Richard Graves CEnv FIEEM

I’m very proud to have been awarded fellowship by the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.  As one of fewer than 50 fellows from a membership of nearly 5000 I’m delighted to join some very eminent company.  The award recognises an outstanding contribution to the profession but I anticipate quite a few more years helping ecologists to be known and respected by all other professions. The best thing about this profession is that we are always learning more and things are always changing because of it.

Successful Surveys Need Good Surveyors

This year at Richard Graves Associates we have completed two sets of bat surveys for major infrastructure projects (chapter 9 Bat Surveys Good Practice Guidelines 2nd Edition, BCT 2012.  The key to getting the best information is getting the best surveyors who don’t just record where bats are but can assess what they do and what’s important.  Also very important here at RGA, we’ve enjoyed every minute of them, well some minutes before dawn or in driving rain, maybe less than some of the others.  So many thanks to all those who have helped out.

Latest Technology in Ecology

Here at Richard Graves Associates we have just acquired our first Wildlife Acoustics EM3 (Echo Meter 3) does everything bat detector.  At last a compact instrument that uses all forms of detection and records too + shows live sonograms.  It’s amazing how many new systems for recording bats have arrived in the last couple of years.  We used to have a choice of just a few excellent detectors from BatBox and Pettersson, now there are a whole range of options.  I’m quite excited about what might be coming next.  Mind you as we keep finding new bat species there’s still a way to go before you can point something at a bat anywhere in the world and get an ID.

Law Commission Review Wildlife Legislation

Just released last week: http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/consultations/wildlife.htm the Law Commission’s review of Wildlife Legislation.  Mostly looking to simplify and put all wildlife legislation into one format, which could be a good thing but with buzzard shooting ministers and badger culls to consider and plenty of well funded lobbyists on either side I would expect to see a few battles!

Where to Watch Wildlife?

My office looks out onto a back yard which is about eight metres by six and back onto a railway embankment, in what you might call an urban area (south-east London), but pay attention occasionally and I can watch my own wildlife documentary (making up my own David Attenborough (no one else come close for me!) narration as I go) live.  Earlier this year I got to watch Garrulus gladarius jays burying acorns and picking nesting material.  Jays are part of the crow family and reasonably common, but still one of the UK’s most colourful birds.  Now, after rather a lot of rain, there are plenty of insects and also a glut of slugs and snails, which is proving a real attraction to the Turdus merula blackbirds which must be nesting nearby.  I’ve heard about closely related thrushes using stones to crack snails but didn’t realise blackbirds also did this, although in this case it’s patio slabs that replace a natural stone.  I’ve also seen them using the slabs to deal with slugs, repeatedly pecking the slug and then picking it up and then rubbing it on the rough concrete.  Could it be a way of making the slugs easier for the nestlings to deal with?  Unlike us nature always has a purpose, which we just have to figure out.

Bat Roosts, Never rule out unlikely looking buildings.

My survey team had an ejoyable evening on site last week, part of which included watching 40 soprano pipitrelles leaving a maternity roost just after sunset.  Not the most likely site for a roost, a brick built cement tiled sub-station shed, probably built within the last ten years, but maybe extra warm beacause of the equipment within. Just goes to show that its always worth a look.  Also nice to see that the roost seems to be doing ok, depsite two months of near constant rain, not something bats in Essex will be used to!

Happy Birthday IEEM

I recently (28th June) attended the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) 21st birthday event at the House of Lords for the award of the IEEM medal to Lord Bob May.  Excellent citation by Sir John Lawton and acceptance speech by Lord May and a very pleasant event all round.  Good to catch up with a few familiar faces too.  With a new website launched and plenty of exciting projects in progress, best wishes to the institute for a productive third decade.

Whether the Weather?

We’ve just had the driest winter the warmest March and the wettest April (ever, since records began, the 1950’s, etc as you prefer). Now finally we are getting a bit of sun again.  For ecologists, surveying dry ponds and getting soaked during bat surveys isn’t the most fun, a good time to stay in and catch up on all the new guidance perhaps.  However as we can stay indoors and create our own environment its much easier on us then all the wildlife which must be quite confused by now.  The study of the effect of climate on wildlife is known as phenology. This years results could be quite interesting, as could seeing how the last two harsh (for us) winters have affected the long term trends.  These studies have shown wildlife emerging earlier and extending their range northwards.  This also includes the potential of some species to arrive from the continent.  Still waiting to record some unusual bats or dragonflies.

A Proper Start to the Season

Looking forward to starting our bat field survey season for the year here at Richard Graves Associates.  The first opportunity we have had to try out the new major infrastructure proposals in the BCT Guidelines.  Having written the chapter I’m very interested to see what the results will be.  Could do with better weather but hopefully everybody will wrap up warm!

Richard Graves

A Busy Time for Ecologists

The season for ecologists if now getting underway, with bats, birds, reptiles and amphibians out and about and there to be surveyed.  However there has been plenty to do over the last few weeks, including a lot of new information and requirements to digest.  Last month saw the release of the new IEEM technical guidance on preliminary ecological assessment, the release of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), results of the consultation on the Habitats Regulations and right at the end of the month (just in time) the new Bat Surveys Good Practice Guidelines.  It’s a lot to take in.  The government has its own agenda with the NPPF and Habitats Directive, but when it comes to new guidance from IEEM and BCT I know, from being involved myself, that they are the work of passionate and committed expert volunteers who are keen to move things forward for the whole profession.  Our expertise and the technology and techniques we have available are changing rapidly, so it’s increasingly important that the work we actually do keeps up with what we can now do.  However much survey I do, I always enjoy learning something new each time.

Richard Graves