Walkers in the Yorkshire Dales National Park are being urged to think about ground nesting birds over the next few months.
As the birds start to incubate eggs and raise their young, dog owners are asked to keep their pets on a lead to reduce the chances of disturbing them. And to help visitors get to know the types of birds they may see, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has produced a free leaflet showing the five main ground nesting species, along with descriptions of their appearances, their calls and their favourite habitats.
The Authority's Ranger Services Manager, Alan Hulme, said the opening up of huge areas of the National Park under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2005 meant that people no longer had to stay on paths and could walk on open countryside.
'This has meant that parts of the National Park that were previously no-go areas for visitors – including some used by ground nesting birds – are now seeing more humans.'
'We are trying to highlight the fact that these breeding areas are now vulnerable to disruption by passing walkers and their dogs. It is for this reason that access may be restricted to only using rights of way on some of the moorland areas of the National Park.'
'Disturbance can mean that adult birds flee the nest, leaving eggs to get cold or, later, leaving newly-born hatchlings exposed to the elements and to predators.'
Malcolm Petyt, the YDNPA's Member Champion for Recreation Management, said:
'The message is that dogs and birds don't mix and we hope the leaflet will help people to identify the birds and the places they are likely to be as they raise their chicks over the next few months.'
Called Ground Nesting Birds – the Big Five in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the leaflet gives details about skylarks, lapwings, red grouse, oystercatchers and curlews, as well as advice on ways of minimising contact with them. It is available at National Park Centres and Park Information Points.