Although bird species diversity tends to increase where several habitats are in close proximity to one another and where food and shelter is abundant, some bird species have been experiencing up to a 50% population decline over the last 25 years, which makes bird surveys crucial when considering development in their habitats.
There are approximately 575 bird species that occur in the UK, some resident all year round and others migrating seasonally. Birds occupy a wide range of habitats from gardens, to woodland, to estuaries and mudflats.
Bird Survey Legislation
All bird species are protected under UK and European laws, including:
- Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
- The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010; under this legislation all wild birds, their nests and their eggs are protected by law. The amount of protection afforded to wild birds varies depending on the species and schedule they fall under.
For example, barn owls are protected from:
- Killing, injuring or taking;
- Damaging, destroying, taking or disturbing any nest in use or being built; and
- Destroying or taking an egg.
What We Offer
For all development proposals which have the potential to impact on local biodiversity, Local Planning Authorities (“LPA”) require sufficient information to make informed decisions so that wildlife can be protected from injury or disturbance during the development.
They often require a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (“PEA”) and further breeding, wintering or migratory bird surveys if certain species are likely to be present. This is where Greenlight Environmental come in.
Preliminary Ecological Appraisals (“PEA”)
A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal is an initial site assessment that is vital in order to identify habitats present on site that may support protected species. Taken as the first step to address ecological aspects of a planning application, it simply includes a site visit and a desktop assessment. Conducted throughout the year, a PEA would recommend if further bird surveys were necessary and appropriate mitigation and enhancements for the proposed development.
Initial Bird Surveys
Initial bird surveys establish the presence of suitable habitats for both breeding and wintering birds by conducting a walkover survey of a site. These surveys are carried out throughout the year and ultimately determine the likelihood of birds being impacted by a proposed development.
Breeding Bird Surveys
If breeding bird habitats are identified in initial bird surveys, a follow-up survey may be required to assess its importance as a breeding location. To evaluate its importance for birds, the surveys should be conducted at the time when birds are making nests, laying eggs and rearing young, usually between March and August.
Wintering Bird Surveys
Both UK resident birds and wintering birds, which only visit during Autumn and Winter, crucially rely on habitats to provide them with shelter from extreme weather and sources of abundant food. If a proposed development is expected to have a significant impact on a location with important winter food sources, winter bird surveys are needed. Four survey visits are usually required, one per month, ideally conducted between November and February.
Overseeing Construction Works
Overseeing construction works involves checking for breeding birds on a site prior to starting works and ensuring that adequate buffer zones to protect active nests are marked out and respected. This also includes toolbox talks and pre-construction inspections, as well as ongoing construction support.
Mitigation & Enhancements
At Greenlight, we tailor each mitigation and enhancement design to specifically address issues raised at the site in question. There are numerous forms of mitigation and enhancements; one that is often recommended is to undertake works likely to have an impact on birds outside the main bird nesting season.
Other common mitigation measures include:
- the installation of integrated and standalone bird boxes;
- low lighting schemes;
- hedgerow planting and;
- creation of rough grassland and ponds.
Enhancements may include any of the above mitigation strategies. Please note: LPAs, especially those in East Anglia, are beginning to require integrated bird boxes on all new constructions, as outlined during the 12th Annual Suffolk and Norfolk Planning and Biodiversity Seminar (November 2016).
Greenlight Environmental Bird Surveys
We are proud to offer a wide range of services with respect to bird surveys for both commercial and domestic projects. Our skilled team provide a comprehensive and cost-effective solution to steer developments through planning policy and environmental legislation.
Any questions? Don’t hesitate to give us a call or fill out our contact form.