Posts Tagged ‘Breeding Bird Surveys’

Today, I am heading south as some of our first spring migrants are heading north.  I’ve yet to see my first ones; but may be, as the Urban Birder (David Lindo) suggests, when I arrive in London, I should look up (but may be not like the image on his website!).  And indeed I might.


Sand martin (Riparia riparia) by Nigel Wedge (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence)

The purpose is to attend CIEEM’s spring conference on advances in Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA).  I am particularly interested to hear one of the talks which will be on ornithological EcIA and a standardised approach by Biocensus’ Tim Hounsome.  I am hoping that it will include some thoughts, opinions and conclusions on number of survey visits (at least 4 is my hope!) and methods (modified version of the CBC territory mapping methodology is my hope! [see section 2.3.1 of this document.]).


Walking to and from my daughter’s primary school, albeit between 08:20 and 09:10 hrs each morning, I am beginning to get a picture, though not an accurate one, of the breeding bird assemblage within my neighbourhood.  So far, I can reasonably assume, that blackbird (Turdus merula), dunnock (Prunella modularis), greenfinch (Chloris chloris), goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) and house sparrow (Passer domesticus) are likely breeding species in gardens.  Red kite (Milvus milvus) are displaying over farmland to the north and viewable from our front garden.  Male and female siskin (Spinus spinus) are still present in our garden, feeding on the bird feeder so am not sure if they will hang around to breed.

This brief blog is to really say that the breeding bird season has genuinely started – not at full throttle yet, but certainly the early birds are beginning to show interest.  Tim’s talk is well timed and I am genuinely looking forward to hearing it…so Tim, no pressure!

So if you are reading this and joining me in a ‘reverse migration’ (like water pipits (Anthus spinoletta)) to London and the CIEEM, conference, perhaps find me and say hello.


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Woodland, hedgerow and field in typical lowland England scene.  Habitat offers a wide range of nesting habitat for bird species.

Woodland, hedgerow and field in typical lowland England scene. Habitat offers a wide range of nesting habitat for bird species.

March. The first month of spring.  It always seems to me that this month marks the beginning of the end of damp, cold weather and the beginning of the beginning of slightly warmer temperatures, slightly warmer damp!  It also marks a colour change.  For the last few months, since autumn, the predominant colour has been green and brown, unless there is snow on the ground, in which case it is briefly white.  Come March, the first yellows appear, in the form of dandelions and colt’s-foot; and the first white, in the form of blackthorn and willow; and the first lime-green flecks of emerging leaves.  And there is an audible change too.  Dunnocks (or hedge accentors if you prefer the official name) are singing on the garden hedges, wing-flicking and generally thinking about nests and eggs.  Always a good indication that the breeding bird season has started.  And if the breeding bird season has started, now is the time to think about your development site and think about breeding bird surveys.

And it is not just the birds that are think about building ‘homes’.  So too are house builders (though I doubt they are singing or doing their equivalent of wing-flicking).  The UK Government issued a press release on the 4th March 2015 that enough public sector land has been released to build over 103,000 homes.

But legislators have also thought about the ecological consequences of building new homes.  Ecologists and developers are well-versed in the need to protect nests and eggs for all our species; the oft quoted bit of legislation is Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  It is an offence to “…take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built…” so vegetation clearance is aimed to be timed outside the breeding bird season.

However, there is recent legislation, that amended the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.  This amendment requires decision makers, such as local planning authorities (LPA), to “…take such steps in the exercise of their functions as they consider appropriate to secure the objective [of]…the preservation, maintenance and re-establishment of a sufficient diversity and area of habitat for wild birds in the United Kingdom, including by means of the upkeep, management and creation of such habitat, as appropriate, having regard to the requirements of Article 2 of the new Wild Birds Directive.”.

In my view, what this means in practice is that any planning application where a proposed development will impact on the preservation or maintenance of habitats that support bird populations, an appropriate and proportionate survey effort would be necessary to enable the LPA to fulfil their obligation under Regulation 9A of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended).  The type of habitats that I foresee this being relevant will include:

Brownfield site (north-east England) with patches of scrub & open areas offering nesting and foraging habitat for breeding birds.

Brownfield site (north-east England) with patches of scrub & open areas offering nesting and foraging habitat for breeding birds.

So, where there is a development likely to impact hedgerows, woodlands and shelter-belts, grasslands (including agricultural fields/ pasture), the margins of waterbodies (e.g. reedbeds, marshes, ‘bogs’); or brownfield sites within urban areas, then there is likely to be a requirement to undertake a pre-submission dedicated breeding bird survey.

If you have a site which is coming ‘on-line’; and you are commissioning surveys on the ground, then now is the time to get the breeding bird season booked in.  Robust surveys, enabling the LPA to fulfil their legal obligation should commence by early May and be completed by July.  You can contact me via this website; or via my LinkedIn profile for further advice.

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Halfway through 2014…who’d have thought it?

Spring and the early part of summer has been a really busy period for me.  In 2012 and 2013, I was busy surveying for HS2 in the Midlands; so I was wondering what 2014 would be like with no major infrastructure project to be working on.  Would I be busy?

Well, after a quiet start, since late April I have been very busy – bird surveys, invertebrate surveys and botanical surveys.  Yorkshire, Kent, West Midlands, Greater Manchester.  That is what I have been busy doing and where I have been busy doing it.

And if you want to read more, you can do so by clicking on the image below.

Spring and Summer 2014 Newsletter

Spring and Summer 2014 Newsletter

And 2014 will continue to be busy.  I will be working with a team of botanists surveying long-term monitoring plots in heathland and grassland habitat communities, continue with invertebrate surveys (and the subsequent identification) for EIAs and the ongoing research on Semljicola caliginosus.  Talking of which, the Tour de France’s Grand Depart is passing by one of the sites where this species was recorded in 2013 – the Buttertubs Pass.  So, if you intend to watch the race, as the cyclists whizz (or puff?) up the pass, remember, there is a really rare spider up there too!  I’ve been advising Natural England where to put up protective fences to prevent any spectators trampling on the sensitive vegetation.

But I am now thinking about autumn 2014 and winter 2014/ 2015.  And if you are a developer, you should be too!

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Spring 2014 seems a long way off doesn’t it?  Especially if you are in areas that are or have been subjected to flooding.  The dark forboding skies, omni-present rainfall and temperatures in single digits suggest that, like Narnia, winter has still got its grip on the land.

Yet stop…(click on the image)…listen…and you may well here this, outside your office, in your garden or onthe way to get your lunchtime sandwich:

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

It is the song of the familiar robin; which in mainland Britain, is the sub-species melophilus – rather apt?

Robins are one of the first birds to sing in the new year.  On sunny days, just like today when I am writing this, robins can be heard singing from an exposed tree branch or similar perch with a good vantage point.  Tune your ears in to the song of the robin after Christmas (and you can use the Christmas image of robins to remind you to tune in to the song in the New Year!) and it will act as a natural alarm clock…time to think about ecology surveys!

So, please take a look at my new service sheet and think about whether I can help your project get off to a good start in 2014.  It’s not rocket science and similarly, it isn’t rock’n roll.  But may be, it is…

Rockin’ Robin!!

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Today sees my fourth client newsletter.  Please click on the icon below to upload it.  Note that blue underlined text is hyperlinked and will direct you to third party websites.


Client Newsletter (Issue 4: Winter 2012/ 2013)


With best wishes for 2013

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