Molly Brown

As spring and summer arrive, spending time outdoors and in our gardens is one of our favourite things to do as a nation. Having our own piece of nature to look after and enjoy is a pleasure for most people, and it allows us to feel a little bit closer to wildlife. Watching a pair of blackbirds hopping on the lawn looking for worms, or being front row at your very own local robin’s concert, is one of the joys of spending time in your garden. As most people will know, once March comes around it’s officially house-hunting time for birds! More and more of our feathered friends will be making use of the trees, shrubs, and climbers in our gardens to build their precious nests in. This vegetation is a lifeline for the birds: it will provide a foundation on which their nests will rest, it will protect their eggs and chicks from wind, rain and sun and will even hide them from predators. However, with more people spending time in their gardens during the warmer months, so does their needs/wants for having a tidy up and trimming this type of vegetation.

Robin with nesting material - Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

Robin with nesting material - Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

So, what to do if you want to trim your hedges? We do recommend waiting until after  the main nesting season (March-September) as the possibility of birds nesting is very high, but as long as no active nests are moved or damaged, you can legally cut vegetation year-round. Firstly, you need to watch the area for a few days to make sure you do not see any nesting activity in the vegetation. When birds are nesting, they are constantly popping to and from the nesting site. This is because at all stages of nesting they need to keep returning. Therefore, your main indicator is whether you have birds regularly coming in and out of the vegetation. If they leave first thing in the morning and don’t return until night, then they’re probably just using the area to sleep (roost) in. Before beginning any cutting, you should still thoroughly check the hedge/tree to make sure you can’t see any active nests. If not, then you may cut. We recommend using manual cutting tools instead of electric ones, as they are easier to control and stop should you come across any wildlife.

Long-tailed tit nest in hedge - Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

Long-tailed tit nest in hedge - Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

What if you’ve seen someone cutting their vegetation, and they’ve damaged or destroyed active nests in the process? This is definitely not allowed! Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), wild birds’ nests are protected from intentional damage, destruction or removal when they are in use or being built. This means if someone knows they’ve got a pair of wrens nesting in their ivy, and they cut it anyway and damage the nest, then they would be breaking the law. We always recommend that if you think an offence has taken place, then you should phone the police via the non-emergency 101 telephone number, and ask to speak to the local Wildlife Crime Officer – you can do this anonymously.

Find out more: hedge cutting and the law

Anonymous
  • Hi

    local election coming up-  one candidate standing on a MILLION TREES planting ticket-  fine but Norfolk County Council / Highways currently cutting trees down along all main roads around here 

  • So upset last week to find all the hedging outside a house three doors away being chopped and removed and has made way to a horrendous high wooden fence!  The contractor was confronted but replied far too quickly 'there were no nests' without even knowing that was the question.  Must have learnt the response off pat!  The sparrows and wrens used to go into these particular hedges all the time - the hedges had been there over 30 years!  Dawn chorus has been very quiet since - heart breaking!  Only consolation is that the occupants of the house now  only have a horrible looking fence to admire outside their lounge window!

  • So upset last week to find all the hedging outside a house three doors away being chopped and removed and has made way to a horrendous high wooden fence!  The contractor was confronted but replied far too quickly 'there were no nests' without even knowing that was the question.  Must have learnt the response off pat!  The sparrows and wrens used to go into these particular hedges all the time - the hedges had been there over 30 years!  Dawn chorus has been very quiet since - heart breaking!  Only consolation is that the occupants of the house now  only have a horrible looking fence to admire outside their lounge window!

  • A trip to Marlow, Bucks will show how little regard councils & people have for birds, nesting or otherwise. The amount of trees, hedging and potential nesting sites destroyed and being destroyed is heart breaking. A neighbour cleared 20 ft of beautiful brambles from a field (not his) adjacent to his garden because it ruined the view. They didn't care it was home to birds, mammals & insects or the the blossom was essential for the bees & pollinators.