THERE are growing fears for the safety of Swindon’s birds after reports of trees being chopped down during nesting season.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recommends that any tree or hedge cutting or site clearance takes place outside the period, which runs from February to August.

But people living in the town say this advice is being ignored. 
Freshbrook resident Adonis Sola, 55, said: “I’ve seen a lot of contractors cutting down trees in the area but why now? 

“That’s cruelty to birds if they do it without even checking. Nature is wonderful, the birds are trying to build shelters and it is a lot of effort to build that nest. 

“And then if you are the human being, and just cut down the trees, it’s just unacceptable. It’s like destroying a house.” 

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, nests and eggs are protected by law.

A number of streets have seen vegetation disappear in recent months, including Freshbrook Way, the playpark near Shaw Ridge School, the path and park near Oliver Tomkins Primary School and an area close to Sudeley Way. 

A West Swindon resident who did not want to be named said on Facebook that she had seen contractors cutting trees down, despite birds nesting in them. 

She added: “Birds were nesting and when I spoke to the contractors, they denied seeing any birds nests. The episode was really deplorable considering we are supposed to be encouraging wildlife.”

Swindon Borough Council denied allegations made by some residents, who accused its contractors of neglecting the town’s wildlife. 

Referring to recent work done in West Swindon, a council spokesman said: “This work is being carried out by our grounds team at the request of the parish council. 

“All the work was identified and agreed with the parish clerk. Our grounds staff are extremely experienced and will stop work if they are aware of nesting birds.”

Assistant clerk for West Swindon Parish Council Leanne Curtis added: “West Swindon Parish Council undertakes grounds maintenance work all year round. 

“During the nesting season, the grounds team takes care to check for any signs of nesting and will not undertake work where this is the case.” 

There are several reasons for a tree to be cut down, including disease or safety issues. 

Swindon ecologist Debbie MacKenzie said: “ I know when we write reports which include vegetation clearance we state in certain months – from mid-February to August – a nesting bird survey must be undertaken prior to vegetation clearance. 

“This is a careful survey to look for nests in the area to be cleared and adjacent areas, followed by a quiet sit down to identify any birds making nests or feeding their young. And this has to happen in the morning when the birds.”

Dugald McNaughan, head of fundraising and communications for Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts, says it is difficult to prove an offence has been committed. 

He says that unless authorities enforce rules and regulations and insist on best practice then little will change. 

He said: “If trees are being felled at this time then emphasis would be on the contractor felling the trees to ensure that a qualified and suitable competent ecologist examines the trees immediately in advance of felling and if no territorial behaviour, nest building, nesting is observed then felling may commence. 

“If residents do see nests with eggs or chicks then take a photo and phone the police, as an offence has occurred.”