Monday, 12 January 2015

In this post, we speak to environmental consultant Adrian Woodhall from AWEcology. Adrian has been a member of Bat Conservation Trust since 2011. He founded AWEcology the same year after a long career in property, conservation management and ecology with a variety of land owners including the National Trust. Adrian also volunteers his time as a bat surveyor on the NBMP Daubenton's and barbastelle surveys, and helped out at the Bat Conservation Trust stand at Birdfair 2014.

Q. How did you get into bats? Can you remember the first time that you saw a bat? 

When I was a kid we stayed on a heathland caravan site in Suffolk- I can remember bats flying round at dusk and realising they were different to the normal birds you would see. So it sparked an interest but it was not until I was managing SSSI sites in north Somerset with limestone caves that I started to deal with bats on a more regular basis- these were mainly lessor horseshoes using the cave entrances for roosting- these were low caves so it was easy to see a bat. I then joined Somerset Bat Group and helped do surveys in many fantastic roost sites- we also had talks from researchers looking at bat behaviour and habitats so my interest just grew

Q. Do you have a favourite bat species? Why is it your favourite?

I have no favourite species but I have had some fantastic experiences dealing with a number of species- lessor horseshoes emerging from a cellar along a narrow passageway not caring that I took up half the space- just flew round me; serotines emerging from under roof tiles and flying along a hedge- these are big bats when up close and you ‘duck’ when they fly towards you! Noctules displaying is always interesting as they swoop and dive at dusk…

Q. What’s the best and worst thing about being an environmental consultant? 

Best thing I am doing something I have found interesting since I was a teenager, and the other consultants I deal with (mostly) have a passion for wildlife and helping it. Worst thing is dealing with people who are following the law but resent it every inch of the way- very difficult to find common ground when there is little empathy with the subject. It does get good though when you thought the builders you are dealing with are going to be difficult but then turn round to you and suggest very simple things to enhance a roost

Q. What is the most obscure place that you’ve found bats? 

I was working for another consultant on a re-entry survey last summer- I tracked a pip55 flying round one side of the barn, and then she tracked it re-entering between two bricks about 2m above the ground on her side- absolutely nothing round the entrance to indicate this was a roost but the bat got into the space through a gap about 11mm wide and flew straight in without circling round! It just indicates how aware bats are of their own environments if they can do something this skilful in one take.

Q. Aside from bats, which species do you also frequently get asked to survey?

I have surveyed newts quite a bit and regularly help out on reptile surveys- always interesting as you never know what will be under the mats!

Q. What in your opinion is the greatest challenge facing bats?

It looks like many populations are starting to stabilize after large falls in size. This is great but I hope that we continue to help landowners manage land for many purposes- food production is very important but there are good husbandry techniques such as allowing hedges and headlands that give locations for bats to feed, but also give space for other wildlife. It would be so easy just to treat most land, apart from highly designated areas, as ‘industrial farmland’ to the detriment of us all. I also think the licence system is having a number of challenges at the moment- anything devised has got to be workable for bats, and for people, as it is obvious to me that if the system is too hard and takes too long some people will at best bypass the system, and at worse, just do what they want with little chance of getting caught if a protected species has got in the way.

Adrian's website can be found here