The caring nature of British business

No.:  2010-08-38
August 2010

Thousands of Britain’s most vulnerable breeding birds have benefited from the caring side of business this summer. Companies have employed a remarkable number of conservation initiatives to attract, monitor and care for breeding birds on their sites. These efforts have been rewarded with the flap of diminutive wings and patter of tiny feet.

Dungeness Power Station

Dungeness Power Station 
British Energy

There is nothing more symbolic of the British countryside than the sight of a hovering Kestrel. As part of the BTO–EDF Energy Business Bird Challenge 2010 sites have been providing additional nesting sites for this and many other species. Dry Rigg Quarry (Lafarge Aggregates, N. Yorkshire) had a particularly successful pair of Kestrels who raised five chicks. This shows that they provide just the right habitat to sustain the Kestrels food source.

The greatest reward for all the effort put into conservation on these business sites is the breeding of a bird on-site for the first time. Pied Flycatchers are experiencing worrying declines; 50% have disappeared since 1995. So, it is quite an achievement for Horton Quarry (Hanson Aggregates N. Yorkshire), to record its first ever breeding pair. The Breeding Bird Survey at Tophill Low Reservoir (Yorkshire Water, E.Yorkshire) revealed their first breeding pair of red-listed Grasshopper Warblers.

Sometimes, the nesting of a new species is the reward for years of conservation work and the provision of additional nesting sites but, every now and then, it is the result of the opportunistic use of a temporary habitat. This year, Avocets nested at Little Paxton Quarry (Bardon Aggregates, Cambs) for the first time. Two pairs took advantage of some temporary islands created by the dewatering of one of the worked-out pits prior to its restoration, successfully fledging young.

Birds do not always choose the most convenient places to nest and this can often cause immense disruption to a working business site. A Little Ringed Plover chose to nest in one of the car parks at Torness Power Station (British Energy/EDF Energy, E. Lothian), leading to the closure of the car park. Sand Martins are notorious for claiming ownership of sand piles or unattended banks but will happily nest in artificial sites. Whisby Quarry (Lafarge Aggregates, Lincs) was one of the sites that installed a new Sand Martin bank this spring; it was occupied immediately!

There has been less encouraging news for some species. The Turtle Dove has undergone severe declines over the past 25 years. Despite their best efforts only 16 of the 57 Challenge sites reported the species this summer compared with 22 in 2008. The downturn in its fortunes is, unhappily, demonstrated at Whisby Quarry (Lafarge Aggregates, Lincs) where, for the first time in over 20 years, no breeding Turtle Doves have been recorded.

Further examples are provided in the Quarter 2 Challenge Bulletin.

Kate Aldridge (BTO Challenge Organiser) commented “The contribution that the business sector makes to enhancing Britain’s biodiversity and the quality of the habitat that they provide should not be underestimated. Our Challenge sites are substantial landowners and they put enormous efforts into planning, preparing for and monitoring the breeding season. It is superb to see all the companies taking part in the Business Bird Challenge being rewarded for their efforts, whilst providing some of our rarer breeding birds with just what they need.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The Business Bird Challenge began in 1994 and is a unique partnership between businesses, the BTO and local communities, which encourages biodiversity on business and industrial sites. Held every two years, the Challenge has become a celebration of environmental initiatives by businesses throughout the UK, in the categories of Conservation, Community and Birds.
  2. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk and Stirling, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by supporters, government, industry and conservation organisations.
  3. Business Bird Challenge Sponsors - The combination of EDF Energy and British Energy forms one of the UK’s largest energy companies. The new EDF Energy is the UK’s largest producer of electricity and the largest generator of low carbon electricity in Britain. Through their climate and social commitments they have launched the biggest environmental and social packages of any UK energy company.   It produces around one-fifth of the nation's electricity from nuclear, coal and gas power stations, as well as combined heat and power plants and wind farms. They provide power to a quarter of the UK’s population via electricity distribution networks and supply gas and electricity to over 5.5 million business and residential customer accounts.

Contact information

Kate Aldridge (Challenge Organiser)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Email: challenge [at]

Paul Stancliffe (BTO Press Officer)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07845 900559 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Martyn Butlin (EDF Energy)
Office: 01524 863565

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