Donington Park is a medieval deer park in north-west Leicestershire. The park, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), contains a very significant concentration of ancient oaks and supports a rich invertebrate fauna. The ancient trees also provide a wealth of potential roost features for bats and other wildlife.
An ongoing programme of management is required within the park to maintain the resource of existing trees and to promote the establishment of future generations of veteran trees – key conservation objectives for the SSSI. Many of the ancient trees within the park require specialist tree surgery to reduce the risk of collapse and to prolong their lifespan.
Cavities suitable for roosting bats are present in many of the trees and, given the legal protection afforded to bats, their possible presence is a constraint which needs to be taken into account when planning tree work. BSG Ecology was commissioned by Natural England to survey the park’s veteran trees and to assess their potential for roosting bats in order to inform the approach for future tree management.
During the survey work 252 ancient/veteran trees were assessed from ground level by a team of licenced bat surveyors with expertise in tree survey for bats. Potential roost features (PRFs) present on each tree, such as woodpecker holes, splits, loose and deeply fissured bark, hollow branches and trunk cavities, were recorded and assessed, and any evidence of use by bats found was noted.
Roosts were found in several trees, and many of the old trees were assessed to have high potential to support bats. One was found to support a bat roost, a badger sett (in its base), and a resident barn owl.
To aid the assessment BSG Ecology also carried out bat activity surveys within the park, which involved a combination of walked transects and remote bat detector deployment. Common and soprano pipistrelle, noctule, Leisler’s bat, serotine, brown long-eared bat and Myotis bats were recorded from the park. The parkland and adjacent woodland and a nearby meander of the River Trent provide an abundance of suitable foraging habitats; these collectively appear to support a diverse bat assemblage.
The resulting data and survey report allow the bat potential of individual trees throughout the park to be consistently referenced using tree tags and GPS co-ordinates. The report is designed to be a useful aid to tree maintenance and site management decisions, allowing possible impacts on bats to be taken into account when future tree work is planned within the SSSI.
Photograph: Installing remote bat detectors – Courtesy of Adam Long