A day in the life of a Field Assistant

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

As a field assistant with the Ecology Consultancy, work is always varied.  This season I have surveyed great crested newts, dormice, reptiles and undertaken nesting bird surveys.   As the bat survey season is in full swing, a lot of my work currently involves bats. 

All bats are fully protected under European and UK legislation.  It is illegal to intentionally or deliberately kill, injure or capture a bat; deliberately disturb a bat; recklessly disturb roosting bats or obstruct their access to a roost; damage or destroy a roost; possess, transport a sell a bat or any part of a bat.  As a result, whenever construction or building works are undertaken, potential for the affected structures to support bats should be assessed.  My work has involved assessing buildings and trees for bat roost potential.  The results of these assessments are then used to determine which buildings/trees need to be surveyed for bat activity, using bat detector equipment, during dusk and dawn surveys.

I have felt privileged to have undertaken surveys at some very diverse sites and I have seen and heard a number of different bat species.  Seeing noctule and Daubenton’s bats foraging over a lake was particularly memorable. 

This week I have been working with colleagues to radio track tagged bats.  This is an excellent way to find bat roost sites and the foraging habits of the tagged bats in order to understand how they are using their habitat.  This data is then used to develop effective mitigation measures to minimise the impact on bats where possible.

Radio tracking a bat on the move when it is foraging at night is a bit like a treasure hunt.  Once you have picked up the signal, you record the direction the signal is in and then work with colleagues to try to triangulate the exact location.  We then get back in the car or walk to follow the bat.  This is easier said than done, as bats can move fast and the landscape topography can mask the signal.  Patience and warm, high-visibility clothing is a must when working at night and a thermos flask is an advantage!

When not working, I also like to volunteer with local conservation groups.  On bank holiday Monday I worked with a local bat group to check bat boxes in a nature reserve.  18 Natterer’s bats in one bat box was a welcome addition to the day.  I love working with the voluntary groups and it is a great opportunity to see bats close up.

 

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