We hung up our bat detectors at the end of September after an extremely busy survey season. While we will miss watching their fascinating antics, we will enjoy catching up on some sleep over the winter period! Not too much though, as there is still plenty to do throughout autumn and the festive period.
We can carry out day-time bat scoping surveys all year round and whilst we cannot carry out bat activity surveys until May some sites do not require further surveys, making it well worth a site visit outside of the survey season. In addition bats will be snuggling down at their hibernation sites soon and we will be able to start hibernation surveys! Bats usually choose cool undisturbed sites for hibernation such as caves, trees or manmade structures including mines and cellars.
David Watts, our Senior Ecological Consultant, is also an Arboricultural Consultant and will be undertaking a range of tree surveys over the winter including Arboricultural Impact assessments and Tree Safety Surveys. These are actually best conducted over winter after trees have lost their leaves as foliage can often obscure details of the tree making surveying difficult and labour intensive. Surveys for hibernating bats or signs of roosting bats in trees can also be conducted during this time. Different bat species will utilise trees at different times of the year so winter can be the ideal time to find certain species such as common pipistrelles.
Habitat and species specific surveys
We will also still be undertaking Preliminary Ecological Appraisals including Phase 1 Habitat surveys. Whilst we are now out of the optimum time frame (April – September) for these, the majority of habitats can still be identified and mapped although many deciduous or annual plant species will not be distinguishable for surveys on specialist habitats such as semi-improved grassland. Winter Phase 1 Habitat surveys can even be beneficial for species such as badgers and otters as vegetation die back reveals signs such as badger setts, latrines, otter spraints and tracks which might otherwise be obscured by dense brambles.
We can also conduct habitat suitability assessments for great crested newts of any ponds on or near sites. This means we can assess whether further surveys will be required before the GCN survey season starts in April.
Birds will start to arrive in the UK from their breeding grounds in neighbouring Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Many of these will be coastal and wading birds but also garden favourites such as the robin, brambling, fieldfare and redwing. Last year a flock of the elusive waxwing was spotted near to us in Huddersfield so be sure to keep an eye on your rowan trees. Our winter surveys are likely to take place on wetland or farmland habitats where we will be recording the number of birds we encounter.