South Walney Nature Reserve has issued a plea following reports of dogs being loose and causing disturbance to wildlife at a crucial time.

At this time of year, a wonderful array of birds are preparing to nest at South Walney Nature Reserve near Barrow.

They include Arctic terns, oystercatcher, eider duck, ringed plover and lapwing, as well as skylarks and meadow pipits. It is what makes this coastal nature reserve so special and popular.

But Cumbria Wildlife Trust has moved to remind the public that these are ground-nesting birds and therefore liable to disturbance.

QUIET: Ringed Plover and Chick Credit: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

QUIET: Ringed Plover and Chick Credit: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Sarah Dalrymple, reserves officer at South Walney Nature Reserve, has issued an important message for all those wanting to visit.

“We’re so lucky to have this fantastic variety of incredibly important wildlife, much of which is threatened and in decline,” she said.

“That’s why we have restrictions in place on the nature reserve, specifically to protect the birds.

“It’s the only place on Morecambe Bay where access is restricted like this.

“Sadly, we’ve had reports of lots of visitors at South Walney straying off the clearly marked paths and also bringing dogs on to the site, which is not allowed (apart from assistance dogs).

“I want to tell visitors to South Walney that they are welcome to come and walk here for their daily local exercise, but I urge them to please keep to the paths and do not bring dogs.

NATURE: Arctic tern eggs. Credit: Duncan Cooke

NATURE: Arctic tern eggs. Credit: Duncan Cooke

“Even a very well-behaved dog on a lead will scare birds away from their nests!

“These wonderful nesting birds need peace, and recent disturbance from people and their dogs is in danger of seriously threatening this year’s nesting season.”

Despite being known for their grey seal population at the reserve – counted as a record 495 at the haul-out back in December 2020, the highest count since Cumbria Wildlife Trust ran a drone survey in March 2019 which counted 483 – the reserve is also home to a unique range of wild birds.

This means that it is important visitors follow all the guidelines issued so that they do not disturb the creatures in their natural habitat.

In line with Government guidance, the visitor centre and hides at South Walney Nature Reserve are closed until further notice, but the car park and toilets are open.

The new seal and bird-watching shelter is open – it is next to Braithwaite Hide. If you are visiting the nature reserve, members of the public are urged to follow social distancing guidelines.