Press release on disturbance issues affecting Brent Geese and Wildfowl

If you see it report it to Gavin Bloomfield our conservation officer....

Wildlife experts are appealing to the public to take care around the estuaries of the Westcountry this autumn after a number of incidents in which migratory wildfowl were disturbed.

The problem is especially acute on the Exe estuary, where thousands of geese, ducks and waders – both resident and those just passing through – can be seen in the late autumn and winter.

But other estuaries where internationally important numbers of waterfowl gather to feed and rest are also susceptible to human disturbance and the advice  from the RSPB is to take care and keep dogs on leads in areas where birds are gathered.

Tony Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB in the Westcountry said: “Every year thousands of birds flock to the Exe from the far north. Right now, just off Exmouth the estuary’s large flock of Brent geese, is ‘refuelling’ on the rich eel grass beds having recently flown in from Siberia.

“They are no doubt tired and hungry after their 3,000-mile journey from the Taymyr peninsula and the last thing they need – to be honest – is to be accidently disturbed by people and dogs and to then waste energy  flying around!”

He said the Exe is internationally important for its wintering birds, and is particularly well known for its famous avocet, that last year reached record numbers. Every year thousands of wildlife watchers flock to the estuary to enjoy the spectacle.

Tony went on: “The Exe is one of the UK’s best places  to see waterbirds in winter. It’s a wonderfully precious place. So we’d really urge people just to take a little more care when they are out and about near the birds.

"The flocks are obvious, you can both see them, and if you listen, hear them. Please just keep your distance and let the birds feed in peace.”

Autumn and winter can be some of the best times for spotting waterfowl and waders – and the RSPB have advice for getting the most out of a bird-spotting trip to the estuary.

“Wintering waders, and other coastal species that feed on the exposed mud at low tide, use high tide roosts when the sea covers their feeding grounds,” the conservation  charity says.

“Sometimes, these favoured areas of higher shingle or mud can draw in tens of thousands of birds while they wait for the tide to fall. To find out when high tide is, you need to check the tide tables for that part of the coast.

“It is best to get into a good viewing position an hour or two beforehand, so that you can see the massed birds fly  in, and to avoid disturbing them when you come and go.”

Some high tides are higher than others. 'Spring tides' are the highest, and likely to drive more birds into the roost sites, especially if there is a low pressure weather system or an onshore wind. You don't need to wait until the spring, though: the term refers to the way the tide 'springs' up the beach!

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