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Bats and trees

Author:  Bettina Broadway-Mann
Last Updated:  03/03/2022

Bettina Broadway-Mann

The Association’s Bats and Trees event was split across two days in January, with day one consisting of a series of seminars held indoors and day two being a mix of five different indoor and outdoor workshops building upon day one’s seminars.

All sessions were held at the delightful and rather grand setting of the De Vere Tortworth Court hotel (well worth a visit just for itself and its grounds and gardens) just north of Bristol and easy to get to by road or rail. As a venue, the hotel had plenty of space within its dedicated conference area to easily host the event, and most importantly, provided an excellent catering service to the hoard of 120 hungry delegates on both days.

Sean Shereston of Arbology spoke about creating bat roosts in living trees.

Sean Shereston of Arbology spoke about creating bat roosts in living trees.

Day one covered a wide range of topics from climbing and inspecting trees, potential bat roost features, creation of new bat roosts in living trees and the Health and Safety Executive’s perspective on the work at height regulations through to the Arboricultural Association’s Technical Guide 1 for two-rope working.

The presenters were well chosen and clearly knew their topics inside out. In particular, coming from a purely arboricultural background, I found it fascinating to learn about the thought processes involved and conclusions reached by ecologists when they are climbing and inspecting potential bat roosts in trees.

The day finished with a wide-ranging question-and-answer session which helped to tease out some of the finer details such as lack of communication between our two disciplines, or information not being passed on to the client’s ground maintenance crew with regard to bat roosts in their work area.

We had a choice of four out of five possible workshops for day two, with two of these being outdoors. As the day was dry but grey and very cold, I opted for the tree climbing workshop first thing and the bat roost creation in living trees straight after lunch, my reasoning being that I would certainly be refreshed by the cold after a two-course lunch.

Although I don’t climb myself, I often work with others who do, so Alex Laver’s practical workshop showing how the two-rope technique is put into practice really helped to clarify the points raised by Chris Maher in the HSE’s seminar the day before, particularly as it is now a legal requirement to do so.

The second outdoor session was a short coach drive away in a piece of (to my eyes) nondescript secondary woodland, where the delegates watched a step-by-step show-and-tell on how to create and install a bat roost feature in a living tree. While this is clearly a time-consuming, and sometimes awkward, operation (and clearly not for use everywhere), the roosts being created as part of the workshop will be monitored as part of a five-year ongoing research project.

I opted for the ash dieback and tree risk management session presented by John Parker and using the body language of trees to inform tree assessments by Jim Mullholland as my two indoor workshops. Both are very entertaining speakers and used many photographs to illustrate their points.

Alex Laver delivering the two-rope climbing workshop.

Alex Laver delivering the two-rope climbing workshop.

The tree risk management session took us back through the legal framework and a discussion of ‘reasonableness’ within that framework, followed by some real-life examples of incidents and their legal outcomes. The session ended with a much more positive outlook on ash dieback than perhaps we have become accustomed to, citing examples from research in continental Europe by Iben Thomsen.

My final session of the day was a great presentation by Jim talking through the many and varied potential roost features that bats can and do use in trees. He explained how such features come to be formed in the first place, and how and when they are used, accompanied by excellent photographs and videos of roosts in use.

Overall, it was a very information packed two days, and I thoroughly enjoyed attending my first in-person event after nearly two years of online events only.

It was good to see an almost even mix of ecologists and practising arbs attending, and I found it particularly useful to chat with the ecologists and gain their perspective on how they approach tree inspections as part of their everyday work.

The venue was well chosen and I think this event would work even better as a two-day residential course held later in the year, perhaps when bats are active and an evening bat detection session could also be held.

For details of how to access recordings of sessions from Bats and Trees, visit www.trees.org.uk/bats-on-demand.

This article was taken from Issue 196 Spring 2022 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.