Plea to wildlife photographers over rare bird

Dartford warbler Dartford warbler

Thursday, May 1, 2014
1:31 PM

Over-zealous wildlife photographers on a popular Suffolk heath are threatening the wellbeing of one of Britain’s rarest breeding birds, conservationists fear.

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A series of recent incidents involving photographers encroaching into the heather at the National Trust’s Dunwich Heath, near Southwold, to obtain close-up images of Dartford warblers has prompted the trust to take action.

The species is often elusive and difficult to observe and enjoys the top level of legal protection afforded by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It is on the act’s Schedule 1 and is highly sensitive to disturbance.

Despite it being the breeding season, trust staff say some photographers had recently been seen well away from the heath’s many paths, far too close to nest sites and even trying to lure the warblers on to the heather tops by playing recordings of the species’ song, a highly controversial practice known as tape-luring.

The trust staff have produced a leaflet for photographers and birdwatchers which urges them to adhere to a code of responsible, law-abiding behaviour.

Richard Gilbert, the trust’s senior ranger for the site, said: “We are trying to raise awareness of a problem that has grown, particularly over the last five or six years in my experience. There is now a lot of technically advanced and economically available photography equipment around but unfortunately the advances have not been matched by the capability and experience of some photographers.

“We are trying to be even-handed but we are trying to educate people that there has to be a balance struck that is for the benefit of our wildlife and the enjoyment of all our visitors.”

Do you visit Dunwich Heath and have you noticed the problem? 
Email kathryn.bradley@archant.co.uk

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