Forestry Commission Felling and Nesting Birds

Hi All,

This is my first post and it is because of the mess that the Forestry Commission is making of the Woods I live by.

My question is about felling activity in the nesting season.  We have a wide variety of birds from GoldFinch and Long Tailed Tits to Siskins, Redpoll all the way up to Sparrowhawk, Goshawk and Buzzard nesting behind us.

The question I have is about felling.  They started felling in some areas last Autumn, then moved out for a couple of months (January and February) and have just started felling again today.  Are they allowed to fell during the Nesting Season?  I thought the Wildlife act made it a criminal offence to deliberately disturb/destroy nesting sites.

They have deliberately taken out trees that we pointed out had Woodpeckers nests in them even though the trees were unmarked for felling.  The contractors seem to think they have carte-blanch to remove timber which they can sell on the side for firewood.

We also have many species of Bats as well as rare Lesser Horseshoe Bats who roost somewhere in the woods (I know because they come and hang off the Beams in our house for a rest sometimes!).

So my question is - should they be felling now?  or are they meant to wait until after nesting season?




  • Not sure where in the country you are but if this is being done by the Forestry Commission or Forest Enterprise you should contact the local office for an explanation of why the work is being done


    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • In reply to Seaman:

    Bumping this thread back up ...


    Death - Terry Pratchett (The Last Continent).

  • Hi Mark

    Not the first time I've heard complaints about FC's felling practices. It's an offence intentionally to kill, injure or 'take' a wild bird or to take or destroy a nest while it's in use or being built, UNLESS it is the incidental result of a lawful operation that could not reasonably be avoided. There's no law against forestry operations in the breeding season as such.

    A responsible forest manager will probably tell you that they try to avoid felling during the breeding season but that with the sheer amount of work that has to be done on the FC estates they can't possibly do all of it in the winter. There are guidelines for working distances around nest sites of some rare and threatened forest birds including goshawks which you mention - again, a responsible forest manager will be aware of this and should be making contractors aware of these guidelines if there are certain species there. But I'm afraid woodpecker holes and the more common forest species don't attract the same level of care.

    I appreciate it will probably be a rather unsatisfying answer but I can really only suggest that you ring the appropriate FC office and ask to discuss the timing and practices you've observed, with them, especially if FC are using contractors who might be going at it a bit hard.



  • In reply to Colin Wilkinson:

    Hi, I'm glad this has been mentioned as in the last couple of weeks Farmers have been felling quiet a few mature tree's along the hedgrows around some of the country lanes in the area where I live. I have been quiet concerned about this as I thought it was a strange time to be cutting back anything in the wild while it is the breeding/nesting season. Also I have seen some tree felling in some of the meadows not to far from where I live.


    Feed The Birds....not the cats!!!!

    I spelling's crap !!

  • In reply to Colin Wilkinson:

    Hi Colin,


    I think I'm too late - the Larch that our local Goshawks have been nest building in has now gone and I haven't seen them since.

    Regarding the 'sheer amount of work' - well NO work is done at all by the Forestry in this area - except on the cycle tracks and amenities around Beechenhurst.   Nearly all clearing of invasives such as Laurel has been done by volunteers in the autumn months.  With regards to felling - this is mostly ONE independent contractor who appears when he wants and seems to fell a tree here and there.


    Properly managed the Forestry could easily work around the nesting season - they just don't have the imagination to make it happen.

    I wish the Forestry WAS sold off - as long as it was only to conservation minded groups  - and that the overriding requirement was biological diversity and quantity alongside RESTRICTED human access.

    Ho HUm

  • Anonymous

    In reply to Wildpiguk:

    Hi Wildpiguk

    I am sorry to hear this news about the nesting birds, and the tree issue

    I have to say I would have thought that the FC would be a lot more professional than you have mentioned about the nesting birds

    Have you thought of getting in touch with the 'Tree Preservation' people and see what they have to say about the subject.

    I used to work in the Council - Water board and they where very fussy about Trees that where cut down.  It had to be confirmed due to the species of the tree and nesting times too

    Let me know what you decide to do


    Kathy and Dave


  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Like Blackbird I am surprised at the attitude of the FC and wonder if there is no one checking on the contracters.

    Blackbird,like you I worked for our local water company for over 20 years,it was one of the most conservation minded outfits I ever encountered and I  even managed some birding in their time as well thanks to my direct manager,she was a keen birder too.


    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • Dear Mark,

    Foresters do fell all the year round because the demand for timber, the investment in machinery and jobs mean there is a need for work to go on all the time. But both legally and for the environmental standards required for the FSC certification covering the whole FC estate a huge amount of care is taken over nesting birds. The aim is never to fell trees where there are known birds nesting and for protected species never to disturb them: for Goshawk in particular nests are known and surveys carried out and work planned to avoid the nesting season. With persecution the main threat if you look at the BTO atlas Goshawk distribution uncannily matches FC forests ! In the lowland pine forests where young crops are sprayed in summer tractor drivers watch for flushed Nightjars and drive around the nest - and then report nest sites to local ringing groups. It is impossible to avoid harming smaller birds and some nests must be lost but in population terms with a 50 year felling rotation only 1/100th of the forest will be affected in any one breeding season, and for thinning on a 5 year cycle, where only a proportion of trees (usually less than 1/3rd) are affected, it is 1/10th each year. Whilst loss of nests is an obvious problem, what is far more hidden and far more serious, is that nearly half England's woodlands are unmanaged and this is having a huge impact on declining species like Nightingale which depend on young stages of growth - RSPB reserves like the Blean which are intensively managed as coppice make the point. The RSPB/FC booklet 'Woodland Management for Birds' is probably the best source of further information.  

  • In reply to Nightjar:

    n.b. this thread is over 4 years old, and some of the contributors haven't been active on here for years. Don't be disappointed if you get no response, Nightjar.