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In the Summer 2020 edition of the Expert Witness Journal, Baker Consultants’ Managing Director, Andrew Baker, discusses the ecological assessment of air quality and the need for multi-disciplinary expert witnesses.

Andrew has long experience in giving evidence as an expert witness in a number of different public inquiry cases.  He is often called upon by senior barristers to stand as an ecology witness and has worked on a number of air quality cases in recent years.

On the challenges of cooperation between the ecology stand point and other disciplines called to give evidence at inquiries, Andrew observes, “As a veteran of many ‘call in’ inquiries, examinations in public of Local Plans, planning appeals, hearings into Development Consent Orders and Parliamentary Select Committees, I am very familiar with the rigours of being on the stand as an expert witness. As an ecologist I am used to working in teams of planners, heritage consultants, hydrologists, noise consultants etc”

“While there is often some crossover between my area of expertise and the other disciplines, exploration of air quality issues requires an entirely new level of interdisciplinary cooperation. The work of the traffic consultant, air quality expert and the ecologist need to be seamless.”

Updated guidance on air quality assessments can be found via Natural England, IAQM and Highways England, that all focus on thresholds below which ecological effects can be ruled out. Each discipline assessing air quality therefore needs to be aware of the guidance, which in practice, causes problems.

A High Court decision in March 2017 (Wealden District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Lewes District Council and South Downs National Park Authority [2017] EWHC 351 (Admin) led the judge in the case to criticise the guidance that was in place at the time. With the ecological effects of air quality at the forefront of the environmental agenda, air quality policy makers, conservation bodies and lawyers have had these issues brought into sharp relief.

The print edition will be available from early August, and the electronic version is available online for free for subscribers on the website link below – flip to page 40 to read the full article: https://www.expertwitness.co.uk/articles/journal/issue-32-of-the-expert-witness-journal-is-now-online

Andrew’s other key areas of expertise are nature conservation law, Habitats Regulations Assessment and bioacoustics.  For more information or advice get in touch via contact form on the website, you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on info@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

Baker Consultants’ has been appointed as an Ecology Consultancy to Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) covering areas of Central & Southern Scotland, Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and North Shropshire.

Baker Consultants’ has been appointed as an Ecology Consultancy to Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) covering areas of Central & Southern Scotland, Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and North Shropshire.

Scottish Power service over 3.5 million homes across their network, through a distribution network of over 30,000 substations and over 40,000km of overhead lines and 65,000 km of underground cables. This maintenance of this infrastructure often requires work in or around sensitive ecological habitats or species, some of which may have significant statutory protection, and it is this facet of work that Baker Consultants will be advising Scottish Power on.

Baker Consultants have been working on individual projects for SPEN in north Wales for the last couple of years, and we’re delighted to have been successful in acquiring this long-term framework contract and continuing that existing relationship. We are looking forward to the opportunity to work on more projects in Scotland – expanding the amount of our work in this geographical area, with its unique ecology, and different legislative and policy frameworks.

If you need advice on ecological surveys for land management, planning or development, then please  get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on info@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

 

Innovation in Bird Bioacoustics saves manpower and cuts costs for surveying target species

Earlier in the year Baker Consultants published a paper in the Elsevier Ecological Indicators journal on “Combining bioacoustics and occupancy modelling for improved monitoring of rare breeding bird populations”.

This innovative piece of research work has caused some excitement in ecology circles and is one that opens up new possibilities when it comes to species monitoring using technology and data analysis skills.  Funded by Natural England, the research was carried out by Baker Consultants’ Technical Director Carlos Abrahams, and published in a high quality peer reviewed journal.  Carlos’ expertise in sound recording and data analysis drove this piece of work, following his previous studies on capercaillie in Scotland. One of the key elements of the paper was the ability to combine the acoustic recordings of target species at a range of locations, with GIS and satellite remote sensing data of the habitats present at each site.  This allowed the environmental factors that determine species presence and detectability to be assessed.

We’re really excited by the outcomes of this research, as it makes acoustic survey methods much more viable for landowners, developers and estate managers.  Traditional surveying techniques ordinarily rely on huge manpower efforts to regularly visit sites to observe and record target species.  With the techniques developed by Carlos, we’re able to monitor the species by gathering larger data sets over longer time-frames, while reducing the manpower costs of data collection.  Survey by acoustic recording is also more effective at producing a robust and defensible dataset, as it can be subject to quality assurance processes and the raw data can be stored permanently.

We are continuing to carry out ecological consultancy during the Covid19 lockdown. If you have any surveying or monitoring needs during this period, then please  get in touch with us via our  contact form on the website, call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on info@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

Baker Consultants’ Technical Director Carlos Abrahams is leading a webinar in association with the Institute of Acoustics and UK Acoustics Network on 13 May from 2pm.  The session will take delegates through the use of bioacoustics for field survey covering a wide range of species groups including birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates.

Baker Consultants’ Technical Director Carlos Abrahams is leading a webinar on the use of bioacoustics for field survey in association with the UK Acoustics Network on 13 May from 2pm.

If you would like to know more about how bioacoustic recording can provide a cost effective, highly robust method for gathering ecological data, register for this free session at the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/using-bioacoustics-for-field-survey-carlos-abrahams-tickets-104430179478

If you need advice on surveys for land management, planning or development, then please  get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on info@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

At Baker Consultants we maintain very close contacts with a number of Universities, teaching on under graduate courses and keeping up to date and contributing to the latest research. These academic links also mean that we can offer opportunities to the brightest and the best of the newly qualified ecologists taking their first steps in their career ladder. Under the Covid-19 lockdown, although we have altered our processes when working in the field in line with DEFRA, Environmental Agency and CIEEM guidance, there is still the need to carry out plenty of surveying and other fieldwork.

And so, we are happy to welcome to the team two new Assistant Ecologists, Isabel Commerford and Jed Weaver, who will be helping us in the 2020 summer season.

Baker Consultants are happy to welcome two new Assistant Ecologists, Isabel Commerford and Jed Weaver, who will be helping us in the 2020 summer season.

Isabel is soon to graduate from the Manchester Metropolitan University where she studied Wildlife Biology at Bachelor level where she is on course for a First Class Degree.  Her interests are very broad and she has the makings of an excellent all-round ecologist. Her dissertation was on mountain hares on Bleaklow in the Peak District, so she is no stranger to arduous field work, she is a keen botanist and is close to getting her bat survey license.  Last summer she attended the British Ecological Society’s under graduate summer school where she was awarded a bursary to fund her further training and equipment.

Jed graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a First Class degree in Biological Sciences, Ecology and Environmental Management, a course which we have been very happy to contribute to over the years and is accredited by our professional body CIEEM (https://www.ntu.ac.uk/course/science-and-technology/ug/bsc-hons-biological-science).  He has an interest in environmental law and policy and will be helping our Habitats Regulations Assessment team, which is extraordinarily busy, as well as helping organise our survey schedule. He is already proving very capable and has taken on the mantle of managing this year’s DNA testing kits.

So we’re sure you will join us in warmly welcoming on board these two new rising stars to our team.

We are continuing to carry out ecological consultancy work during the Covid19 lockdown. If you have any general queries then please  get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on info@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

Ten years on from the previous edition, CIEEM (the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) has just released revised guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) and our Technical Director, Carlos Abrahams, reviews them here.

“Ecology is one of the most common issues that needs to be addressed within Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), alongside other disciplines such as water quality, landscape and cultural heritage.

“The new guidelines are intended to promote good practice in assessing  terrestrial, freshwater and coastal environments in the UK and Ireland. This can be in the context of formal EIA, or on smaller-scale projects when a simpler assessment is required to support a straightforward planning application. The new guidance sets out best practice in producing an effective assessment, with input from contributing ecologists and other specialists working in collaboration.

Ecological Impact Assessments are needed for a wide range of developments

Ecological Impact Assessments are needed for a wide range of developments

“An EcIA report (or the ecological chapter of an EIA Environmental Statement) should clearly and simply describe the significant effects of any project so that competent authorities and other interested parties understand the implications of development proposals.

“The new guidance joins other advice from CIEEM, the government and the British Standards Institute in how ecological input should be incorporated into the development and planning process, helping to implement the requirements of legislation such as the EIA Regulations and other aspects of the Town and Country Planning Act.”

Our approach to Ecological Impact Assesment

Baker Consultants have experience of all stages of the EIA and EcIA process, from data collection to assessment of anticipated impacts, and from mitigation and assessment of any residual effects, to non-technical summaries and cumulative assessments. Our in-house team of ecology consultants has a wealth of experience of working in large multidisciplinary teams alongside landscape architects, transport consultants, planners, and archaeologists to produce co-ordinated assessments of schemes.

We are always aware that any of our work may be subject to the detailed scrutiny of a public inquiry and have extensive experience of taking projects through the appeal process or even to the courts. For this reason, we have developed a reputation as a ‘safe pair of hands’ and are often called in to deal with situations where careful negotiations are required or where an experienced expert witness is needed.

Read more about our experience of EIAs and EcIAs here

Baker Consultants was awarded a contract with Commercial Estates Group (CEG) to provide comprehensive ecology input for the proposed Hele Park development scheme in Devon at outline planning stage. Following this, Redrow, the housebuilder developing the site, subsequently contracted the team to provide ecological advice on the detailed planning application for Phase Three of the development.

One of the plans of Redrow's development at Hele Park

One of the plans of Redrow’s development at Hele Park

The baseline ecology surveys and Landscape and Ecology Management Plan (LEMP) helped to ensure that the ecological impact of the development was reduced and that the development was integrated into the wider landscape setting. Following our advice, important ecological features were retained and new habitat created as part of a robust green infrastructure. Bats, dormice, birds and amphibians are all set to benefit from early ecological input into the development.

The Hele Park development was a particularly complex scheme that successfully received planning permission with very few conditions for its size. Early involvement from our experienced team in assessing and designing the ecology aspects into the project contributed to this success and that of the subsequent Hele Park Phase Three.

Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director at Baker Consultants, said: “The Hele Park development benefitted from our involvement from the early stages of the project. Our expertise allowed us to provide a cost-effective, innovative package of ecological surveys and a comprehensive Landscape and Ecology Management Plan to ensure ecological compliance at all stages of this complex scheme.”

Read the full case study here.

British reptiles are protected by law and their presence on a development site can have implications for construction projects in a range of sectors, including house-building, infrastructure and renewable energy. Our experienced ecology consultants have the knowledge, expertise and licenses to identify whether reptiles are present and, if necessary, arrange mitigation procedures to allow the development to proceed and meet all legal requirements.

Ecologists Steve Docker and Courtenay Holden were lucky to photograph the moment a juvenile grass snake (one of the UK's six reptile species) was uncovered during a reptile survey

Ecologists Steve Docker and Courtenay Holden were lucky to photograph the moment a juvenile grass snake (one of the UK’s six reptile species) was uncovered during a reptile survey

All British reptiles are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended by the CRoW Act 2000) and listed as Species of Principal Importance under the provisions of the NERC Act 2006. Grass snake, slow worm, common lizard and adder are protected against intentional killing, injury and against sale; whilst the rarer smooth snake and sand lizard are also protected against disturbance whilst occupying a ‘place used for shelter or protection’ and the destruction of such places. In addition, smooth snake and sand lizard are protected under the Habitats Regulations 2010, making them European Protected Species. Mitigating the impact of developments on reptiles is, therefore, crucial.

For more information on how we carry out reptile surveys and mitigate the impact of developments on reptiles for our clients, visit our reptile survey page.

Since 2011, we have conducted detailed bird surveys and assessment to support a proposed development site in East Yorkshire on behalf of Associated British Ports. Our regular monitoring and consistently applied, robust methodology enabled us to amass a dataset that was used to fully assess the impacts of a potential development. This culminated in planning consent being granted and the creation of an impact avoidance set, which Baker Consultants is now monitoring.

Ecologist Steve Docker carrying out a bird survey

Ecologist Steve Docker carrying out a bird survey

Our expertise was required, as the development site is in close proximity to the Humber Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA), designated for its important populations of wintering species such as bar-tailed godwit and golden plover and migratory species such as knot and dunlin. Important populations of avocet, marsh harrier, little tern and bittern are also supported in the breeding season.

Baker Consultants has been carrying out surveys of migratory and wintering bird species at the development site. To ensure use of methods suitable for the specific requirements of the assessment, the survey protocol was designed as an adaptation of the British Trust for Ornithology high tide counts bird survey.

Laura Morrish, Projects Manager at Associated British Ports said: “Baker Consultants has been undertaking regular bird surveys for approximately five years across a wide area of ABP owned land in Hull in order to provide baseline data information for Environmental Impact Assessments and to allow for the preparation of annual monitoring reports of impact avoidance sites.  We have developed an excellent working relationship with the team.”

Our expertise

Baker Consultants have significant in-house expertise in the full range of bird surveys. For more information on our bird survey expertise read our pages on breeding bird surveyswetland bird surveys and winter bird surveys.

 

Read our full Associated British Ports case study 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.

 

 

 

 

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

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

At Baker Consultants, we support an active programme of research aimed at improving ecological survey and analysis techniques. As part of this, our Ecologist Steve Docker is currently working in collaboration with a Nottinghamshire based ringing group undertaking research into European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) vocalisations using automated acoustic sampling.

When evaluating a site for European nightjar, which is a ‘red-listed’ species of conservation concern, an accurate measure of the number of breeding pairs is essential. The standard survey method is based upon counting the number of singing ‘churring’ males. However, this is only indicative of possible breeding and does not provide conclusive evidence that birds have paired.

Experienced field workers have noted that the structure of nightjar vocalisations appears to be modified when a male has paired with a female and this current research project is investigating whether this change in vocal structure can be detected by automated acoustic sampling, represented visually on a spectrogram. To our knowledge this is something that has not been attempted before for this, or any other, species.

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

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

Spectrograms are a visual means of representing sound and contain a great deal of information. This project involves recording male nightjar song and testing for a relationship between spectrogram variables and breeding status. It is hoped that this work will form the basis of an improved survey method for European nightjar.

Steve said: “As I have a long-term interest in birdsong, especially the concepts of ‘song types’ and ‘vocal individuality’, I am delighted to be working on this research project, which will form the basis of my MSc dissertation. It is particularly exciting that we are applying technology in such an innovative way and that we will hopefully be able to improve standard nightjar survey methods from the basis of our research”.

Last year, Baker Consultants working with Dr Mieke Zwart and Professor Mark Whittingham of Newcastle University showed how bioacoustics is a much better technique for surveying nightjar than the standard survey method.