Trees are an important feature on golf courses, providing definition, strategy and screening for adjacent holes. However, their removal is also a vital part of golf course maintenance.
The majority of course managers and greenkeepers make sure they halt any tree work during the bird breeding season (March to September). But very few understand trees’ crucial use as bat roosts.
Here are some top tips and facts to make sure your golf club thinks about its bat population:
Bats love trees
At least 75% of the 18 UK resident and vagrant bat species roost in trees, for either breeding or resting. Also, being insectivorous mammals, all of our native species heavily rely on trees for the abundance of invertebrates that they support. Check which species might be enjoying forty winks in your branches with the Bats Conversation Trust.
All bat species, their roosts and feeding perches, are fully protected under EU law by The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
Make sure you carry out a preliminary survey before any invasive tree work starts.
Bats are unpredictable
It is often thought that bats will only roost in large, ancient tree specimens, but this isn’t the case. Some of the UK’s smallest bats, such as the pipistrelle, are no bigger than a teabag. So most cracks, crevices and holes are inviting entrances to a roost.
It is important not to disregard a tree as having bat roost potential just because it is young or it isn’t the ‘right tree species’. There isn’t a rule to say that certain bats only use certain types of tree.
Carry out a survey
A preliminary survey, carried out by an ecological consultant from STRI, will look for roost friendly features such as woodpecker holes, loose bark, fissures and dense stem growth.
Other signs, like wood staining and the presence of droppings, will also be examined to understand whether the tree should be marked as having low, moderate or high bat roost potential. The category given will then determine the amount of further surveys required to verify the absence or presence of bats.
If trees absolutely must be removed or disturbed, regardless of the incidence of bats, mitigation measures under licence could be considered. These will generally be bespoke and governed by the issues at hand and the importance of the tree work being carried out.
Double check your trees
Can’t find any bats? Before you reach for your tools double check your trees aren’t protected as well. Trees classified as veteran, being in ancient woodland or serving to connect habitats, will be covered by regulations. Trees that are within a protected habitat, in a Conservation Area or assigned with a Tree Preservation Order (what is a TPO?) may also have indirect protection in place.
STRI carry out preliminary surveys to inform small scale felling operations and to aid larger scale Forestry Commission licence applications. Please contact Sophie Vukelic or Bob Taylor on 01274 565131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further info.