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Examples of habitat enhancement

Natural nest sites are quickly disappearing in most urban areas, contributing to a decline in bird and bat populations. Artificial nest boxes provide nesting and roosting sites for a wide range of birds and bats, including species under threat such as:

  • House martins
  • Swifts
  • Swallows
  • House sparrows
  • Peregrine falcons
  • Bats

There are many different types of nest box that cater for different species and needs. They can be retro-fitted to existing buildings and incorporated into new developments relatively easily and at little cost.
Boxes can be used on:

  • Walls or vertical surfaces
  • Under eaves
  • On trees
  • Can be incorporated into the fabric of a new building

Incorporating nest boxes into the fabric of a building ensures the longevity and safety of the box and minimises maintenance needs and visual impact. Retro-fitted boxes can be bolted to a suitably strong surface high up in locations where birds won’t be disturbed. Ready-made commercial nest boxes are now widely available, such as woodcrete type boxes which are particularly durable.

Bat bricks and boxes can be incorporated into a development to provide roosting sites for bats, although to encourage bats to use the boxes, it is important that foraging habitats for bats are also incorporated within any landscape design. It must also be noted that bat boxes, once installed, should only be inspected, removed or relocated by a licensed bat worker.

The positioning of a nest box can be key to its success. There are a few simple things that you should consider when siting a nest box:

  • What species you are looking to support
  • Site height (boxes should normally be at least 5 metres above the ground)
  • Direction of direct sunlight and prevailing wind
  • Make sure there is a clear flight path and that the box is away from sources of disturbance
  • Manufacturer’s guidelines for the specific box selected

Landscape schemes can be designed to benefit wildlife through:

  • Planting of trees
  • Native hedges
  • Other plants which encourage wildlife
  • Incorporation of climbers on walls
  • Creation of wetlands
  • Ponds
  • Meadow areas
  • Addition of features such as log piles
  • Stone piles
  • Rockeries
  • Dry stone walls will also support biodiversity

Landscape can provide for both amenity and biodiversity with careful design.

The local context should be considered in developing a landscape design. Locally appropriate plant species should be incorporated wherever possible to maximise biodiversity benefits. The development should also be considered in its wider landscape context to ensure opportunities to promote green infrastructure and connectivity are maximised. For example verges can create green corridors which connect fragmented or isolated habitats by allowing species to travel between them. Natural areas can cost less in maintenance costs than formal landscaping.

Careful habitat enhancement can also enable ecosystems to adapt to the effects of climate change, and contribute to the development’s long term resilience. Consideration should be given to planting habitats that will extend the existing range of wildlife species and allow them to move within the landscape in response to climate change.

  • Wherever possible, use native plant species

Provide a good vegetation structure  

  • Trees and shrubs will provide shelter,
  • Food 
  • Nesting sites for a whole host of birds, bats and other mammals

Incorporate tree planting on or off site

  • ensure adequate space is provided for larger shade providing trees to grow

Tree planting should be designed to complement the other enhancements provided, including

  • Connecting areas of canopy cover
  • Creating green corridors by providing links with areas of natural habitat off site

Supply feeding areas –

  • Plant a range of flowering plants
  • Night-scented plants, will provide a source of nectar for a range of species such as butterflies and bumblebees and will attract insects for bats to feed on
  • Consider berry producing shrubs to provide a natural food source for birds and small mammals

Use space innovatively

  • Small areas of landscaping can be designed for biodiversity through the incorporation of climbers on walls and fences as shelter and a source of food

Incorporate loggeries  

  • Dead wood and log piles will provide a habitat for insects such as stag beetles and hibernation sites for small mammals such as hedgehogs

Use rain water

  • Harvested rain water can be used for landscape irrigation or to create natural water features which benefit birds
  • Use of drought resistant plants which will need less water should also be considered

Complement landscape schemes with other biodiversity features

  • Consider the use of hedgehog boxes
  • Ladybird houses and hibernacula to complement your landscape design

Wildlife friendly planting  

  • When deciding on planting schemes consider a variety of nectar rich plants and shrubs which flower at different times of the year or provide all year round colour and nectar

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Last updated: 28 June 2017 | Last reviewed: 28 June 2017