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Drones could disturb Suffolk's rare birds, pilots warned

PUBLISHED: 21:38 01 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:39 05 April 2019

Sgt Brian Calver of the Rural and Wildlfe Crime Team in Suffolk Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Sgt Brian Calver of the Rural and Wildlfe Crime Team in Suffolk Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

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Rare birds could be disturbed or even distressed by errant drone pilots trying to get photographs, it has been warned.

Drone pilots, whether hobbyists or photographers, are warned to avoid disturbing nesting birds in Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARYDrone pilots, whether hobbyists or photographers, are warned to avoid disturbing nesting birds in Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Suffolk has some very sensitive sites where rare bird breeds, both native and migratory, are either already nesting or will shortly be arriving.

Areas like RSPB Minsmere and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths are both sites of nests that should not be disturbed, as birds there are protected under law.

Some of these sites are protected from entry, so some users of drones may want to use technology to try to get a view from above.

Fabian Harrison, from RSPB Suffolk, said: “Drones can have severe consequences for breeding birds, leading to abandonment and an increased risk of detection by predators.

Dogs need to be kept on a lead in areas with ground nesting birds Picture: GETTY IMAGESDogs need to be kept on a lead in areas with ground nesting birds Picture: GETTY IMAGES

“At a time when wildlife already faces so many challenges, we are imploring the public to stay vigilant this summer and keep an eye out for wildlife crime. Remember – if you see a crime in progress, always call 999.”

Police want to remind people who fly drones it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

These include many eagles, falcons, hawks, avocets, tits, terns and swans - a full list can be found on the RSPB website.

Sgt Brian Calver, from Suffolk police’s rural crime team, said: “From a bird’s perspective, a drone is likely to be seen as a predator and as such cause distress and disturbance, which amounts to an offence, if nesting.

“Just causing the bird to momentarily leave the nest is sufficient to commit the offence.

“We do not want to spoil everyone’s enjoyment of the countryside, but we would urge users of drones to be sensible and think twice about where they are flying.”

Police are also reminding people that the legislation is also relevant to dog owners around ground nesting birds, with owners encouraged to keep dogs on leads if they are visiting sites known to contain ground nests.

If officers find evidence of such offences being committed, it could potentially result in six months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to £5,000.

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