Tina Turner used to scare away birds at Staverton Airport
KEEPING airport runways clear of birds is a daily challenge – and one that Gloucestershire Airport has turned into a fine art.
Fire crews and operations staff at Staverton have developed a host of creative techniques for fending off feathered foes, whether it is sending out distress calls, acting the big bird by beating their chests, using Roman candle fireworks to get birds to take flight, or swinging a bin liner round their heads to imitate a bird of prey.
But one unusual method has become the stuff of legend and was even mentioned on Nevermind the Buzzcocks.
Head of Operations Darren Lewington explained: "Normally we use the speakers on the top of the vehicle we use to drive around the airport to play bird distress calls.
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"But when our bird distress noises weren't working properly, they turned the tape player on, and that day it was Tina Turner who scared the birds away."
Since 2003, airports have had to report not just the number of birds frequenting their land, but the species trying to nest on airfields.
Gloucestershire Airport's operations team has found that crows and urban gulls are the biggest issue for them, with up to 20,000 gulls making their travels through the Severn Valley every day.
Mr Lewington said: "Nominally, we adopt a 'zero tolerance' policy. Some bird activity is, of course, unavoidable and we're sensitive where we can be, such as not cutting the grass until the skylarks have finished nesting.
"Our operations and fire crew staff carry out routine bird patrols throughout the day and when requested by air traffic control, which maintains constant vigilance across the airfield.
"Our staff are appropriately trained in bird control measures and use a variety of techniques to disperse birds from the airfield. These include the use of distress calls, pyrotechnics and lures. The physical presence of a vehicle or personnel on the runway is generally an adequate deterrent."
Christopher Short, of the Gloucestershire-based Countryside and Community Research Institute, said: "Clearly birds and planes are not a good combination for either the bird or the plane.
"You want something therefore that's going to keep those birds away, and create a habitat that's not of interest for them."