Bird surveys

There are approximately 250 species of birds that regularly occur in the UK, including species that are resident year-round and migratory species. Many bird species are declining due to factors such as climate change, agricultural intensification and inappropriate development. Most wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law (particularly by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)) and many rarer species have additional legal protection from disturbance. While some birds breed at any time of year, the main breeding season is between March and August, with a peak in May and June.

 Various surveys can be used to identify bird species utilising a site and to inform avoidance and mitigation of any potential impacts. Examples of projects that may require bird surveys are:

·         Development of new housing

·         Demolition or conversion of buildings, e.g. barn conversions

·         Construction of overhead lines / undergrounding of existing cables

·         Energy projects such as hydro-electric schemes and wind turbines.

Breeding bird surveys consist of at least four visits to a site between March and August to record the species, numbers and activity of birds. This is based on a methodology developed by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and is a widely used method. In upland moorland areas, a different survey method, often known as ‘Brown and Shepherd’ after its creators, is used to survey breeding waders such as curlew, snipe and golden plover.

Winter bird surveys consist of at least three survey visits throughout the winter (typically November – February) to record usage of a site by birds, such as wintering flocks of geese or waders. This information allows us to assess the importance of the site for various bird species any highlight any potential impacts.

Species-specific surveys vary widely based on the project proposal and the habitats present. For example, vantage point surveys may be undertaken to detect goshawks, barn owl surveys may assess usage of a structure for breeding, and red-throated diver surveys may be undertaken to see if a waterbody is used by this species.

Ellendale Environmental provides various bird surveys following best practice and undertaken by highly skilled ecologists and ornithologists, as well as offering a ‘watching brief’ role during construction/ development works to ensure that you stay within the law and follow best practice. We offer straightforward advice on ways to avoid and mitigate for impacts, as well as suggestions for increasing the value of a site for birds.

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Barn Owl 2 by Phil Haynes is licensed under CC BY 2.0