumption that British bats were unable to migrate across the North Sea was challenged. Bats Without Borders set out to find out whether some of the UK’s bats were migratory and if it was possible for a bat weighing only seven grams to cross the English Channel or the North Sea.

Bats Without Borders poster

Bats Without Borders poster

Several bat groups were involved in the Bat Conservation Trust and University of Exeter study, including Nottinghamshire Bat Group, for which Matt is project co-ordinator. Matt led the project for Nottinghamshire and Rutland Water, overseeing the catching of 46 Nathusius’ pipistrelles so far. These bats have all been adult males, with five recaptures from within Nottinghamshire and at Rutland Water, one of which has actually ‘migrated’ over 10km along the River Trent. The project group hope to catch a breeding female, which they hope to radio-track back to a roost. This would be an important piece of research, as there are currently no known active roosts on mainland Great Britain. Two to three more maternity roosts were discovered this summer, but none of any notable numbers.

About Nathusius’ pipistrelles

The Nathusius’ pipistrelles are associated with freshwater habitats, mainly large water bodies, and their diet largely consists of medium-sized flying insects such as aquatic flies, midges (particularly non-biting midges), mosquitoes and caddis flies. They feed by aerial hawking, meaning they pursue and catch their prey in flight. In comparison to other pipistrelles, they typically fly higher, faster and further, and have distinctive social and advertisement calls. They typically weigh between six and 13 grams.

Nathusius' pipistrelles. Photos by Jon Russ

Nathusius’ pipistrelles. Photos by Jon Russ

Distribution-wise, Nathusius’ pipistrelles occur across mainland Europe, generally migrating north-east to south-west in autumn. They were first recorded in the UK in the 1940s in Shetland and were considered only a migrant visitor to the UK until the 1990s, when a small number of mating and maternity colonies were found. Overall, they are considered widespread, although uncommon. Less than ten mainland Great Britain maternity roosts have been recorded and none have been found to be active since 2012 (the last roost was in Kent). This means there are no major hibernation sites.

There is still much that is unknown about Nathusius’ pipistrelles in the UK, including the nature of their movements in and out of the UK, their migration routes and origins, their population status and their distribution. We hope that the research Matt, Courtenay and Katie have been involved in provides an important stepping-stone to better understanding the behaviour of this fascinating species.

The full results from the stable isotope analysis of the discreet fur samples taken from the bats caught in 2014 are due very soon. However, the preliminary results suggest that most of the Nathusius’ pipistrelles are likely to have moved quite significant distances.

Our latest in-house training course, run by Senior Ecologist Matt Cook (BSc (Hons) MSc MCIEEM), covered advanced bat survey techniques including using harp traps and acoustic lures.

After an initial training session on advanced bat surveys including Natural England class licensing back at the office, our terrestrial colleagues set off into the wilds of Derbyshire (or Carsington Water, as it is popularly called) for some field training in the use of harp-traps and acoustic lures.

Harp trap by Simon Curtin

Harp trap by Simon Curtin

This latest in-house training was a very informative and hands-on session, with five different species of bat caught under licence: Daubenton’s bat, whiskered bat, Brandt’s bat, brown long-eared bat and soprano pipistrelle. This allowed for close examination of common bat identification features such as size, ears and tragus, and the presence or absence of a post-calcarial lobe. Being able to identify a bat in the hand is important for our ecologists working with these protected species.

Beyond this, there are other benefits that ‘advanced’ survey techniques can bring to our clients and their projects; for example:

  • These techniques can assess where key flight-lines and bat activity hotspots are on a site, ensuring that mitigation measures are evidence-based;
  • They can remove many of the limitations of bat detectors, especially for quiet and cryptic species, by allowing identification of species, sex and an assessment of breeding status;
  • They can often be more cost effective than ‘traditional’ alternatives, as they can reduce the amount of time needed in the field; and,
  • Overall, important information about bat assemblages on a site can be gathered to help maintain the Favourable Conservation Status of these European Protected Species.

Additionally, development of these skills sets us apart from other consultancies, as very few have the in-house expertise to conduct these types of surveys.

whiskered Brandt's bats in the hand, caught during training at Carsington by Ecologist Courtenay Holden

Whiskered and Brandt’s bats in the hand, caught during training at Carsington by Ecologist Courtenay Holden

About Baker Consultants

At Baker Consultants, we regularly run in-house training sessions to make sure our colleagues continue to develop throughout their careers, encouraging colleagues to share their specific expertise with others. This internal training helps to maintain the high professional standards expected by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and our clients.

We are experienced in the full range of bat surveys. For more information, visit our Bat Surveys page and read our Elvaston Castle case study.

About Matt Cook

Matt is an experienced bat ecologist, holding Class licenses 1 to 4, and with a range of survey and reporting experience. Matt’s passion for all things bat-related extends outside work, where he has been actively involved with local bat conservation groups since 2008. Matt has also been coordinating the Bat Conservation Trust National Nathusius’ Pipistrelle Project in the region for the last two years (read more about this here).

About bats

There are 17 resident breeding species of bat in the UK and all bats and their roosts are protected from harm and disturbance at all times by EU and UK law. Bats’ foraging habitats also receive some protection within the planning system. Bats can typically be surveyed between April and October using a variety of different survey methods. For more on bats, visit our Bat Surveys page.

Spring and summer are the busiest seasons in our surveying calendar, with our ecologists travelling across the UK and Europe carrying out a wide variety of surveys for our clients. Here are a selection of the best ecology survey pictures from 2015 so far.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The video below shows our Technical Director Carlos Abrahams assessing a tree for its potential to support bat roosts and searching for evidence of roosting bats. It demonstrates the climbing ability and strength our ecologists need for this type of survey!

Read the full article about tree-climbing bat surveys here.

For more about our recent projects, explore the rest of our news articles or visit our case studies page.

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.

With the terrestrial surveying season now in full swing, our ecologists have dusted down our equipment and headed out across the country on a myriad of different surveying projects using a range of innovative ecology survey techniques.

One of our key pieces of kit for carrying out a bat survey is our GoPro, which is a waterproof, HD-quality video recorder. Small and compact, we can attach this device to a helmet or pole to film footage from the top of trees, inside of lofts and many other locations.

This video shows our Technical Director Carlos Abrahams assessing a tree for its potential to support bat roosts and searching for evidence of roosting bats. It demonstrates the climbing ability and strength our ecologists need for this type of survey!

Tree climbing surveys are conducted by our CS38 qualified tree-climber and licensed bat-worker ecologists. Firstly, a daytime visit will be made to the site to identify trees within the work areas which appear to have roost potential and will require a tree climbing bat survey. Following this ground-based assessment, a tree climbing bat survey, as Carlos carries out in the video, will be carried out for all trees with moderate or high roost potential.

As part of this bat survey, any suitable cavities should be fully inspected using an endoscope. Where this is not possible, then an additional bat survey (such as an emergence survey) might be needed. A survey report will be produced to detail the ground-based, treeclimb and emergence (where required) study methodologies and results, providing an initial assessment of potential impacts and making recommendations for any necessary further survey work and/or mitigation measures.

Our Technical Director Carlos Abrahams conducting tree climbing bat survey

Our Technical Director Carlos Abrahams conducting tree climbing bat survey

As part of the re-development of Carlyon Bay by Commercial Estates Group (CEG), the infamous Cornwall Coliseum was recently demolished. The iconic building was a popular music venue in the 1970s and 1980s and played host to a large number of bands including Black Sabbath, The Cure, The Who, Eric Clapton, Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi and Simple Minds.

Here is a time-lapse video of the demolition in process.

Andrew Baker, managing director of Baker Consultants, recently discussed the opening of the Polgaver bat house, which was developed to provide an alternative habitat for any bats that may have been roosting in the Coliseum:

“The bat house is the first of many features that have been designed into the scheme to ensure that Carlyon Bay is both a prime destination within Cornwall and an exemplar project for wildlife. It’s a clear demonstration of Commercial Estates Group’s commitment to help maintain and enhance Cornwall’s natural environment. After 13 years of working on the project, I was very proud to see the first permanent building completed. What was even more satisfying, was that the building is designed to enhance the ecology of the site and also looks so beautiful”.

  • For more information on the Carlyon Bay project, visit their website
  • Read our Polgaver bat house blog for more on Baker Consultants’ contribution to the project
  • Look out for our upcoming Carlyon Bay case study

Last week, our Senior Ecologist Matt Cook attended the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) Wildlife and Transport Infrastructure Symposium in London on Baker Consultants’ behalf. This blog outlines his thoughts on the event:

“I have to say, following the Woodland Bat Symposium held in November, this was another excellent event organised by BCT. Although there was of course a slight bias towards bats (which suits me just fine!), the scope of this symposium extended to include a number of excellent presentations covering a variety of other taxa and the potential impacts of the European transport network upon them, as well as some professional practice case studies and advances in technology. Importantly, it seemed the audience was a good international mix of ecological consultants, researchers, wildlife conservationists, government agencies and those contractors with the difficult job of maintaining these critical transport networks.

“There were some very interesting facts, figures and findings presented about the largely negative impacts of roads on wildlife, such as on amphibians, deer, badgers and insects; but conversely also on the importance of some roadside verges for our flora. With regard to bats, the continuing message from Professor John Altringham and his University of Leeds team, as well researchers from mainland Europe, is that major roads adversely affect bat activity, abundance and diversity and that much of the mitigation in place for these projects (particularly ‘bat gantries’ and mitigation schemes where original commuting routes are ignored) doesn’t usually work. I look forward to reading more research from John Altringham and his team on this in the summer.

Outstretched male bat wing by Lorna Griffiths

Outstretched male bat wing by Lorna Griffiths

“In fact, the wider take home message from the symposium for me was that we will only design effective mitigation strategies for the increasing impacts of our transport infrastructure on all wildlife if we undertake thorough pre-development baseline studies, think carefully about mitigation and compensation design, and undertake comprehensive post-development monitoring. Only by doing this for all those taxa that may be adversely affected, will we eventually arrive at effective solutions; both in terms of monetary cost for governments and the highways agencies, but more importantly to prevent the slow degradation of our natural environment.”

Read our blog on the opening of Polgaver Bat House for more on bats.

Matt Cook - Ecologist at Baker Consultants

Matt Cook, Senior Ecologist

Note: Unless a bat is being rescued from imminent harm, bats should only ever be handled by an appropriately licensed (e.g. Natural England) bat ecologist and should never be handled by inexperienced persons without suitable gloves. All licensed bat handlers are vaccinated against the minuscule risk of rabies and therefore such experienced bat handlers may occasionally handle some species without gloves, as shown in the photograph above.

May 2015 update:

Watch a time-lapse video of the demolition of the Cornwall Coliseum at Carlyon Bay below.

March 2015:

We were delighted to attend the official opening of Polgaver Bat House, part of the Carlyon Bay development in Cornwall. Our managing director, Andrew Baker, and senior ecologist, Mark Woods, were present as Councillor June Anderson, chairman of St Blaise Town Council, and local school pupils officially declared the new bat house open for business. Andrew has been involved with the Carlyon Bay development for over 10 years, working to ensure that protecting the ecology of Carlyon Bay has been at the heart of the project throughout.

Polgaver Bat House opening

Polgaver Bat House opening

“The bat house is the first of many features that have been designed into the scheme to ensure that Carlyon Bay is both a prime destination within Cornwall and an exemplar project for wildlife. It’s a clear demonstration of Commercial Estates Group’s commitment to help maintain and enhance Cornwall’s natural environment.

“After 13 years of working on the project, I was very proud to see the first permanent building completed. What was even more satisfying, was that the building is designed to enhance the ecology of the site and also looks so beautiful”.

Andrew Baker, managing director of Baker Consultants.

Outstretched male bat wing by Lorna Griffiths

Outstretched male bat wing by Lorna Griffiths

As well as the ceremonious cutting of the ribbon, ecologist Anton Kattan, on behalf of Baker Consultants, led a half hour interactive talk on the ‘life of bats’ for the school pupils. This fascinating insight into the nocturnal world of the bat house’s soon-to-be new residents enthralled the children, who were able to look at several bat specimens up close.

Anton's 'life of bats' talk at Polgaver Bat House opening

Anton’s ‘life of bats’ talk at Polgaver Bat House opening

The new bat house was designed by architects Squire and Partners, following detailed consultation with Baker Consultants’ ecologists, and provides an alternative habitat for any bats that may have been roosting in the soon-to-be demolished local Coliseum building. Located close to the cliff face in a woodland setting, the new bat house directly addresses the bats’ established feeding route, and is orientated east-west to give a south facing aspect to the pitched roof. As well as accommodating a key requirement to provide suitable thermal conditions, a variety of access points makes this an ideal bat roosting environment.

Polgaver Bat House

Polgaver Bat House

“Bats use a variety of roosts throughout the year and during studies of the Coliseum since 2010 we have seen a gradual increase in the diversity of species sheltering in the building.  There has never been a large colony, but individual bats were found in several internal rooms.  They are inquisitive animals and have found dark, enclosed rooms to shelter during the day. The bat house provides similar conditions to those found in the Coliseum and we have also added features to help improve roosting opportunities, with the hope that breeding animals may eventually move in. The bat house is part of a larger ecology management strategy to promote biodiversity on Polgaver”.

Anton Kattan, ecologist for Baker Consultants.

Note: Unless a bat is being rescued from imminent harm, bats should only ever be handled by an appropriately licensed (e.g. Natural England) bat ecologist and should never be handled by inexperienced persons without suitable gloves. All licensed bat handlers are vaccinated against the minuscule risk of rabies and therefore such experienced bat handlers may occasionally handle some species without gloves, as shown in the photograph above.

At Baker Consultants, our terrestrial ecologists are fully licensed and experienced great crested newt surveyors and have carried out accredited training in environmental DNA (eDNA) field sampling, led by Dr Jeremy Biggs, Director of the Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT).

This innovative and recently developed survey method is used to detect microscopic fragments of DNA biomarkers belonging to great crested newts, which persist in waterbodies for between 1 and 3 weeks, depending on environmental conditions. This method can be used to determine species occupancy in ponds (i.e. presence/absence) and has the potential advantage of increasing survey efficiency from a financial, time and labour intensity perspective.

eDNA service at Baker Consultants

eDNA service at Baker Consultants

The fact that eDNA persists in waterbodies (excluding sedimentary deposits) for a relatively short period of time, means that collected samples should contain the DNA fragments of great crested newts that were recently present within the waterbody. This technique has been supported by Natural England and where negative results are returned following analysis, the requirement for further surveying using the standard bottle trapping, egg search and torchlight methods can be omitted; thus potentially saving the client time and money. Furthermore, a recent study published by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and conducted by the FHT, showed that eDNA sampling used to determine the presence of great crested newts had an accuracy level of 99.3%, compared to only 76% via the standard bottle trapping technique.

However, to support a licence application for development, Natural England will only accept the results of this new sampling technique if an appropriately trained and experienced great crested newt surveyor collects the samples. Additionally, in order to be accepted, these samples must be collected between 15th April and 30th June.

Baker Consultants are able to provide this eDNA service on request. Further details on prices and availability will be released in the near future. If you have any queries regarding this service, please contact Jake Robinson.

Rich has written an article in the latest edition of the Wind Energy Network magazine.

The article explains the importance of preliminary assessments and scientifically robust surveys in particular for bats and they way they use habitats.

Please read the link for the full article:

BatFeature