Bat identification is technically challenging, and to become proficient requires considerable experience and training. Designing and undertaking robust bat surveys goes beyond identification, however, and requires an understanding of bat biology and ecology. For example, understanding the thermoregulatory needs of male, female or juvenile bats at different times of the year will enable a good surveyor to think about the sort of roosting conditions that bats will be seeking out at a given time. As such, a knowledgeable surveyor will adapt their survey to ensure all possible roost sites are considered.
These were some of the issues covered in the first day of a two day training course recently delivered by Dr Peter Shepherd. The second day covered how to undertake surveys of buildings and built structures and the evidence that indicates the presence of bat use. The participants consisted of ten members of BSG Ecology’s staff who are currently working towards licenses. The training concluded with a mock-up bat roost visit and a comprehensive written and sample identification examination to test the knowledge and surveying skills of the students.
We are often asked, particularly at interview, whether and to what extent we invest in training our staff, particularly in terms of their technical field skills. For the last seven years BSG Ecology has been operating an in-house technical standards manual that clearly sets out the knowledge, skills, experience and competencies that we believe ecological consultants require to ensure that they are appropriately skilled and trained to undertake survey work. The manual, developed by us and peer reviewed by respected and experienced external nature conservation professionals, contains individual chapters for the full suite of habitat and species surveys we offer. Skills, knowledge competencies and experience are obtained through a variety of means including our in-house technical programme. This training was delivered to help our staff improve their skills and meet the requirements of the manual.
Dr Peter Shepherd is a highly experienced bat ecologist, having undertaken work with most of the UK resident bat species at one time or another. He is a volunteer roost visitor for Natural England and has been delivering training for the Bat Conservation Trust since 2000. Peter is also involved in delivering training with other industry providers, for example with Dr Sandie Sowler on bats and wind energy¹. Peter’s experience allows him to draw upon many case study examples that we have dealt with over the years to illustrate the points he was making.
The course was very intensive, with a great deal of teaching and information packed into the two days, and the attendees all found the training interesting and helpful, if somewhat demanding. Brian Armstrong, currently working towards his Natural England bat class survey licence, commented that, “there was no hiding in the examination – it was the most rigorous training I have ever received!”
For photos from the day, please see our Internal Training Facebook album.
For further information about bats and wind farms or advice on bat issues, please contact Dr Peter Shepherd