Share the Shore – Please!
Created on: Wednesday, 07 October 2020. Posted in: Press Releases
Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership (SLLP) is encouraging dog walkers around the shores of the Strangford and Lecale AONB to “Share the Shore”. PJ Gault, Chairperson of the SLLP committee said “Allowing dogs to run off lead and chase the birds that are feeding or resting on our shores is harmful to the birds. Please exercise your dogs on lead, or, if possible, away from coastal locations during this time of the year. It is up to all of us to look after our wildlife and ensure these fascinating birds will return to our shores for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Strangford Lough is the most important coastal site in Northern Ireland for wintering water birds, holding large numbers of geese, ducks and waders. Every Autumn and Winter, September to March, we are treated to the spectacle of thousands of over-wintering birds coming to our shores from colder climes. Approximately, 80,000 birds including internationally important numbers of Brent geese, Knot and Redshank over-winter here.
These wildfowl and waders, and their young, undertake incredible journeys from Arctic Canada and Eastern Europe to reach our shores. They get here exhausted and underweight, and for this reason it is particularly important that they are not disturbed. They need to be given time and space to rest and feed. These birds can only feed when the tide is out and mostly during the day. It takes a huge effort for a bird to lift in flight, it is therefore vital that every effort is made to avoid causing them to take flight. The birds have a small window to feed and they cannot afford to lose valuable feeding time or energy.
If you are visiting the shores around the Strangford Lough and the Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty this autumn and winter, please take note of this simple advice:
Firstly, keep your distance! The birds will continue to feed if you keep a reasonable distance from them. Importantly, keep your dog under control. Dogs are the greatest cause of disturbance to over-wintering birds. The best way to do this is to keep them on a lead and away from the feeding and roosting birds in winter. And finally, watch and enjoy! If you follow this advice you can enjoy the experience without causing harm.
Ards and North Down Borough Council Mayor Councillor Trevor Cummings said, “Strangford Lough is a very special place. It is very important for our local wildlife, particularly the over-wintering birds. While we want our residents and visitors to get outdoors and enjoy the wonderful coast that our borough has to offer, we also want to protect the habitats and species that make this place so special. Please help us to protect this area by giving the birds lots of space and always keeping dogs under control. Please do not allow your dogs to chase the birds”
For more information on alternative dog walking sites within the Strangford and Lecale AONB please visit https://www.strangfordlough.org/maps-guides/altern.html
Notes for the Editor
The ‘Share the Shore’ project was developed by Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership in partnership with the National Trust following a study in 2015/16 by SLLP to monitor effects of dog walking on bird population in Strangford Lough. “The Impact of Dog walking and Human Activity on over-wintering bird populations in Greyabbey Bay”
From this study it was concluded that a disturbance event effecting over-wintering birds occurs approximately once every hour on Greyabbey Bay. The data shows that the majority of this disruption is caused by dogs being walked off lead and that excluding unknown and natural causes, off lead dogs cause the most severe response from the birds.
Full report can be viewed https://www.strangfordlough.org/reports/