Nesting Bird Surveys

Nesting Bird Surveys

Nesting bird surveys are required for a number of reasons. You may have been asked by a local planning authority, architect, tree surgeon, or county ecologist. Between March and September, UK bird species start to breed. When breeding activity begins to appear, it is the law to take the right steps to protect all bird species.

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NESTING BIRD SURVEYS AND BREEDING BIRD EXPERTS.

Our ornithology team has 20 years’ experience of designing and implementing nesting bird surveys and enhancement strategies with a 100% success for our clients.

No matter what the species, all nesting birds in the UK are protected by law, under the Habitats Regulations 2010. This means that it is an offense to intentionally damage, destroy, or obstruct breeding activity.

If a habitat, such as a hedgerow, tree, or barn shows potential for nesting birds on a development site, our fully licensed ornithologists will be able to advise on the best nesting bird survey solutions.

So, whether you are looking for domestic nesting bird surveys to support a planning application or you’re a development company requiring full ecological consultancy and breeding bird services, we are here to help.

our guide to bird surveys
   
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DID YOU KNOW?

  • There are over 600 bird species in the UK

  • The rare white-tailed eagle has a wingspan of 240cm

  • Around 50% of all UK Bird Species Migrate
  • The Blackbird is the Most common Breeding Bird in the UK

  • Starlings can copy the sounds of other birds, frogs & mammals

BIRD SURVEYS CALENDAR

Habitat Assessments

Nesting Bird Surveys

nesting bird surveys

Bird Surveys Key

bat roost assessments

Habitat Assessments

From just £348

Preliminary habitat assessments or scoping bird surveys are the initial phases of any bird survey process. An experienced member of our team will undertake an initial site visit during daylight hours. Unlike activity nesting bird surveys, Habitat assessments can be undertaken all year round.

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bat surveys

Nesting Bird Surveys

From just £298

Should evidence or potential for breeding birds be identified via the preliminary habitat assessment, further bird survey effort may be required, commonly known as nesting bird surveys also known as breeding bird surveys. Activity bird surveys are undertaken between March & September.

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bat mitigation

Bird Mitigation & Strategy 

Should evidence show that breeding birds are identified via nesting bird surveys, then a final step of bird mitigation and/or reasonable avoidance measures will be required. Working with your ecology consultant you will design a strategy that may involve applying to Natural England for a licence.

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Chase Ecology is an independent specialist ecology consultancy for both domestic and commercial clients across a range of sectors throughout the UK. Over the years, we have build up fantastic relationships with local planning authorities for a fast and efficient process, meaning we’re always happy to consult with your local county ecologist or planning officer and statutory agencies for a quick and successful planning application. Our speedy, honest, reliable, and common sense approach means we’ve become of the UK’s leading protected species experts. Our personal approach means we are here to help with any advice with a simple phone call.

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO NESTING BIRD SURVEYS

So, you have put in your planning application or you’re removing native trees or hedgerow. The local planning authority or your tree surgeon has stated nesting bird surveys are required. You probably have a few questions.

All nesting birds are protected by law, under the Habitats Regulations 2010. No matter what the species! The regulation means that it is an offense to intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct a birds nest.

To help you understand why you’ve been asked to undertake nesting bird surveys and why they are important, we’ve put together what is probably the most comprehensive guide to bird surveys available online. We hope this guide answers everything there is to know about breeding bird surveys.

THE BIRD SURVEYS PROCESS

The most common question we get asked about nesting bird surveys is what is the process, What do we need to do? and when can those steps be taken? Below we’ve put together a short highlight, which we expand on later in the guide, on the steps that potentially need to be taken during the bird surveys process.

Preliminary habitat assessments involve an initial inspection of a habitat to identify the potential for nesting birds and other species.

As well as an assessment of the building and surrounding habitat to support breeding birds, a phase 1 nesting bird survey may require a data records search. Meaning, records such as known bird populations, previous mitigation sites, and the location of Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Local Nature Reserves (LNR) are obtained. These desk-based assessments are a requirement and are usually purchased from third party biological records centres or county councils.

If a habitat, such as a hedgerow, tree, or barn shows potential for nesting birds on a development site, our fully licensed ornithologists will population and nesting bird surveys.

Nesting bird surveys will need to be undertaken between March and September.

Usually, at Chase Ecology we are able to undertake Steps 1 & 2 at the same time during activity survey months.

Should evidence show that nesting birds are identified via presence surveys, then a final step of mitigation and/or reasonable avoidance measures will be required.

The majority of the time we are able to work under reasonable avoidance measures when it comes to nesting bird surveys. This may mean altering dates to when birds are no longer nesting in a hedgerow for example. However, from time to time mitigation may be required.

WHY DO I NEED A NESTING BIRD SURVEY?

Well, it’s not uncommon especially if you are demolishing a building, cutting down a tree, hedge cutting, or disrupting a habitat that may contain ground-nesting species.

All nesting birds are protected by law, under the Habitats Regulations 2010. No matter what the species! The regulation means that it is an offense to intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct a birds nest.

If a habitat shows potential for nesting birds on a development site, our fully licensed ornithologists will be able to advise on the best nesting bird survey solutions.

At this point, we’d like to give you some good news. Nesting Birds almost never stop your development.

But what is the nesting bird survey and mitigation process? Firstly, the need for nesting bird surveys will generally be identified at the time of a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal also know as a Habitat Walkover or Phase 1 Survey.

If the potential for nesting birds is shown, then presence nesting bird surveys may need to be completed. These nesting bird surveys need to show whether nesting birds are present in the area, what populations are like, and how they use the site.

If protected species are detected, then a mitigation plan is designed to show how you’ll avoid, reduce, or manage any negative effects on them. Working with your ecologist you need to decide which methods are right for the project you’re working on.

A mitigation licence from Natural England may be required. However, usually, we are able to work to a Reasonable Avoidance Measure (RAM) to keep the process cost-effective and quick.

WILL I NEED TO CARRY OUT A BIRD SURVEY?

Most likely. Especially if your development is within 100m of a hedge or tree which may be affected. You may also need a nesting bird survey if you are converting a barn or stable block for example.

If your plans are to carry out development works that could disrupt or harm nesting birds or their habitats or if your local planning authority has asked for an ecology nesting bird survey then you will need to carry out a protected species survey.

Typically demolition of a building, tree/hedge cutting, house extensions, and change of land use all require nesting bird surveys and potential mitigation.

DECIDING IF YOU NEED BIRD SURVEYS

Nesting Birds, no matter the species, and other protected wildlife can be affected by lots of construction work including:

  • demolition of buildings
  • extensions that affect land usage or are close to trees/hedges
  • wind turbines
  • barn conversions
  • removal of trees or hedgerows
  • removal or change of land use, such as meadow to grazing
  • building or maintenance of roads

You’re more likely to need nesting birds surveys if the land has favourable features such as:

  • a watercourse or body within 500 meters that wading birds may use to ground nest
  • is close to woodland
  • has hedgerows and trees
  • has unmanaged grass

You’re likely to need a nesting bird survey for land-use change if it:

  • is in ancient woodland
  • is large with good growth
  • has mossy areas
  • has unmanaged grass
  • has hedgerows or trees
  • is close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Local nature reserve.

I THINK WE NEED NESTING BIRD SURVEYS

If your planning or development has any of the above bullet points ticked then, YES! you need nesting bird surveys.

So what actually happens during the nesting bird survey process?

Well, it’s fairly simple. Nesting Birds will almost never stop your development.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING A BIRD SURVEY

So, now you’ve established why you need a survey, you maybe be wondering what happens during the nesting bird survey process.

The nesting bird survey process is simple. It generally starts with a preliminary habitat assessment and if evidence or potential of nesting birds, we can determine the types of survey that would suit the development best for Phase 2. These may include:

  • Habitat suitability index (HSI) assessments
  • Presence/absence surveys

However, if your site holds a confirmed nesting bird population then the third phase of mitigation and licensing may be required. In most circumstances, we are able to implement Reasonable Avoidance Measures, also knows as RAMS, instead of having to go through the full mitigation process.

If your local planning authority has asked for a nesting bird survey then you will need to contact a licensed ecologist.

Typically, after a phone or email consultation, the ecologist will then require a visit to your site to undertake a Phase 1 preliminary habitat assessment.

PRELIMINARY HABITAT ASSESSMENTS

For most planning permission applications or development projects involving nesting birds or other protected, it is appropriate to start with a Phase 1 preliminary habitat assessment also known as a Walkover Survey.

Preliminary habitat assessments involve an initial inspection of a habitat to identify the potential for nesting birds and other species.

As well as an assessment of the building and surrounding habitat to support nesting birds, a phase 1 nesting bird survey may require a data records search. Meaning, records such as known newt populations, previous mitigation sites, and the location of Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Local Nature Reserves (LNR) are obtained. These desk-based assessments are a requirement and are usually purchased from third party biological records centres or county councils.

If the habitat itself does not show evidence or potential for nesting birds then this information can sometimes be enough to provide an assessment of whether they are likely to be present on-site and whether they are likely to be impacted upon by the development.

After the data is collected your ecologist will compile a detailed report outlining any further steps, if any, that may be required.

NESTING BIRD SURVEYS

Should evidence or potential for nesting birds be identified then further nesting bird survey effort may be required. This next stage is known as the presence of nesting bird surveys also known as activity or population surveys.

Unlike preliminary habitat assessments, which can be carried out year-round, presence nesting bird surveys will need to be undertaken between March and Septemeber.

MITIGATION, COMPENSATION, AND STRATEGY FOR BREEDING BIRDS

Should evidence show that nesting birds are identified via presence surveys, then a final step of mitigation and/or reasonable avoidance measures will be required.

Working with your ecology consultant you will design a mitigation plan. This may involve applying to Natural England for a protected species licence.

However, you will need planning permission to have been granted prior to applying for this licence.

For the licence to be granted, a mitigation strategy will be required that could involve timings of works, installation of mitigation strategies.

The mitigation plan will address the potential impacts on nesting birds and other protected species and must avoid negative effects on bird populations, such as small alternations to project designs or delayed work which may expose the habitat.

If this is not possible, the use of alternative mitigation measures to reduce the impacts must be implemented.

Mitigation and compensation methods can include:

  1. Changing work methods or timing to avoid breeding periods. For example, work to be complete during winter on summer roosts.
  2. Creating new habitats within the same or on neighbouring site
  3. Improving or creating habitats. Such as new foraging areas or pond
  4. Long term management of habitats
  5. Nesting bird population monitoring after the development

Usually, reasonable avoidance measures are sufficient for the majority of UK nesting birds.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A BIRD MITIGATION LICENCE IS GRANTED?

As highlighted above, the majority of the time we are able to work under reasonable avoidance measures when it comes to nesting bird surveys. This may mean altering dates to when birds are no longer nesting in a hedgerow for example. However, from time to time mitigation may be required. But what happens after the nesting bird mitigation licence is granted?

The ecologist, architect, construction company, and yourself will decide on a date whereby work will be started. The ecology consultant will take one or both of two main steps:

  1. Implement any compensation measures for nesting birds before works are undertaken.
  2. And/or – Be on-site to undertake ecological clerk of works measures during a soft break of any areas where any species are identified.

Once any nesting birds are ‘mitigated’ into the new habitat, works can continue as normal.

WHAT HAPPENS IF WE FIND NESTING BIRDS AFTER WORK HAS STARTED?

Stop all work immediately.

Continuing work is likely to be breaking the law if nesting birds are found during building works.

Get in touch with your ecologist who will advise you on the next steps.

HOW MUCH DOES A NESTING BIRD SURVEY COST?

Well, it’s hard to accurately say as it varies greatly. There are many factors to take into account.

Phase 1 preliminary habitat assessments and nesting bird surveys range from £298. Fees depend on the location of the development, and size or complexity of the site.

As of April 2019, and despite very strong opposition from ecology consultancies including ourselves, Natural England introduced hourly charges for the mitigation licence.