Sheila’s blog – You can do it!

It’s been great having Sheila in the Exeter office. Already an accomplished field surveyor, with Natural England licences for bats, GCN and dormice, Sheila regularly gives her time for numerous volunteer surveys, including Volunteer Bat Roost Visits, butterfly counts and reptile surveys. She has spent 4 weeks learning how to tie up field work with all the other aspects to Ecological Consultancy, including bat activity surveys, reporting, sound analysis, quotes and maps. All done at the height of summer with some very early mornings and some very late nights!

Sheila has learned that it can be a demanding job! She has done everything with enthusiasm and a big smile, always willing to have a go, as you can read in her blog here…

Don’t Feel Inadequate!

If you can’t leap a barbed wire fence or hack your way through a jungle of stinging nettles like Indiana Jones: don’t feel inadequate. Slow and steady leads to less twisted ankles!

To make sure that I was fully prepared and aware of the obstacles involved in a certain bat activity survey, I was told that I would have to climb a rickety high fence – taller than me; jump a wide ditch; cross barbed wire and face vicious cows.

Undaunted, I agreed to the Bat Activity Survey.

A bat activity survey involves walking around a site and stopping for 5 minutes at pre-set spots to listen for bats. Normally, this is for 2 hours, but if Greater Horseshoe Bats have been recorded in the area, then a 3 hour survey is required. If the first circuit is less than 2 hours long, then the walk is repeated until the appropriate time has expired.

An Anabat SD or Express can be used to record the bats and a heterodyne detector can be used to hear the bats on the walk. These are noted down on a record sheet together with their location and direction of flight, on a map.

But, back to the obstacle course.

The rickety fence was only chest height and it was climbable. However, there was also a slippery bank and a wet ditch to one side, but that was carefully avoided.

The wide ditch did not need jumping. There was squelchy mud to walk across and a small rock to hop on to, but again it was passable.

The barbed wire was slightly trickier and took longer to negotiate but luckily I had a friend with me to untangle my coat that got snagged as I passed under the wire. It just involved a bit of bending!

Now for the cows!

They were specks in the distance when we entered the field but they started running towards us as soon as they saw us. I ran as well, but not as fast as our leader who really dislikes cows. We all safely climbed the gate out of the field before they reached us. The survey was continued from the other side of the gate. The cows were probably just curious about us or in need of a distraction in their humdrum lives.

The obstacles were all safely negotiated. We were unscathed and the survey was completed.

The knowledge and skills learnt on the survey itself has meant that I have now been able to plan 3 bat transects for the National Trust and I shall be walking these shortly to discover what bats are using their land; where they are and how they are using it; to inform future management work. So, for me, participating in the bat survey was very worthwhile from a consultancy perspective to learn best practice and from a volunteer’s point of view. It was also enjoyable at the same time.

Have faith in yourself and your abilities! You can do it!

Sheila Dyason, June 2018


As I did not have any photos to include in this blog, I have put a photo of some of the cutest pigs ever, from a farm visit during another bat survey.

(Fortunately we found some photos of Sheila to include with her blog!)

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