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The Ash Aspect: Temporary Reprieve For Nesting Birds

Published on: 3 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 4 Apr, 2017

By David Reading

The elderly woman walking her Labrador across the fields known as Ash Lodge Meadows was keen to stop and talk to me about her worries.

“We now have to accept the fact that a horrendous housing estate is going to be built on this land,” she said. “But what really concerns me is that we are approaching the bird nesting season. If they start clearing the land now, it will be a disaster for local wildlife.”

She had a fair point. I walk these fields every day and see a rich variety of birds. For a start there are the common, all-year-round species like kestrels, wood pigeons, green woodpeckers, great tits, wrens, goldcrests, long tailed tits, jays, magpies and buzzards.

A red kite spotted over my street in Ash

A recent addition to our local birdlife is the red kite. Another popular resident is the great spotted woodpecker, which makes its presence known in the springtime by performing its distinctive “drum roll” on the bark of a tree.

Great spotted woodpecker – Photo Malcolm Fincham

Two years ago I watched a pair of them going to and from their nest feeding their babies. They’d set up home in the hole of a tree near in woodland near the disused railway line that once ran into Farnham.

A long-tailed tit that I took during a walk on Ash Lodge Meadows last summer

Any time now we will start seeing the summer visitors – among them the whitethroat, blackcap, and willow warbler. Occasionally the cuckoo pays Ash a visit – although this is becoming rarer.

Cuckoos are only occasional visitors to Ash – Photo Malcolm Fincham

So what will happen if the land clearance begins this spring or summer, in preparation for the house building which is now inevitable? According to the local grapevine, this work is imminent.

Fortunately the word on the local grapevine is wrong, as a quick enquiry to Guildford Borough Council revealed. The conditions attached to the planning permission for the proposed estate required the submission of what is known as a biodiversity mitigation and enhancement plan.

This sets out measures to protect wildlife, such as seeking to avoid site clearance during the nesting season. The council tells me it will ensure that the mitigation measures are adhered to.  In any case, nesting birds are also protected in their own right by law and disturbance may be an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

According to the RSPCA, the basic principle of this Act is straightforward: all wild birds, their nests, and eggs are protected by law and some rare species are afforded additional protection from disturbance during the breeding season. Nests cannot be moved or destroyed by anyone while they are being built or are still in use.

So the next time I saw my friend with the Labrador I was able to reassure her – but only partially. All of us know this is only a stay of execution.

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test One Response to The Ash Aspect: Temporary Reprieve For Nesting Birds

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    April 3, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Sadly as the stag beetle lives under ground for three to seven years, no ‘mitigation’ will save them. The robin who returns to the same location over the years will also have to find a new home.

    No amount of “mitigation” will save our countryside when building houses. And, due to the secrecy of GBC SHMA, I have no certainty that these house are actually needed in the first place.

    If they are needed (not just wanted!) then GBC should put into the public domain numbers that actually add up. I challenge them to display the calculations and corrected number (recalculated since June 2016) to actually prove their case.

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