Bird spotting along the River Thames

River Thames Scheme focuses on wintering birds

Over the next few months, come rain, shine or even snow, ecologists from the River Thames Scheme (RTS) will be out and about compiling ecological surveys that are vital to the project's long-term goals.

Focused on an area between Egham and Teddington, the RTS will reduce the flood risk for more than 11,000 homes and 1,600 businesses, as well as for vital elements of infrastructure. It will also create additional green open spaces for recreation, extra areas for wildlife, increased biodiversity and sustainable travel routes.

RTS experts have so far carried out hundreds of ecological and environmental surveys – building detailed knowledge of the site to inform future plans.

One of the ecology team's priorities over the coming months will be studying the numerous bird species that spend the winter in the RTS area.

Two species they are particularly looking out for are gadwall and shoveler; migratory ducks that visit Surrey and the neighbouring counties in large numbers at this time of year. The pair are a particular feature of the nearby South West London Waterbodies Special Protection Area (SPA) – a combination of reservoirs and former gravel pits between Windsor and Hampton Court that attracts internationally important numbers of both species.

RTS ecologists will also be recording a wide range of other birds that migrate to areas of the site during the winter, or just pass through on the way to final destinations such as Africa or southern Europe – much as we might visit a motorway service station, resting and refuelling before carrying on the journey.

The findings will feed into a wide-ranging survey programme that is giving the RTS team an in-depth understanding of the ecology and biodiversity within the scheme area so it can be protected and, where possible, enhanced. By establishing the value of existing habitats in and around the Thames, the scheme can make plans to protect them during construction work and help them to thrive in the future.

A statutory consultation is planned for early 2024 and you can find out more about the scheme and the wider benefits on the RTS website. You can also read our Surrey Matters article which explains who is delivering the scheme and how you can help shape it.

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