Trees and woodland habitats play a significant role in the life cycle of bats. Firstly, they provide roosting opportunities as the splits and cracks in the bark provide a perfect hibernation habitat.
Secondly, trees are imperative for feeding. Broad leaf trees are an excellent source for foraging as they house a variety of insects – a bat’s number one choice of food.
Finally, trees provide shelter and protection for bats enabling them to fly from their roosting site to foraging grounds in safety.
We caught up with our landscape supervisor, James Shipman, who has seven years of experience working with bats, to further discuss the importance of trees for these winged animals.
How long have you worked for Glendale Civic Trees and what is your current role?
Nearly two years and I’m a landscape supervisor.
Tell us a bit about your current role and what you do on a day-to-day basis:
My main role as landscape supervisor is to implement and oversee all of the landscaping jobs we have. When the landscaping jobs are quieter, I jump onto coordinating any of the tree planting jobs or client meetings that are going on in order to support the rest of the team.
What is your favourite part of the job?
I absolutely love my job. I particularly enjoy the more difficult or challenging aspects. Anything that needs careful thinking or planning, with any pressure or time constraints is something most people dislike, but I find exciting. I like to spend that little bit of extra time on a job to get it finished. It’s a good feeling when I get home and I know it’s been a productive day! I like to put my hand to anything necessary, especially any new challenges.
How long have you been involved in bat conservation?
I started volunteering with bats in 2010, so seven years, which isn’t as long as some of the volunteers I work with but it’s been an amazing experience.
In your time working with bats, what have you achieved?
During my time working with bats I’ve been involved with a lot of exciting research projects, not just in the UK, but also across Europe. In 2013, I co-founded the Gibraltar bat project, Gib-Bats, and over the years the project has gone from strength to strength.
In 2016 I received the UK Pete Guest Award at the National Bat Conference for an outstanding contribution to bat conservation, which was an honour.
My soul aim each year is to inspire others to gain interest in bats. Everything I do as a volunteer I do for conservation and not for myself. I’m just very lucky that I’m enjoying myself too!
How do you apply your interest and experience in bat conservation to your work with Glendale Civic Trees?
I’ve been able to work with outher managers and teams within Glendale to ensure maintenance contracts are secured where a licensed bat worker is needed on site. There have also been occasions when some of our arboricultural teams have needed advice on bats.
Where did your interest in bats come from and what is it about them that you find so fascinating?
I studied Zoology at university with the intention of working out in South Africa. However, due to the country’s decline, I decided to stay on in the UK and continue my interest with animals here. I stumbled across the local bat group and it went from there.
I would say the most fascinating thing about bats for me is that we’ll never know everything about them. They’ll always hold onto some secrets that not even scientists will be able to reveal.
Do you have a favourite species of bat, if so, what is it and why?
My favourite species of bat is the greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis). This species is mainly found in Europe, but we do have one individual that comes across to the UK to hibernate each year.
What is it about trees that make them so important for bats?
The most important things about trees are that they’re a natural roosting habitat for bats and a key source of food. Before bat boxes and manmade features, bats utilised natural environments like trees, caves or ivy, because they provide the perfect humid and damp conditions they like to reside in.
Are there any tree types in particular that attract bats more than others?
Usually veteran or ancient trees with lots of cavities are best. Quercus robur commonly house bats in crevices, lifted bark and woodpecker holes. Frost cracks and hazard beams are also popular for some species.
Overall, any tree that has a small gap or crevice is a possible roosting site. Even young Betula pendula saplings have been found to house bats. There’s actually a study named the “Bat Tree Habitat Key” that explores how many tree species are used by bats.
Do you think it would be possible to move a tree with a bat roost inside?
I’m not sure if it’s been done in the UK before, but I think it’d be worth looking into if the situation arose. The majority of trees are receptive to transplanting, but the question would be whether the bats would relocate with the tree. We’d also need to take into account the legislation in place that protects bats and their roosts in the UK, such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000), to ensure that we were able to relocate the species with the tree safely, or if we’d need to re-house the bats seperately.
What would you say to anyone who has an interest in bats? What can they do to develop this interest further?
The best thing to do is to contact your local bat group or the Bat Convservation Trust and get involved.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about bats?
Yes, did you know a Pipistrelle bat can eat over 3,000 mosquitos over a whole night?
Finally James, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Well if I’m not researching bats then you can find me on the rugby pitch or spending time with my family and friends.