Wardens on Brownsea Island have reported incidents of visitors using these mobile apps, which imitate the unusual call of the Nightjar, to get a closer photograph.
All nesting birds are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which states that it is an offence to intentionally disturb any nesting bird. In addition, Brownsea Island has ‘Special Protection Area’ (SPA) status for the habitats it provides for birds, including the Nightjar, which has seen a welcome recovery recently in Dorset and they are considered to be one of the ‘success stories’.
Chris Thain, Reserve Manager on Brownsea Island said: “The apps are becoming quite common, and are great, but their use needs some guidance I feel. I’m sure visitors would be devastated if they realised the possible disturbance they were causing to wildlife. We need to spread the word that use of these apps is not suitable for nature reserves and can be potentially harmful to sensitive species.”
Tony Whitehead, Public Affairs Officer for RSPB in the South West said: “Repeatedly playing a recording of birdsong or calls to encourage a bird to respond in order to see it or photograph it can divert a territorial bird from other important duties, such as feeding its young. It is selfish and shows no respect to the bird. People should never use playback to attract a species during its breeding season.”
Dorset Wildlife Trust will be discouraging the use of these widely available mobile phone apps on all of its 42 reserves across Dorset. There is no doubt these apps are educational and a great tool to get people interested in birds, but Dorset Wildlife Trust is encouraging photographers to think about the wellbeing and longevity of birds and in this case, Nightjars, when using such a fragile and reviving species as a subject. Signs have been put up at Brownsea Island, which is leased from the National Trust, to remind visitors they are advised not to use bird apps on the reserves.
For more information about Brownsea Island, visit: dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/brownsea_island_nature_reserve.html
For more information about the Nightjar, visit: wildlifetrusts.org/species/nightjar
Photographs by Steve Davis