Baker Consultants

Bird survey

Birds and their habitats are protected.

Many bird species (particularly wildfowl, raptor and wader species) are protected under UK and/or international legislation. All nesting birds are protected. Our team is qualified to offer the full suite of bird surveys whether for site scoping, EIA consultation or in preparation for a planning application. When assessing impacts of a potential development upon birds things to consider include; damaging or removing breeding sites, disturbing birds and their young, removing vegetation or changing habitats, demolishing or changing buildings or natural features like rock faces, and removing ground nest habitats with activities like soil stripping. Contact us now to check when to book your survey.

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Protection and survey methods

All nesting birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird or take, damage or destroy its nest whilst in use or being built, or take or destroy its eggs. In addition to this, for some rarer species (listed on Schedule 1 of the Act), it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb them while they are nest building or at or near a nest with eggs or young, or to disturb the dependent young of such a bird. All wintering birds are also protected under elements of the act with similar protection applying in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Birds of Conservation Concern initiative publishes lists of Red and Amber species. which are of high conservation concern within the UK. In addition, a number of bird species are also included as Species of Principal Importance under the provisions of the NERC Act 2006. In coastal or wetland areas there wider legislation may apply such as that covering Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds and areas recognised under the international Ramsar Conservation of Wetlands agreement as Wetlands of International Importance.

Survey techniques are dependent on species, habitat and time of year and can include breeding bird surveys using The Common Bird Census technique, vantage point surveys most often used for potential wind farm sites and other large developments, and winter bird surveys, looking at birds that migrate through the UK and may overwinter here making use of abundant food sources.

More details on each type of survey can be found below.

Bird survey

Why Baker Consultants?

Our award-winning team includes qualified and experienced bird surveyors who are also involved in researching and implementing innovative remote monitoring techniques for collecting more robust survey data. Over years of carrying out surveys of a full range of sites and species we have developed survey methodologies and data analysis techniques informing development plans for commercial clients, local authorities and have provided expert witness at public inquiry. From an initial early assessment we can advise on the type and number of surveys required and whether cost-saving bioacoustics can be used to reduce survey effort.

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Surveys in detail

Remote monitoring

Bioacoustic recording methods have been developed and successfully trialled to measure occurrance of particular rare species in Scotland an on Thames Basin Heaths. These surveys entail placing remote recorders at specific habitat sites identified as having potential to support the species and then using the data collected to calculate number, sex and behaviour of the birds. This method reduces surveyor bias and removes the possibility of disturbance affecting the result. See articles on our news page for more detail on these studies.


Breeding bird surveys

These surveys involve an experienced ecologist visiting the site at least three times between April and June. These habitats could be features such as woodland, hedgerows, barns/buildings, ponds or grassland. A transect is walked around the site which includes all the habitats previously identified and the area which is to be developed. Bird species and their behaviour are mapped and an assessment is made of the significance of the species present and an estimate of the number of breeding territories. This information can be used to design works to avoid or reduce adverse impacts on breeding birds and to mitigate for any loss of habitat.


Winter bird surveys

Winter bird surveys are important to establish the location of food sources and determine whether they are at risk from a proposed development. As with breeding birds, the protection of these food sources and favoured habitats can be of importance on an international scale. This type of survey requires up to four surveys, one per month. Surveys are ideally carried out during the months of November, December, January and February. A transect is walked by an experienced ecologist around the potential development site and bird species and their behaviour are mapped. An assessment can then be made of the significance of the species present and an estimate of the number of wintering birds. This information can be used to design works to avoid impact on wintering birds and to mitigate for any loss of foraging habitat.


Vantage point surveys

These types of surveys record the movements of birds flying over and landing within the proposed development area. Many bird species will fly fairly regular routes or land in specific fields, for example between roosting and feeding sites or during seasonal migration. It is important to understand if a development will interrupt or displace these flight routes or cause significant injury to bird populations. Vantage point surveys will take at least 6 – 18 months to complete and require a suitably qualified and experienced ecologist. Surveys can be started at any time of the year and, prior to the start of fieldwork, a site assessment must take place to understand the number of vantage points required and to decide on the likely survey effort. As a minimum, 36 hours per season of vantage point survey will be required. Data gathered can be used to develop collision risk models for key species and inform avoidance and mitigation measures to be included in an Ecological Impact Assessment.


The Common Bird Census (CBC)

CBC is used to estimate the number and positions of territories of each bird species present in an area during the breeding season (although annotations used within the CBC can be used for winter bird surveys also). Surveyors plot all birds seen or heard on site using unique codes to note each bird species, with sex and age where possible, and also to record activity such as song or nest-building. The registrations can then be analysed to successfully establish the potential breeding status and number of territories on a surveyed site.