In the last two months BH Wildlife Consultancy has worked on three large landscape scale projects across England – Sussex, Lincolnshire and the Cotswolds. These landscape scale sites range from 23,000 to 35,000 hectares and presented considerable challenges such as weather, logistics and the sheer volume of flight points required to get the coverage needed. All the sites focused on getting a census on the transient Fallow deer populations although Roe and Muntjac heavily featured in all of the landscapes.
These landscape scale surveys require much more communication and planning than individual surveys and were a big undertaking. Communication was key to make sure everyone was aware when the drones were coming through their area to avoid any concerns or issues arising. By deploying multiple drones simultaneously we were able to systematically cover larger areas and ensured that deer were not being double counted by staying in regular contact with each other. Work is done after each survey to review footage and locations of deer for quality assurance and improved accuracy.
We conducted these counts during day time which gave these projects a snapshot of where the deer were during daylight hours as opposed to a night survey which shows where they are when they are marauding/feeding. This also allows us to break up the species ID as we can utilise the daylight images to look at male and female ratios.
These areas were primarily broad-leaved woodland and agricultural land which meant we could survey all of the survey area with high confidence on our results and coverage.
The survey flagged very interesting distribution and density results. Typically, the numbers counted were as expected by the people on the ground but often hot spots appeared with high deer numbers. These hot spots acted as refuges where little or no management took place.