‘Take the lead’ for ground-nesting birds

As breeding season for ground-nesting birds fast approaches, Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust is asking users of its nature reserves to help protect these species, at a time when they are particularly vulnerable, by practising responsible dog walking.

Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust manages 16 nature reserves across Sheffield and Rotherham, such as Blacka Moor, Greno Woods and Wyming Brook, and is also part of the Sheffield Moors Partnership which is celebrating responsible dog walking in the countryside through its Take the Lead in the Peak District campaign.

From the start of March to the end of July, the Trust is asking the public to please keep dogs on leads while walking on its nature reserves to protect the iconic moorland bird species, such as curlew, skylark, lapwing and stonechat, which breed on these sites.

Ground nests are well camouflaged and may be little more than a scrape, making it easy to forget they are present in the landscape. The stress of a dog running across the landscape can seriously disrupt breeding for these birds. Reducing disturbance as much as possible gives them the best chance of breeding success.

Keeping your dog on a lead also helps protect grazing livestock on the Trust’s nature reserves. It is particularly important that sheep are not threatened by dogs during lambing season. Sheep are vulnerable at this time of year, and if a ewe feels threatened by a dog she may throw her lamb early, essentially causing miscarriage. Please stay as far away from livestock as possible while walking at this time of year to avoid disturbing them.

Under the Countryside Rights of Way Act of 2000, it is the law to keep your dog on a lead of no more than two metres on open access land between 1 March and 31 July. The Trust’s nature reserves contain public rights of way, so it’s important to ensure your dog is under effective control at all times.

Nabil Abbas, Living Landscapes Manager (South) at Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said:

“With the arrival of spring our birds are starting to settle on their territories and start breeding across the countryside. Members of the public may not realise that a number of our declining species nest on the ground, such as skylark in grasslands, curlew on the moors and wood warbler in woodland areas.

“All ground-nesting birds are threatened by disturbance from dogs and may fail to breed if they are disturbed. For this reason, we ask visitors to keep their dogs on a short lead on our nature reserves during the bird breeding season and value your understanding and cooperation in helping us conserve wildlife for future generations.”

The Trust’s nature reserves are wildlife havens where we can give ground-nesting birds the chance to thrive, while giving the public beautiful green spaces to walk and enjoy nature.

For more information on Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves, please visit wildsheffield.com/nature-reserves