Bird Surveys: Their Vital Part in Environmental Surveying

Safeguarding Britain’s Protected Species

Landscape architecture is an area that encompasses several fields. Apart from the creation of practical and sustainable design solutions, landscape architects also take care of the conservation of habitats or historical sites, along with sustainable drainage systems, landscape design and urban design. Landscape architects also carry out ecology surveys and assessments in a bid to make sure that protected species are safeguarded. They also carry out marine surveys and habitat surveys when necessary. These are considered to be indispensable practices before a proposal for development can be acted upon.

Another area of importance are bird surveys. In the UK birds along with their nests and eggs are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Some bird species are offered more protection than others, simply because of their higher profile. There are a considerable number of species which are protected, and so before you can commence a development, you need to make sure that a professional landscape architect is consulted so that a bird survey is carried out at the site.

Tawny Owl. Image credit: Edinburgh Hawk Watch

Tawny Owl. Image credit: Edinburgh Hawk Watch

Some clients are not aware of this. However bird surveys are required for all of those development sites where there is a possibility that certain important species or assemblages are present. Such surveys are also a must in cases where a considerable level of disruption may occur, such as when it is likely that there will be a significant loss of bird nesting habitats. This applies even in cases when the particular species assemblage is not particularly significant. The aim is not to curtail development, but rather to make sure that any important species get protected. Apart from this one will also be better able to ensure that there will not be any detrimental effects on biodiversity.

The bird surveys that are carried out will vary according to the type of development that is being proposed for that site. Breeding bird surveys are among the most common ones. Such surveys are carried out after having carried out a number of site visits, generally even five visits. These are best carried out between the months of April and June so as to record as precisely as possible all the birds that are seen or heard at the site where the development is being proposed. This is in accordance to the Common Birds Census Technique. In other kinds of development it may be necessary to carry out more in-depth studies over a whole year.

Purple Heron. Image credit: Bird Forum

Purple Heron. Image credit: Bird Forum

Many clients worry about the fact that the presence of birds at the site where they wish to undertake some sort of development, might end up hindering that development. Their application for development may be rejected purely because of this reason, and when one is a developer most likely the birds in the area end up being the last thing on his mind, especially if the proposed development means a good investment or source of income. However, in reality the aim of bird surveys is to establish the likely impacts of the proposed development, so as to be better equipped with knowledge to establish the best course of action. For instance, the landscape architect will identify any issues which would need to be considered throughout the design, as well as suitable mitigation measures. Thus he will evidently need to work closely with the design team. Mitigation could include having a number of nest boxes within a proportion of the buildings on the site, or planting new hedges so as to provide additional room for nesting and foraging.

It is important for developers to realise how important it is to conduct bird surveys and allow them to shape decisions from then onwards. Development is a part of life however we need to be responsible enough in striking the right balance between nature and buildings. Bird surveys have the initial intention of helping us know how to strike that balance. We can always find practical solutions to make this a win-win situation. Thus, landscape architects should always inform clients of the various feasible courses of action and possible options, while encouraging them to be responsible in what they decide to do, for the benefit of all, including the innocent birds and other creatures on the site. By hiring a landscape architect to prepare accurate bird surveys that will help you in your decision making process you will be able to opt for a more reasonable finalisation of your development plans.