The netting off of nest sites is becoming a real blight across the UK, as the #NestsNotNets Twitter campaign has been detailing. Why is this happening? Nests of almost all wild birds are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (and amendments) as we have explored extensively in our ever-evolving post Nesting Birds and the Law, but in most cases nest sites are not. If developers or local authorities can stop nests from being started, then technically they are not breaking the law. It’s a ridiculous situation and is being exploited time and time again.
One of the most notorious examples – thanks to excellent work by local campaigners – is the disgraceful deterrent measures being used on ledges used by (Black-legged) Kittiwakes along the Tyne River in North Shields.
Since the 1960s, the River Tyne has supported the most inland breeding colony of kittiwakes in the world. Each spring, these pelagic gulls return to the Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside where they nest on buildings and structures, including the Tyne Bridge. The kittiwakes are now part of this iconic cityscape and a tourist attraction in their own right
The Tyne Kittiwake Partnership was formed to ensure that the Kittiwake population along the Tyne is safeguarded and to work together to improve our understanding of the birds and their conservation needs. The Partnership includes the Natural History Society of Northumbria, RSPB, Northumberland and Durham Wildlife Trusts, local councils, Newcastle University and individual researchers and ornithologists.
Daniel Turner has been monitoring the Tyne kittiwakes since 1994 during which time a great increase in their numbers at Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside has been recorded. This is notable not just because of the special place these birds have chosen to nest, but in light of the significant reductions in populations elsewhere.
However over the years, the owners of many quayside buildings have added spikes, anti-bird netting, electric shock systems and fire-gel to ledges used by the kittiwakes. Photos have been widely shared of young birds trapped behind or tangled in netting, along with numerous reports of birds dying.
Since last summer, many businesses and property owners have been working with the RSPB, RSPCA and Newcastle City Council to make their properties safe for kittiwakes. Dangerous netting has been removed and where netting remains, some property owners have plans in place to ensure swift and safe action to rescue kittiwakes should this be required. These measures have reduced the danger to nesting kittiwakes on the Quayside, but there is still a risk birds may become caught in the remaining netting.
Daniel launched a petition on Change.org last year, calling for the removal of all bird-deterrent netting. He has been posting regular updates on the petition page, and has just posted this tenth update.