Mitigating Disturbances in SPAs

TEP’s Principal Ornithologist Tim Ross gave a presentation at the International Wader Study Group annual meeting, which took place in Morecambe, Lancashire last month.  His presentation was titled “A case study of a mitigation strategy designed to limit helicopter related disturbance of waterbirds within a coastal Special Protection Area”.

Helicopters can cause bird disturbance near heliports and where birds are overflown at low altitudes,  but there are few studies into the disturbance effects of helicopters on birds.  This brings challenges for developers and nature conservation statutory advisors when undertaking impact assessments to inform heliport planning proposals, particularly for developments located close to coastal designated sites for waterbirds.

Tim described the findings of the first year’s implementation of his Bird Mitigation and Monitoring Plan for the Barrow-in-Furness based helicopter facility, adjacent to a Special Protection Area for waterbirds.

Tim explained how a range of mitigation measures including no fly zones and minimum cruising altitudes are being used to minimise negative effects on feeding and roosting waterbirds.  His work includes bird monitoring and an adaptive management mechanism to update the mitigation based on monitoring outcomes. 

Feedback from this initial period of work has concluded that most waterbird species, especially the more numerous oystercatcher, appear to be especially resilient to the helicopter activity provided they are not directly overflown and the period of disturbance is not prolonged. 

For more information on the study of waders visit: