The RSPB today released heartbreaking footage showing quad bikers recklessly riding Snettisham Beach, one of Norfolk’s strongholds for endangered breeding birds, including little ringed plovers.
Have to watch: See the footage of the ruthless drivers here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/e83swvb06s3uiuo/Quads.MOV?dl=0
Filmed by the RSPB, the clip shows five quad bikes cruising at high speed over Snettisham Beach and the RSPB’s Snettisham Nature Reserve, several miles of vital nesting habitat for the rapidly declining species as well as other birds such as oystercatchers.
The events take place at the beginning of the breeding season, after the birds have performed courtship rituals, pair bonds and in advance of egg-laying for months. Little ringed plovers create scratches, shallow holes in the sand / gravel for laying eggs, some of which were flattened by the tires of these quads.
Working with the Norfolk Police Department, the charity urges visitors to look out for the wildlife in the country, as over half of England’s most endangered breeding bird species nest on or near the ground.
Little Ringed Plover and Dunlin, Copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries
The little ringed plover is one of those birds, the sharp decline of which is due in part to increased visitor pressure to beaches where they nest near the ground and remain well camouflaged. South Heacham Beach has been designated for its internationally significant wildlife and is an important habitat for these birds. Therefore, such a disruption can have a significant impact, especially since the breeding population of the Norfolk Kentish plover has declined by 79 percent over the past 35 years.
To aid the fate of little ringed plovers suffering from global decline, Plovers in Peril, a partnership funded by the United States, has set out to educate beachgoers about the fragility of the species while monitoring bird behavior and habitats.
Wynona Legg, Little Ringed Plover Project Leader, said of the project: “As a team, we watch the birds every step of the way and work hard to give them the space and shelter they have
“The RSPB is working with Ken Hill Estate and Norfolk Coast AONB to raise awareness of beach nesting birds on the property and we hope to show that together we can ensure their presence here is protected by watching your step and breeding birds give space far into the future. “
This recent behavior by quad bikers, as witnessed by the project team and the public, is a heartbreaking blow to the project. Although, fortunately, no eggs had been observed by RSPB staff and volunteers at the time of the incident, active nests with birds that were hatching eggs would have destroyed, the damage to the birds’ breeding efforts could have been much more serious, and the violations rightly.
Regarding Norfolk Police’s efforts to combat wildlife crime on Norfolk beaches, PC Chris Shelley said: “We are working closely with conservation organizations, local councils and other key partners along the Norfolk coast to address areas of concern such as disruption of the Identify and try to identify marine life in order to protect and preserve our abundant wildlife habitats.
“We are also proud to be part of the national Operation Seabird initiative this summer. Our focus is on protecting our endangered bottom-nesting seabirds, such as terns and little ringed plovers, ensuring the seals on our beaches are not disturbed, and educating and encouraging visitors to be responsible and always consider how their actions relate affect our wildlife and, when necessary, take action against those who deliberately and deliberately destroy our wildlife and their habitats. “
In collaboration with the RSPB, the Norfolk Police Department encourages the public to report any incidents of suspected damage or disturbance to wildlife, eggs or nests at these locations in addition to public safety matters.
All wild birds and their nests are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. For some species that nest on the beach, including small terns, this legal protection is even stronger because the population numbers are so small. It is important that anyone who observes a disturbance in breeding birds or their nests report it to the police as soon as possible, either under 999 when the incident occurs or under 101 when the incident is over.
- The quad bikes in this incident were seen riding across wild coastal land owned by Ken Hill Estate, an internationally important coastal habitat that is part of The Wash SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), RSPB Snettisham Reserve, and through narrow, permissive public Footpaths that do not use for vehicle. The warm weather had drawn many visitors to the beach that day, and the reckless driving of unauthorized vehicles on this densely populated beach is a danger to the public, including those with young children and dogs and those using tight public rights of way. As early as a week after these events, active nests were observed, which can now be found on the other side of the beach – if these were destroyed during the activity, the damage to the birds’ breeding efforts could have been much greater and the offenses could have been criminal.
- The breeding population of the Norfolk Kentish plover has declined by 79 percent in 35 years, with only 123 pairs recorded in 2018.
- Little ringed plovers nest in shallow scrapes in the sand or gravel and are easy to disturb. Their eggs and chicks are also very camouflaged, making them prone to being trampled on. To give them the best chance of breeding, visitors are asked to look out for signs indicating the presence of beach breeding birds, stay away from the barriers on the beach, walk low on the beach along the water or if possible on the coastal path, be careful Wherever they step, keep dogs under control and do not leave or bury trash or scraps of food that can attract predators like rats. The RSPB, as part of the Plovers in Peril project, also has staff and volunteers on the beaches to talk to visitors about these particular birds and keep an eye on their nests.
- Further information on the plover in danger project can be found here