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Managing disturbance

7 Managing disturbance

Disturbance caused by access

Low to moderate levels of quiet recreation and short-term disturbance probably have little long-term effect on bird communities. However, where woodland is used for ‘active’ recreation such as orienteering, mountain biking or paint balling, the impact is likely to be significant (Table 18). Unsupervised children’s activities, and dogs that are left or encouraged to roam can cause severe disturbance. Disturbance manifests itself in different ways, eg:

  • nests may be trampled

  • birds are flushed from nests, allowing predators to take chicks or eggs

  • they are prevented from returning to the nest to incubate or brood in bad weather; this can include those breeding in cavities and nestboxes

  • they are prevented from returning to feed chicks in the nest

  • chicks that have left the nest still need to be fed by the adults but may be dispersed by disturbance

  • adults may be prevented from feeding themselves and so lose condition

  • frequent displacement of feeding or nesting birds will cause them to redistribute permanently and abandon nesting attempts.

Different species are likely to be affected to differing extents by public access. Those that nest, roost and feed in the canopy are buffered from normal recreational disturbance by height, whereas those that nest or feed on the ground are vulnerable. Some species appear to be more resilient than others, but research into nightjar, which were thought to be relatively resilient, has shown that in areas of high public accessibility productivity is much less than in more remote areas. Meanwhile,

Type of recreational disturbance

Issue

Action to reduce impact of disturbance

One-off major recreational events (e.g. clay shooting, car rallying or mountain bike competitions

Can cause sudden disturbance and rare forest birds to desert their nests

Plan to avoid sensitive times of breeding season, but if in the breeding season then plan routes, staging points etc. away from active nests

Walkers, cyclists or horse riders

Most small birds will tolerate frequent background levels of human presence. However, uncontrolled dogs can cause significant disturbance to ground- nesting birds

Proposed trails should avoid sensitive areas, but provision of opportunities for the public to enjoy wildlife must be considered

Birdwatchers and nest monitoring

Problems sometimes occur through uncoordinated duplicate visits to the same nests by different observers

Monitoring nesting success is a vital part of rare bird management, but requires organising to prevent disturbance and to ensure sound data are produced. A licence is required, from the Countryside Council for Wales for anyone, including land managers, to visit nests of Schedule I species for any purpose, usually ringing or photography. Licences can be exercised only with the permission of landowners

Low to moderate levels of quiet recreation and short-term disturbance

Probably have little long-term effect on bird communities

Those that nest, roost and feed in the canopy are buffered from normal recreational disturbance by height, whereas those that nest or feed on the ground are vulnerable. Dogs that are allowed to wander can cause serious disturbance to ground- nesting birds, e.g woodcock. Management options to consider include: making the ride edge shrub layer impenetrable, routing visitors away from sensitive areas, signage to instruct visitors to keep dogs under close control

Table 18 Potential impacts of recreational disturbance.

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