Breeding Bird, Wintering Bird, Barn Owl and Nesting Bird Surveys

EMEC Ecology's staff have carries out breeding bird surveys, wintering bird surveys, barn owl surveys and nesting bird surveys throughout England. This has included bird surveys in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire and across the East Midlands.

EMEC Ecology carry out bird surveys on a variety of sites and projects, each with very different timescales and survey requirements. Therefore each bird survey will be specific to a site and the costs will vary accordingly. EMEC Ecology will be happy to provide a quotation for a bird survey that will be both efficient and cost effective to the site specifics. Reports are produced as soon as possible however should you have a specific date for submission with a planning application we will do our utmost to accommodate this.

All birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) whilst breeding. This legislation protects nests, eggs and unfledged young from damage, or destruction. Species listed under Schedule 1 of the WCA 1981 (as amended), have additional protection, which makes it an offence to disturb a bird while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.

If you require a quotation for a bird survey please send an email to us at including any site plans that you have available (or details and photographs of the site if applicable) with details of the proposed development plans of the site, along with your name and contact details. Should you wish to contact us at the office please call 0115 964 4828.

Breeding Birds - Initial Assessment

EMEC Ecology can make an initial assessment to establish the presence of any habitat potentially suitable for breeding birds. This would determine the likelihood of breeding birds being impacted by the proposed works and may save the client considerable time and costs if habitat for breeding birds is found not to be present.

Initial surveys can ensure the client is lawful in any future development works and also are important for monitoring biodiversity on larger sites, such as monitoring key species.

If suitable nesting habitat for breeding birds is identified during an initial assessment (i.e. hedgerows), that are proposed to be removed during the bird breeding season, EMEC Ecology can endeavour to ensure there are no delays. For example, this can involve making a visit outside of the bird breeding season (outside of March to September, inclusive) where the hedgerow to be removed will be covered with a durable netting material to prevent access for the coming bird breeding season. Additional information can be found on our Hedgerow Netting Information Sheet and on our Land Management website.

Nesting Bird Survey

A nesting bird survey is typically undertaken immediately prior to works commencing at a site. An ecologist would come to a site and undertake a nesting bird survey to ensure that there are no active bird nests present. A negative result would allow site contractors to proceed with works with no unlawful actions. However this type of survey is only really applicable to small scale works, such as the removal of short sections of hedgerow or a couple of trees. It should also be noted that when nests are present, works would have to be delayed until all chicks had fledged. Therefore, ideally vegetation removal should be timed to be undertaken outside the bird nesting season (March to September, inclusive).

Breeding Bird Survey

Territory mapping can be used to estimate the abundance and distribution of birds on any site during the breeding season (March to June inclusively). Between five to ten field visits are recommended, however basic breeding bird surveys can be completed with fewer visits. Data collected will include the location of singing / non-singing birds, territorial disputes, birds carrying food and / or nesting material and the discovery of active nest sites. A map will be produced that details the species and territories recorded. This type of survey evaluates the importance of a site for breeding birds.

Wintering Bird Survey

Wintering bird surveys are conducted to determine the species composition and the numbers present at potentially important wintering sites. This allows an assessment of the importance of the site for wintering birds to be made.

A significant contributor to the declines in many farmland species, such as the red-listed yellowhammer, corn bunting and skylark, is believed to be the low overwinter survival rate in these species as a result of recent reductions in winter seed availability. Additionally the UK is very important to passage migrants and winter visiting birds due to its relatively mild conditions compared to the rest of Europe on the same latitude. Therefore it is important to identify important wintering sites for birds and manage them appropriately.

Methodology for wintering birds follows the standard methodology based on the 'look-see' approach whereby the observer surveys the whole of a predefined area and counts of all wintering bird species are made.

Vantage Point Surveys

The increasing number of wind farm projects within the UK potentially threatens our resident and migratory bird populations. These threats can be split into three main categories: collision mortality, disturbance leading to displacement or exclusion (including barrier effects), loss or damage to habitat resulting from wind turbines and associated infrastructure.

Fixed vantage point observations combined with breeding bird surveys are required to assess such impacts.

Vantage point observations are necessary to collect data on the flight behaviour of 'target species', including flight direction, height and duration. Monitoring is tailored towards the site and species specifics however the general recommendation is that observations are undertaken over one year for a minimum of 36 hours per season (breeding, spring & autumn migration and winter), while vantage point effort during these periods are stratified against flight activity levels to ensure maximum efficiency. Data from vantage point observations can be used in a collision risk model to calculate the theoretical number of bird collisions per turbine per year.

A summary of this information can be found on our Bird Survey Information Sheet.

Barn Owl Survey Methodology

The survey will include searching for barn owls or signs of their previous presence. These signs include discarded feeding remains, regurgitated pellets, faecal deposits, and feathers. The assessment will include the level and use by barn owls.

Barn owls will often roost or nest in a building structure (such as an open-fronted barn) or tree. Where a specific barn owl nest or roost is proposed to be destroyed or become sub-optimal, provisions should be provided. EMEC Ecology can design and supervise mitigation required to ensure that the client can complete the proposed works whilst ensuring the barn owls are also protected. This may involve the installation of barn owl boxes or the creation of a dedicated area for the barn owls to nest (such as a barn owl loft).

Barn owls have suffered declines over the past fifty years due to a lack of prey as a result of the degradation of specific agricultural habitats. Although the population may now be increasing, the barn owl is also listed on many county Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP). Surveying for barn owl which may result in a disturbance requires a Schedule 1 licence. This is due to all wild barn owls, their nests and eggs being protected by law under Schedule 1 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

Further details can be found on our Barn Owl Survey Information Sheet.

Mitigation Measures

Mitigation can include the enhancement of a site either during or post construction works through the installation of bird boxes, including specific designs for species, such as the house sparrow that breeds in colonies or boxes high on buildings for swifts.

Tussocky grassland can provide suitable foraging habitat for birds of prey such as kestrel, barn owl and potentially peregrine falcon. Retaining specific areas for conservation can mitigate for other areas of lost habitat within a site.