Each year the nesting season sees the emergence out of the stark days of Winter and the true arrival of Spring, as new life is created throughout Wales. Migratory birds return to our shores and our permanent bird inhabitants are busy building or re-establishing their residences for new life.
Sadly, one of the most frequent wildlife enquiries calls the police receive during this time is that of hedge or tree cutting, potentially damaging nests and threatening the future of certain species. Although birds vary in their nesting times, a usual rule of thumb is that the months from March to August are critical for them and any disturbance or destruction can be catastrophic.
Often people are not fully aware of the law, but the guidance given by the RSPB on their website is clear said Rob Taylor, Wales Police Wildlife Co-ordinator.
“We recommend avoiding hedge cutting during the main breeding season for nesting birds, which usually runs throughout March to August each year. This can be weather dependent, and some birds may nest outside this period, so it is important to always check carefully for active nests prior to cutting.
It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built, or to intentionally kill, injure or take chicks or adults, or intentionally take or destroy any eggs.
It is an intentional act, for example, if you or your neighbour know there is an active nest in the hedge and still cut the hedge, damaging, or destroying the nest or contents in the process. Also, farmers should be aware of this when planning to conduct hedge cutting operations.
If someone is cutting a hedge during this period, speak to them and politely mention the risk to birds’ nests and the laws protecting nests. If they proceed and you know there is an active nest at risk, contact the police on 101 and ask to speak with a wildlife officer”.
Wales has several highly trained police wildlife officers and PCSOs who will be able to advise further and if needed investigate any potential offences and of course the RSPB website is also highly informative.
Remember if you are unsure, please ask, because not only is damaging an active nest an offence but it threatens the existence of various species throughout Wales.