Swanton Novers Woodland Bat Project
Funded and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Swanton Novers Woodland Bat Project was an exciting collaboration between the Bat Conservation Trust and Natural England.
The project started in December 2015, and ran for 2½ year, finishing in June 2018.
The project engaged with local communities through walks, talks and events, reconnecting them with their local woodland heritage and raising awareness about the wildlife using the woods, in particular bats. The project also recruited volunteers and trained them in bat survey and call analysis techniques. Once trained, these volunteers played an active role in the gathering of important data, with some volunteers taking on the role of Woodland Champions, helping to spread the word and raise awareness about an important natural heritage.
Currently not much is known about how bats use woodlands, in particular the interior, and how woodland management affects them. The data gathered through this project should give us an insight into how bats are affected by these management practices and how they use the woods. With a quarter of UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, including UK bats using ancient woodlands, Swanton Novers National Nature Reserve (NNR) with its 84ha of ancient woodland, and its long history of active management was the ideal site to run a project like this. What we will learn from the project will help secure the long-term survival and protection of the NNR. It will also lead to significant benefits for woodland bats nationally, as the information will be used to provide guidelines for future woodland bat surveying projects at other sites.
Guidance and reports will be made available in August 2018.
The project focused on Swanton Novers Woods, a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The wood has a long history of active management dating back to the Domesday book. It is made up of four woodland parcels - Great Wood, Little Wood, Barney Wood and Guybon's Wood and is managed by Natural England. Geomorphology, soil conditions and hydrology varies throughout the reserve which means the site has a rich diversity of plants and is species rich supporting a variety of fauna. It also supports 8 species of bats, including populations of barbastelle bats and brown long-eared bats.
How volunteers contributed
Ten static detectors were deployed in Swanton Novers National Nature Reserve every three weeks in five different locations from April 2016 to November 2017. These detectors were fixed to mature trees located close to long term monitoring points. In total there were 39 monitoring points scattered throughout the woodland, situated in different woodland types, 20 meters from the compartment edge and at least 100 meters away from other monitoring points. As we wanted to investigate the differences in bat activity (presence and/or duration of bat calls) recorded on a bat detector between the canopy and the understory, one static detector microphone was hoisted into the canopy 10 – 15 meters high, while the other static detector microphone was fixed to a pole directly below the canopy microphone 2.5 meters off the ground. The data collected was classified using call analysis software called SonoChiro.
In addition, four transect surveys were carried out by volunteers once a month coinciding with the deployment of the static detectors. The volunteers then assisted the project team with analysis of the recordings using BatSound.