Baker Consultants

The Diary of an Ecology Apprentice: First Reptile spot, First Tree Climb, First Project Management!

May was another month filled with reptile surveys and the odd bat transect for our Ecology Apprentice, Matthew Keough. He discovered his first grass snake; a juvenile in some scrub where we had put some mats down for a full reptile survey. And, what made May even more special was the two days he spent tree climbing and project managing his first job. Find out more in the latest entry of the Diary of an Ecology Apprentice:

Last month, my colleague Jim and I embarked upon a tree climbing job somewhere along the Chesterfield Canal – my first ever one! There were four trees that had been flagged by an arborist as having possible bat potential. We inspected all of them and three were negligible, with one requiring a climb to verify as it had a knot hole cavity around 6m up the tree. It was an ash tree that had ash dieback and very little leaves on it compared to the surrounding trees. It was perched on a bank a couple of metres from the canal edge…yikes! Luckily the feature was on the side of the tree and not facing the canal, otherwise I would have felt much more uneasy going up. So, we set up and fired our ropes over strong limbs so we could use them as anchor points. We were lucky enough to have three trained climbers available on the day, so that allowed me to work under the supervision of a licenced bat-worker, which is important when assessing features for bats.

It wasn’t too high of a climb, but the fact that the first branch I touched snapped off knocked my confidence a little. Once I reached the knot, I turned on my endoscope and had a nosy. The hole was no bigger than a football and there was nothing inside! All in all it was a fun tree climb, and Jim taught me a lot; showing me how to fly the drone to scout out trees. It was my first time using the catapult and the weather was also gorgeous, so it was an awesome day out of the office!

Later in the month I had another tree climbing job and went with Baker Consultants’ seasoned professionals, Jim and Jonathan. The morning began with Jim setting up the ropes on the first tree to be climbed, while Jonathan and I went to conduct some inspections on some veteran trees with ladders, as the bat roost features were not that high. We didn’t find any roosts, so we proceeded to go to a massive veteran Oak that was probably around 15m tall, with a cavity hole around 10m up on one of its branches. Feeling brave, I volunteered to climb this one.

We finally got set up after several attempts at catapulting the ropes up and over high anchor points. I was feeling a bit nervous as this was the highest I have had to climb yet. After getting my gear on, it took a while to climb up as I had to sprawl over the remains of the snapped off limbs. Jonathan told me this was a common occurrence on older oaks as the lower limbs often get too heavy to be supported and snap off under their own weight. Once I got to the feature, I very quickly found out the cavity was home to wasps, not bats! I didn’t get too close, but could see several flying in and out continuously. It’s safe to say, like us, bats don’t want to share their homes with wasps either! I descended slowly and although I was the highest I had ever been in a tree, it wasn’t actually as scary as anticipated.

Jim had some enquiries come through in April, and he said they would be good jobs for me to project manage as they weren’t too complex. So, I wrote up the quotes and got them reviewed before sending them off. One of them came back immediately and gave us the go ahead. It was a simple BNG assessment on some hardstanding with encroaching vegetation. I carried out the UKHAB survey to get the baseline BNG score, and made a start on the report before passing it on to a colleague so they could send it over to the client whilst I was on annual leave for my birthday.

I took a beautiful spring week off work to go to Northumberland with my partner in celebration of my 23rd birthday. There was plenty of history, pretty beaches and breathtaking landscapes to explore whilst we were there. We made the most of our reduced price (under 25) National Trust memberships in Northumberland, visiting the house of Lord Armstrong, Cragside. It was the first ever house to be lit by electric lights in the world, a very impressive feat of engineering!

The Baker Consultants team is highly experienced and we are passionate about what we do. If you need advice related to ecology, surveys or conservation, then please get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on