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Tackling nesting birds with falconry and drone operation

Encouraging potential tree-nesting birds away from a construction site

NBC were contacted to assist with a clients project. Delays outside of the clients control meant construction had been delayed and tree felling and soil translocation works were therefore taking place through nesting season. A solution was sought to encourage any potential tree nesting birds into the surrounding areas where they would not be disturbed by the construction and therefore more likely to be successful.

Project overview

Several areas of woodland required mitigation. Survey of these areas concluded that NBC falconry teams would be required to patrol these woodlands daily, from dawn until dusk, utilising Harris hawks and one of NBC’s trained drone operators. The use of these specially trained, non-hunting birds of prey would be deployed within the woodland and flown constantly to act as a deterrent to species looking to nest – the drone would be flown along the tree canopies to patrol the areas that could not be penetrated by the birds.

Our solution

A schedule of works were agreed and prior to these works commencing, our technicians, working alongside the ecology team, were tasked with surveying these areas, totalling 4Ha, to ascertain if any nests were currently active or abandoned – any nests identified were marked and monitored – no active nests were identified prior to works commencing. NBC also conducted Night surveys with thermal imaging equipment to monitor any nocturnal activity which gave complete oversight of the bird activity thus allowing the client to make informed decisions around the planning of the works.

The use of hawk flying was one of a suite of measures that were implemented to deter nesting birds, and, where possible, the client was undertaking low level scrub clearance to remove potential habitat for ground nesting birds. Netting as a deterrent was not considered as this posed a potential entrapment risk for birds and other wildlife. No sounders / cannons were used as it is considered that these could have an impact on protected species, although, these are widely used in other settings to deter birds.

All of the works were supervised by qualified and experienced ecological clerks of work (ECoWs) so that disturbance to nesting birds was prevented. Guided by NBC – The ECoWs were undertaking constant checks of all of the trees and other vegetation in the work areas, and, exclusions zones would be implemented around active nests until any chicks had fledged. Undertaking this work during nesting bird season is a legal, non-licensable activity, however, regular detailed consultation was undertaken with the key stakeholders, and consent granting bodies, on the management of the works during nesting bird season – this included Natural England and the Woodland Trust. Our programme was a success and ensured that there were no costly delays as a result.

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