Dr Peter Shepherd of BSG Ecology, along with Dr Sandie Sowler and Dr Ian Davidson-Watts, recently delivered an advanced two day training course on the ecology of the four Habitats Directive Annex II bat species resident and breeding in the UK (barbastelle, Bechstein’s, lesser horseshoe and greater horseshoe). The course was conceived by Peter in 2013 in response to queries from more experienced bat consultants about advanced-level training to help them develop their knowledge and experience base beyond that covered by existing training courses and day to day work experience. It was subsequently developed and promoted by Sandie and Ian through the Bat Training Partnership .
The two day course reviewed the latest research on the biology and ecology of the four Annex II species, and considered how this could influence the approaches taken to baseline survey and impact assessment. This was placed in the legal and planning policy context, with particular attention given to the latest judicial review cases such as Morge vs Hampshire County Council. The three tutors were able to provide practical advice based on very varied project experience. Ian was able to draw on his extensive experience of surveying for barbastelle and Bechstein’s on the Isle of Wight and in southern England. Peter drew on projects affecting greater and lesser horseshoes and Bechstein’s bats in south west England and barbastelle bats in eastern England; and Sandie was able to talk about her extensive experience of dealing with horseshoe bats in Wales and the south west of England.
The training was based at Chilmark Quarries SAC where all four Annex II species are regularly recorded by Ian as part of his long-term monitoring and research work at the site. In the evening of day one, mist net and harp traps were erected at two of the caves (former stone mines) and the trainees settled in to see what would be trapped. We captured three barbastelle bats (as well as serotine and daubentons); and both lesser and greater horseshoe were recorded on bat detectors. Captured animals were processed and vital statistics recorded, enabling students to see close-up the barbastelle as well as the non-Annex II species.
The course was well received by the attendees who gave verbal feedback that it improved their knowledge of the ecology of the species, but also provided a valuable insight into how to apply this knowledge in the legal and policy context when designing baseline surveys for projects that might affect Annex II species. One attendee commented “The discussions regarding survey standards and HRA / [Public Inquiry] were also especially useful and relevant to a lot of our current work”. Attendees also found the discussion about when to use more invasive survey techniques such as trapping and radio tracking particularly helpful.
If you would like advice on Habitats Directive Annex II species, or if you would like to discuss the uses of bat trapping then please contact Dr Peter Shepherd.
Top photograph: Ian Davidson-Watts checking a net in a cave.