A group of Roche employees and an ornithologist are working to help birds at the Basel/Kaiseraugst site.
The skies above Basel are a busy place. Over 100 bird species – everything from blackbirds to chiffchaffs – are native to the region. Around 10 of these species have made the Basel site their home and are now encountered there regularly. This was one of the discoveries made by the project team headed by Pascal Eicher, a gardener at the Basel/Kaiseraugst site, with the help of the ornithologist Jean-Pierre Biber. The project emerged from the EcoLogicals scheme: a bottom-up community of employees dedicated to environmental protection.
“There is an agreement between the canton of Basel-Stadt and Roche regarding cooperation in the area of environmental protection,” says Pascal. “Every year, we report on the measures we take for the environment here at the Basel site.” These include, for example, transforming the roofs on the site into green roofs and installing nesting boxes on buildings in Basel. Pascal wanted to make life even better for the birds on the site, so he started the bird project.
Bird guards on patrol
The project is broken down into three phases: monitoring, implementation of measures and the control phase. The monitoring stage began in April 2019 and runs until February 2020. Pascal, Jean-Pierre and a team of volunteer employees known as bird guards completed a total of seven tours of the site. On each tour, they spent three hours walking the same route, stopping at pre-defined observation points to listen out and look for all the birds. The goal was to find out which bird species live at the Basel site, which buildings are suitable for installing nesting boxes and where the birds feed.
“I can recognise all the bird species in this region by their song,” says Jean-Pierre, who has been working as an ornithologist for over 30 years. “But it was a great help to have Roche employees with me as several pairs of eyes and ears see and hear more.” The ten bird species discovered include blackbirds, swifts, great tits and blackcaps. “In terms of numbers, there could be more birds and more bird species,” Jean-Pierre says.
Think of the birds when building
To increase the numbers, specific measures will be implemented in the second project phase, which begins in mid-2020. These include growing plants that certain bird species can feed on and installing green roofs. In addition, the birds’ needs will be taken into account before the construction of new buildings. Modern buildings often do not provide them with any opportunities to nest due to their energy-efficient designs, which avoid all openings that allow heat to escape. “It would be perfect for the birds if Building 1 had a gable roof,” Jean-Pierre says, laughing.
Luckily there are more aesthetic ways of creating nesting places for birds. The way to do this is to already think of their needs at the start of the construction phase, as is currently the case with the new research centre or the new Buildings 8 and 11. The project leaders are in contact with Jean-Pierre to establish how nesting boxes – particularly for common and Alpine swifts, which are already native to the site – can be integrated into the façades from the outset. “Not all buildings are suitable for all birds. Depending on the building project, we therefore try to take into account the needs of specific species,” explains Florian Hofmann Aeschlimann, project leader for Buildings 8 and 11.
In addition to deadwood and a green roof on Building 8, which will be opened at the end of 2020, an open lattice roof over the infrastructure rooms will ensure that the black redstart will be able to nest and feel at home there. By contrast, the new research centre with its high buildings will become a home for kestrels and peregrine falcons. They love to nest high up, so the structure’s height of up to 114 metres will make it ideal for these birds.
In the final project phase at the end of the year, checks will be carried out to assess whether the measures have been successful. Have the birds used the potential nesting places? Has the number of birds at the site risen? The bird project will be expanded to include Kaiseraugst in mid-2020.
The EcoLogicals are employees at the Basel/Kaiseraugst site who are actively committed to protecting the environment. The bottom-up community implements projects at the site, such as the Bird Guards project.