Smooth Snakes in Surrey

On Sunday Steve Foot accompanied by Natalie White and Owain Gabb went to heathland in Surrey in search of rare reptiles. Steve regularly undertakes survey visits to this heathland and other sites as part of a monitoring scheme run by the Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group. The Surrey ARG undertake surveys of approximately 40 sites spread throughout Surrey with new sites in neighbouring Hampshire, Berkshire and  West Sussex included this year. A number of voluntary surveyors (of which Steve is one) survey these sites each year allowing the Surrey ARG to monitor the populations and the distribution of reptiles across each of the sites.

Greenbuild Expo 2011, Manchester

BSG was delighted to be invited to talk about our green roof experience at the recent Greenbuild Expo 2011.

The presentation by Guy Miller focused on two flagship projects. The first of these was the complex of roofs on the major Woolwich Arsenal development in east London, with brownfield habitats for invertebrates and a species-rich meadow. The second project was the large species-rich calcareous grassland roof on the Derbyshire Ecocentre, near Wirksworth.

The thorny question of bats in trees

Locating bat roosts in trees is challenging. If you are very lucky “chittering” may be heard from a tree hole at sunset just before bats emerge, however, trees roosts are typically difficult to identify and cannot be reliably assessed from checks at ground level alone.

An aerial bat roost inspection, a technique which involves ascending a tree using ropes, allows for detailed checks of cavities on a tree for any evidence of bat activity to be carried out using torches, endoscopes and other specialised equipment. Often features which look potentially suitable for roosts when viewed from the ground can be ruled out on close inspection. Because it is often more definitive, an aerial inspection can reduce the amount of conventional dawn/dusk activity surveys required to assess trees with roosting potential and if any further survey is required it can be targeted much more effectively. Aerial survey is therefore a very useful and cost-effective technique for tree survey for bats.

BSG has been carrying out tree climbing surveys since 2007, all surveys being carried out by licenced bat workers qualified to climb trees. We are used to working closely with arboricultural consultants and tree surgeons.

Training course:

We also provide a bespoke “bats and trees” training course which can be tailored to the needs of tree surgeons, site management staff, arboricultural consultants and local authority tree officers. The course provides guidance on assessing the potential of trees for bat roosts, and dealing with the practicalities of the legal protection afforded to bats.

The course is run by Principal Ecologist Guy Miller . Please contact Guy in our Derbyshire Office (01433 651869) if you are interested in receiving training, or if you would like to talk about commissioning an aerial tree survey.

New bat survey guidance for wind farms: what does it mean?

When the Bat Conservation Trust’s (BCT’s) “Bat Survey Guidelines” were published in 2007, wind farms were excluded because there was little knowledge or experience of surveying to inform a wind farm proposal. The guidance documents that did exist (principally the “Eurobats” guidance and Natural England’s guidance notes (TIN051 and TIN059)) are quite open-ended with regard to survey methods and effort and there are discrepancies between them.

Are breeding Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata displaced by wind energy developments?

Summary: In 2009 a paper by Pearce-Higgins et al (see previous BSG news and resources bulletin) concluded that operational wind farms had resulted in the displacement of a number of upland breeding bird species.  Since this time, nature conservation consultees have become concerned about displacement effects and the impacts this might have on wader populations.  Curlew, a species identified in the paper as showing a reduction in nesting density at distances of up to 800m from turbines, has been a particular concern, especially in areas (such as upland Wales) where local populations have been subject to considerable declines and are already extremely fragmented.  This has led to requests for large-scale ‘compensatory’ off site habitat management in relation to some wind farm planning applications.

Displacement of birds at operational wind farms: recent papers

Summary: A recent paper in the scientific journal Bird Study summarising the operational effects of the Beinn Tharsuinn wind farm (a Scottish Power scheme) on moorland breeding birds, draws into question the perceived wisdom that densities of golden plover are reduced in close proximity to wind turbines.  A further paper, by Natural Research, on the distribution of curlew around operational wind farms, suggests minimal effects on the distribution and population density of that species, formerly considered to be sensitive to displacement at distances of up to 800m from wind farms.

RenewableUK Cymru

Owain Gabb will be attending Renewables Cymru, which will be held in Cardiff on 26th May 2011.  Should you have any ecological or ornithological queries, Owain will be more than happy to answer them, or to direct you to someone at BSG who can do so.  We hope to see you there.

For further information visist: www.renewable-uk.com

Worton Park Ringing Report 2010

BSG have been catching and ringing birds at the Oxford office since February 2010.  This work has been undertaken with permission from Worton Farms, and is carried out by appropriately licensed and experienced bird ringers (led by Owain Gabb).  All data collected is supplied to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).  The information is therefore available to be used in scientific research projects, while the ringing study provides training opportunities for some of BSG’s ecologists and detailed information to the farm on their local bird community.

Bats forage over the sea; implications for off-shore wind farms?

A recent research paper from Sweden has confirmed that resident and migratory species of bats will fly off-shore to forage where there is a plentiful food supply. Of particular note, bats were recorded investigating an off-shore wind farm and even resting on turbines. Although the research is specific to the Swedish coast it does raise questions about whether similar behaviour is being exhibited elsewhere off the coast line of northern Europe. This research, linked to data relating to migration of Nathusius Pipistrelle bat between the UK and northern continental Europe, raises questions as to whether large off-shore wind farms should assess potential impacts on bats.