Monitoring Bats at Berry Head

Find out more about the monitoring of greater horseshoe bats at Berry Head National Nature Reserve (managed by Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust) with this short video clip along with an update from Peter Shepherd of BSG Ecology.


Bats flying at Berry Head National Nature Reserve

This thermal imaging footage was taken as part of wider monitoring for the Landscove development next to Berry Head where we have been using the technology to monitor bat flight paths from the roost to the wider countryside.

Monitoring has been undertaken since 2013 as a requirement of planning consent for the upgrading of facilities at Landscove Holiday park. Not only has the new development sought to improve dark corridors and maintain flight paths north and south of the holiday park, but it has also restored the fields between the holiday park and Berry Head working in partnership with the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust (TCCT), who manage the fields with the aim of improving foraging and flight path opportunities.

Works have involved:

  • Securing a long term management agreement to deliver enhanced year-round foraging resources for horseshoe bats on six hectares (ha) of land through the re-establishment of organic grazing on derelict pastures (3.15 ha), the reinstatement of traditional haymaking and aftermath grazing. This has included restoration of 2.17 ha of lowland meadow.
  • Regeneration of the dung invertebrate community, to increase the diversity and abundance of species present which provide an important food source for greater horseshoe bats emerging from hibernation, in early summer and for juvenile greater horseshoe bats.
  • Restoration of species-rich grassland, improving the moth community; a key prey group for bats in mid-summer.
  • Designing night roosting opportunities into stock shelters to maximise local utilisation of food resources within meadows and pastures.
  • Provision of new traditional Devon bank hedgerows (345m) for commuting and perch feeding and new mixed native hedgerow (354m).
  • Provision of new broadleaf woodland (0.19ha) and native scrub (0.75ha) to provide foraging opportunities in spring.
  • Strengthening existing flight lines through buffer planting and parallel hedgerows.

Monitoring of the effectiveness of mitigation and management prescription (2013-2019 inclusive) has shown:

  • Foraging activity in the restored pastures has increased steadily. In 2018 foraging activity recorded was between 1.75 and 5 times greater than baseline (2013) levels. In August 2019 activity was approximately 20 times that in August 2013.
  • Greater horseshoe bats are using the night shelter roosts most nights. These are also used by lesser horseshoe bats and breeding barn swallows.
  • Commuting routes along the site boundaries remain in use, with 2019 activity levels being slightly higher than those recorded in 2013 at key monitoring points north and south of the holiday park. Measurements have demonstrated that maximum lighting levels of 0.5 lux have been achieved along these routes.
  • Numbers of bats at the Berry Head roost have remained consistent throughout.
  • The dung beetle fauna doubled in species diversity between 2015 and 2017.
  • Key dung beetle species increased in abundance including: Aphodius rufipes, a key prey item for juvenile greater horseshoe bats (x12); and Geotrupes spiniger (x4) which are consumed by greater horseshoe bats when they emerge from hibernation. Cockchafers Melolontha melolontha, the preferred prey for greater horseshoe bats in May, were also noted as increasing over the period.

Thanks to BSG Ecology for permission to use the video & this information.

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