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Woodland management for birds: Birds and woodlands in Wales

hole nesters might appear to be resilient but can be vulnerable to disturbance that prevents them from returning to feed their young in the nest. Willow tit nests might also be inadvertently destroyed by, for example, firewood or den wood collecting. A well-developed shrub layer, particularly if it is very dense or thorny, makes access from paths and rides into the core of the wood more difficult, and therefore helps to buffer the birds there.

Dogs that are allowed to wander can cause serious disturbance to ground-nesting birds in particular, and it is very difficult to prevent this other than by making the ride-edge shrub layer impenetrable.

management operations have to consider public safety. Any management to improve the wood for birds must not put the public at risk. The provision of standing deadwood potentially creates a risk, which must be considered when planning its distribution in relation to paths and trails. Retention of older trees to provide niches for birds may increase the chances of wood fall in high winds, and again this has to be assessed in relation to access routes. However, there must be some expectation that mature woodland will contain loose branches, and it is reasonable to assess the risk as low, other than where the public are concentrated and encouraged to linger, eg along main routes, at picnic sites or seats.


The safety of the public is paramount, and wherever access is granted or by right, all

Management to limit disturbance and enhance enjoyment

Plate 18 Woodland provides enjoyable recreation, but path maintenance may be required for winter access.

Nigel Symes (The RSPB)

It is not necessary or always desirable for all woodland to be open to the public. Where good access provision exists locally it be may be preferable to minimise access to other areas, especially where there is an important bird community. Assessment of the disturbance risk of various levels of access is difficult, particularly as the understanding of a species’ response to disturbance is limited. Consideration needs to be given to: the size of the wood, the potential numbers of visitors and types of recreation, the routing options for trails, and the opportunity for interpretation and learning activities. However, a number of management options can be considered:

  • Visitors can be routed away from sensitive areas without giving them the feeling that they are being restricted; otherwise the temptation will be to explore off the path.

  • Controlled access to see interesting features within the wood enhances the enjoyment and prevents the feeling of there being more to see.

  • Well-made – surfaced if necessary – and way-marked paths encourage most people to keep to the trail and so minimise disturbance, and enhance their experience.

  • Signage can help to instruct visitors to keep dogs under close control.


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