With major works in progress on the Forth Road Bridge’s main expansion joints, special measures have been put in place by BEAR Scotland to protect a nearby colony of seabirds from noise and visual disturbance during their breeding period, which typically runs from approximately May until August.
Long Craig Island beneath the Forth Road Bridge is part of the Forth Islands Special Protection Area (SPA), which is designated for a range of breeding birds. The island is now home to a colony of nesting common terns. We think they could not have chosen a better backdrop to make their home.
All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended in Scotland). This means that it is an offence to cause disturbance to birds at, on, or near their nests when breeding.
The following measures have been taken by BEAR to protect the terns:
- No access to Long Craig Island by boat or any other means is permitted;
- Sound attenuation barriers have been fitted to the north main tower, which falls within a 400-metre noise exclusion zone. These barriers are soundproof floor panels and curtains which block out any construction noise;
- Noise monitoring equipment is in place at the base of the north main tower and at the north side tower. This monitors noise levels 24/7, alerting engineers to sounds exceeding 75 decibels. In the event of a noise breach, construction work will be stopped immediately;
- BEAR has employed a dedicated Environmental Clerk of Works (ECoW) to monitor terns during breeding season. The ECoW has previous ornithological experience and monitors the birds to review whether they are affected by construction noise. If they deem the birds are being disturbed by construction noise, work will be stopped immediately.
These beautiful seabirds face many threats to their existence. Disturbance from human activities is one potential cause of colony abandonment. Fortunately, in the Firth of Forth, there are several breeding grounds which in recent years have provided safe havens to a seabirds and their hatchlings. BEAR Scotland will continue to support NatureScot and the terns and hope they have a very successful breeding season this summer.