Use of Technology to Enhance Ecological Data Collection: Footage from Recent Survey Work

Use of Technology to Enhance Ecological Data Collection: Footage from Recent Survey Work

In some circumstances the use of technology such as remote-activated cameras can significantly improve the quality of ecological data collected and the confidence in the outcome of mitigation, while also saving money for our clients through a more cost-effective and less labour intensive approach to work. Some recent examples are outlined below, along with the footage captured in each instance.

Lesser Horseshoe Bat Emergence

This clip shows the emergence of lesser horseshoe bats from a boiler room in South Wales. The camera has been triggered by a break beam sensor (the square frame), which has been installed without affecting the roost entrance. This approach to monitoring emergence has multiple benefits where applicable. These include saving the client money (as once the camera is in place there is no need to have people on site and non-relevant footage is minimal when analysing data), minimising disturbance to the bats (as the camera is non-intrusive), greater accuracy in recording and evidencing data (as no bats are missed, the time of emergence is logged, multiple nights can be easily sampled to look at variation in numbers of bats and timing of emergence, and all footage is recorded). The camera set up was designed by Senior Ecologist Gareth Lang.

Bat Inspects a Potential Roost Location

This footage, captured using a passive infrared-activated camera, shows a bat apparently investigating a Potential Roost Feature. The camera was deployed for 18 nights, during which there was some interest in the feature from a number of animals, one of which landed on the tree to take a better look. Understanding the levels of use of Potential Roost Features, particularly those in trees, is a challenging aspect of our work. However, where applicable, the detailed data set that can be gathered using this sort of approach can be extremely useful in robustly assessing likely impacts and informing the licensing process.

Pine Marten disrespects Mouse

This brief footage was captured by John Curtin who we are working with to investigate bat fatality levels at an operational wind farm. Part of this work involves the deployment of mouse carcasses (as a more available proxy for bat carcasses) to determine scavenger removal rates. This, in combination with site-specific data on the efficiency of the search dogs that are used to find bats beneath turbines, allows us to model the number of animals likely to be being killed (based on survey data). The use of cameras allows a precise time of removal of each carcass and an indication of the scavenger likely to have been responsible to be captured, improving the quality of the data set and our understanding of the situation.

Badgers: Evidencing Success of Mitigation

A remote trail camera has been used to great effect to prove that a badger clan are using an artificial sett created for them in Sheffield, as part of a development project that requires closure of a main badger sett. Uptake of artificial setts by badgers can be unpredictable, but evidence of use is required in order to obtain a badger development licence from Natural England to close a main sett. Daytime inspections of the sett are useful, but this night-time footage shows that just weeks after building the new sett, in early spring 2020, badgers were not just accessing it, but that two cubs recently born in the nearby main sett were comfortable enough that they were taking fresh bedding material inside. This evidence (amongst other things) helped to enable a successful licence application and allowed the project team to hit a key date in the schedule, to close the main sett, around which the entire project revolved. The artificial sett was designed and its construction overseen by David Stiles (Senior Ecologist). David also set up the remote trail camera and is overseeing the licensed closure of the main sett.

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