We are Planning Permission Focussed bat surveyors based in Exeter
A rural county in the southwest of England, Devon has it all: sandy shores, coastal cliffs and hilly landscapes. The county is home to two National Parks, Dartmoor and Exmoor, and the English Riviera, known for its almost sub-tropical climate. As if that wasn’t enough, in north Devon you can find the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Devon’s incredible biodiversity
Even though the county contains two National Parks, the Devon only has roughly 12% canopy coverage from trees, which is quite a lot less than the national average. With that said, this doesn’t stop a wide variety of wildlife taking up residence! Species like tree creepers, woodpeckers and nuthatches use holes in the trees as nesting sites, while brown long-eared and pipistrelle bats also use these holes, and small crevices.
Dartmoor National Park is a vast, open moorland (the largest open space in southern England) defined by thick forests, meandering rivers and wetlands. Here, conservation work is routinely undertaken to support research and observe both species and their habitat. Current and past research includes the bog fly, blue ground beetle, moorland birds and the barbastelle bat.
How can I get involved with bat conservation in Devon?
The Devon Bat Group play a key role in the preservation of the county’s bat species. The aims of the group encompass protecting bat roosts whilst maintaining and enhancing their habitats within gardens and homes. They also rehabilitate injured bats and educate people about the species and their requirements. Some members also build bat boxes for the bats to roost in. They have recorded 16 species of British bats out of 18 for the UK as a whole. Some of these species include the Nathusius pipistrelle, lesser and greater horseshoe and the grey long-eared bat, all of whom enjoy the southwest’s mild climate and diverse landscapes.
Arbtech expert, Dr James Fielding’s guide to the rarest bats in Devon
The Nathusius pipistrelle in particular is a rarely recorded UK bat species. Similar in appearance to the common and soprano pipistrelle, although slightly larger, the fur on the nathusisus is often longer and paler. They emerge at dusk and hunt along woodland edges and over water. The lesser horseshoe is one of the UK’s smallest species. Roughly the size of a plum, when resting it hangs with its wings wrapped around its body. These bats emerge around half an hour after sunset. They fly close to the ground and circle over favoured areas.
Like the lesser horseshoe, the greater horseshoe species hangs with wings enveloping their body. They are easier to spot as they don’t hide in crevices – it’s also one of the largest UK species, similar to the size of a pear. They emerge around half an hour after sunset but are usually only out feeding for about an hour, then return to their roost until dawn, when they will venture out to feed again.
The greater horseshoe often behaves like a flycatcher bird; they watch from a consistent feeding perch and take insects in flight or sometimes from the ground. They grey long-eared bat has only been found in southern England. It’s medium-sized with ears almost as long as their body. They emerge in complete darkness and are an accomplished flyer. A woodland species, the grey long-eared bat frequently hunts by picking up insects off foliage rather than in mid-flight.
Why does any of this actually matter?
Bats are a protected species under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, which makes it an offence for anyone to harm, handle or kill a bat, possess a bat whether alive or dead, disturb a roost or offer or sell a bat without a licence. With this in mind, if you’re planning to do any work on your house, fell a tree or replace a roof, it is vital you get the help of a qualified ecologist to carry out a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA). This is phase one of a bat survey and consists of an ecologist coming and doing a general scope of the suspected roosting area(s) looking for evidence of bats such as droppings, (these look like mouse droppings but crumble under pressure) remains of prey and small holes and cavities a bat could crawl into and shelter.
If these signs are visible, this will then prompt a Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS). This is phase two of a bat survey and is conducted between dusk and dawn to observe whether there are any bats coming or going from the roost in question. You will be required to support your planning permission with a report fo the survey’s results, and supply them to your local council. Our ecologists will also be able to advice you of your next steps to take.
So you need a bat survey in Devon. What next?
If you’re looking for more advice, why not give our expert ecologists Chris Formaggia, Jonathan Studdard, Joe Slade and Dr James Fielding (based in Exeter) a call to discuss your project? They all live and work in and around Devon and would be more than happy to help.