HS2’s decision to use hawks to scare birds from nesting in woodland near Kenilworth has been blasted by the Woodland Trust.
The high speed line developer has employed a pest control contractor to deter birds from nesting.
They say protestors at the Broadwell Woods site stopped them from felling trees during winter while no birds would be nesting, which has forced them to take on the work now.
The developer claims it has been using hawks to encourage birds to nest at other sites and they are trained not to attack.
But the Woodland Trust charity claims the move is ‘astonishing and skirts the law’.
Lead ecology Luci Ryan said: “Alarming as it is that a government scheme would use such a damaging method, and without disclosing it, we’re more concerned about why and what comes next? The wood is currently teeming with life – bluebells emerging, badgers busy in their setts and birds prospecting.
“Works should not start until October when the wood is dormant, so it begs the question why attempt to prevent birds nesting now unless contractors wish to bring the bulldozers in this spring? By employing tactics that skirt the law, HS2 yet again appears to be a cowboy operation and not an exemplar of best practice expected of a government-backed project.
“This latest action adds even further weight to the argument for a rethink on the execution of HS2. Who is holding HS2 to account? It seems they’ve been left to mark their own homework.”
HS2 is set to fell an area of trees around the size of four football pitches at Broadwell Woods to make way for phase one between London and Birmingham. A total of 54 kilometres of the high speed line will cut through Warwickshire’s countryside.
But HS2 said felling trees during nesting season was legal, as long as birds were not disturbed or harmed.
A HS2 spokesman said: “HS2 contractors are keenly aware of the law around nesting birds, and during nesting season an ecologist is present during all tree clearance work in order to spot nesting birds and stop work where necessary.
“The use of specially-trained hawks is one of a number of efficient and effective tools we have to encouraging birds to nest away from our construction sites. The hawks are trained not to attack birds and, where possible, decoys attached to poles are also used to ward off smaller birds from nesting.
“Trained hawks have had to be used in Broadwells Wood because the presence of protesters has stopped trees being felled during the winter and before the bird nesting season starts.”
But protestors told the Observer they have not been at the site until recently – when they heard about the use of hawks.
Save Cubbington Woods spokesman Matt Bishop said: “It is absolute nonsense there have been no protestors in the woods. Saying we were there is a complete lie.
“We only started going to Broadwells Wood two weeks ago when they started using the hawks.”