At the end of April the Foresters' Forest Batscape project held its second hedgerow survey training day at Puzzlewood, near Coleford, attended by 13 volunteers. It began with an indoor session centred on presentations from a local Horseshoe bat expert, David Priddis, Gloucestershire Bat Group member, an ecologist / Batscape project volunteer and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.
The volunteers learned about the importance of the hedgerow network for Horseshoe bats and hedgerow management. They also brushed up on their tree and shrub identification skills by looking at various leaves before heading outside to look at some hedges and get to grips with filling in the survey form.
As part of the Batscape project, we are surveying the hedges surrounding key Horseshoe bat maternity and hibernation roosts. Horseshoe bats use the hedgerows (and other linear features) as flyways to get from the roost to their main woodland foraging areas, so a well-connected network of hedges is critical for the bats. Wide, tall hedges also provide good foraging habitat. These surveys will give us a much better understanding of the condition of the hedgerow network.
Alongside the bat data we have from our horseshoe bat flyway surveys, we can start to see which hedges may be particularly important for the bats and which may in need of improvement. We can then start to work with farmers and landowners to make enhancements, including gapping up and planting new hedges, and making changes to management.
Last autumn, just under 12km of hedges were surveyed in Tidenham, which was a fantastic start. This year, volunteers are aiming to complete the surveying around Tidenham and also at Clearwell. Thanks to the support of farmers and landowners in these areas, we have access permission for the majority of the land and the volunteers are armed with maps and forms and are ready to get going!