Monday, 24 July 2017

Into the Canopy

I have been involved with Swanton Novers NNR since I started as a volunteer with Natural England in 2008.  I subsequently secured a full time job as a warden for Natural England on sites throughout North and West Norfolk including Swanton Novers woods. Having since left Natural England to work as an Arboricultural Consultant for Norfolk Wildlife Services I’ve continued to volunteer for the Swanton Novers Woodland Project helping when I can.  I have an arboricultural background so the woods have always fascinated me and as the years have gone by they have opened up an interest in Ancient trees and landscape history as well as how species interact within these very special habitats.  In 2012/13 methodologies were drawn up and ideas started to come to fruition about a large scale monitoring program for the woods.  This mainly revolved around the bat communities and how they interact within the woods.  In the past bat transects and data collection focused on the easily accessible rides running throughout the woods.  This project was focusing on the interior of the compartments that were densely vegetated, hard to get to and little (if any) data had ever been collected - and it involved climbing large majestic Oak trees!  I jumped at the opportunity to be involved!

Due to time pressures and constraints the forty trees were chosen by Ecological consultants according to certain criteria  They had to be 50m from any ride side, spread throughout Great Wood and Little Wood and within different stand types and compartment classification.  A bracket was designed to secure the SM2+ recording devices to the trees and a bracket to take the canopy microphone secured on a southern aspect of the tree to record activity above the understorey.  Once everything was in place data collection could start and the logistical complications of the project would inevitably become apparent.
Firstly, finding a green tree in a very green wood with a piece of green cord dangling from the canopy presents its obvious difficulties.  Once the point tree had been found setting up the canopy microphones involved hoisting them into the canopy bracket.  With a careful flick of the wrist the microphone sat comfortably in its bracket sheltered from the elements by a funnel.  It didn’t take too long to learn that to retrieve the microphone the other end of the cord had to be tied securely on so a continuous loop was created.  Lesson learnt it was time to break out the climbing kit.  I always find it a privilege to see sights that others rarely get to view and looking across the canopy layer and down on the coppice compartments and over the field boundaries fills me with appreciation of scale in a wider landscape setting.  

Once the recording equipment has been set to record for two nights and the canopy and understorey microphones have been plugged in its time to retrace your steps back to the vehicle.  It’s funny how perception works inside dense undergrowth with no horizon or landmark to focus on – many times I thought I had been walking (stumbling) in a certain direction only to be utterly bemused and convinced that I had discovered a previously uncharted ride that is on no maps and in the middle of an unexplored compartment, only to find after a few steps of admiring this untouched (well-managed) ride that it was in fact one of the main rides in the woods.  After nursing my ego and the inevitable bramble rash it was time to find another 4 green trees in a green wood with a green cord hanging from a branch.   
As well as getting involved with the data collection for the fixed point surveys I have happily spent a few evenings walking transects around the woods.  This involved following a predetermined route that lasted about an hour with timed stops along the way.  There are 8 species of bat that use the woods and field edges for roosting and foraging so it’s a good place to get familiar with the different calls.  Even if it’s a quiet evening (bat wise) just experiencing the woods at dusk is a joy.  Many badgers call Swanton Novers Great Wood their home, supermarket and meeting place.  Often they’ll cross your path with the familiar gentle jog, have a cursory glance in your direction and be off again.  


Jim Allitt now works for Norfolk Wildlife Services as an Arboricultural Consultant and if you would like more information about the project and how it was set up then please contact Sonia at srevely@bats.org.uk,  so she can forward 

by Jim Allitt

Friday, 21 July 2017

My Communications Internship at the Bat Conservation Trust

I have always had a keen interest in nature and wildlife. Growing up my interest in the beauty of our natural landscape, its wildlife and its preservation has continued to grow. I spent a great deal of time at university studying and researching the effects of conservation efforts in the United States and in the UK. During my final year at university I looked into the effects of increased population and over development in the USA during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. I focused on the consequences met such as the sudden decreased population of animals like the Grey Wolf and American Bison. In addition I studied individuals that provoked the preservation of a dying environment such as John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. My hope is to continue my passion for the protection of our environment by developing and shaping my career through charities such at BCT.

Although I was unable to find the perfect role within a conservation charity after graduating, I was not deterred. I decided to look into internships within conservation organisations (I hadn’t previously ventured down the internship pathway). I stumbled across BCT’s Communications Internship and decided the role sounded fantastic – a communications role that dabbled in events and fundraising, and within conservation - Perfect! After applying so eagerly (approximately 3 weeks before the application deadline) and not hearing anything back since the confirmation reply email, I had come to the conclusion that sadly nothing was to come of it, until I had a sudden call offering an interview! I was ecstatic! This was my big break, to get a foot in the door, and a step in the right direction. After meeting the team and finding out more about the organisation I was hooked, and when, to my surprise, they offered me the role I couldn’t believe it, I said yes, of course!

The long-eared bats I met during my visit to Jenny Clark's Bat Hospital
I found out straight away that the BCT team were amazing, full of kind, intelligent people dedicated and passionate about protecting bats. The work they do here is invaluable to the protection of bats. From the National Bat Monitoring Programme to the Helpline, Mitigation to Communications, together they inform and educate so many on the importance of bat conservation. I have met some incredibly influential bat enthusiasts who have dedicated so much of their lives to protecting this fascinating species.

A highlight of my time at BCT has to be my visit to Jenny Clarks bat hospital. We met a variety of bat species including all three Pipistrelles: Common, Soprano and Nathusius, Serotine, Noctule, grey and brown Long Eared, Natterers, Brandts, Whiskered, Daubentons and Bechsteins. It was also where I discovered how incredibly beautiful the brown and grey long eared bats were! Jenny is an incredibly devoted woman, whose passion and dedication is outstanding.

Part of BCT's exhibition at Gardener's World Live
Another highlight of my time at BCT was definitely Gardeners World Live. Not only did I get to meet more dedicated bat enthusiasts who volunteered with us, I also aided in spreading the good word of bats and how important they are to the environment. It was incredible to see how many people were unaware of the importance of bats, but how many of them were truly interested in making a difference to our environment by encouraging bats into their gardens. It was a brilliant whirl wind experience and one I won’t forget!


I have learnt so much in the past 3 months at BCT. I have gained so much experience from working with such a dedicated team. I can safely say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and hope that our paths cross again in the future!



Emma Cross

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Monitoring Bats – An Exciting Opportunity


Spring has fully arrived and I’m sure you are enjoying those warmer temperatures!  It’s not only us though who get more active when the conditions change.  You may recall in previous issues we discovered how seasonality can affect bat behaviour, with churches providing a safe haven at those most vulnerable times.  In winter bats hibernate; but as night temperatures rise above 10OC, they will wake up and take advantage of increased insect activity.  They start emerging from April to May, and when they do, it offers an exciting opportunity to get involved in recording any you see flying over any space.

Illustration by Liz Vinson


Bats have unfortunately become an endangered species over past decades, with major population declines.  If you see a bat, its great news and hopefully a positive sign that they are recovering.  It can be hard to know this for certain, but that is where submitting any sightings can help.  At the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), there is a National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP).  NBMP has been calculating population trends for over 20 years, with all records submitted by volunteers.  In fact, it’s all done on a voluntary basis and there are over a 1,000 people throughout the UK who help each year in carrying out bat surveys.  Some can be challenging, but the ‘Sunset/Sunrise’ survey is ideal for anyone.  It simply involves heading out at dusk or dawn, (or both) and spending an hour looking for bats flying overhead.  This can be done anytime from April to September; record the time, temperature and number of bats seen, and then send through the results.  

I’ve now left BCT, having taken up a Sustainability Project Coordinator post at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.  The hospital does have a bat roost, and I am certainly still passionate about the bat world.  If you’d like to get involved with the NBMP, please do email BCT’s dedicated team nbmp@bats.org.uk or look at their website www.bats.org.uk/pages/nbmp.html

Happy monitoring!

David Jackson