by ANTONY CLAY
DOG owners are being urged to help protect ground-nesting birds by keeping their pets on a lead.
The Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust wants owners to avoid accidentally disturbing vulnerable species as the bird breeding season gets under way.
The Trust wants people to keep their pets under control during visits to its reserves across the county — which includes the Centenary Riverside and Blackburn Meadows sites in Rotherham.
The conservation organisation, which has 16 nature reserves, also wants dog owners to be aware of the risk of disturbing grazing ewes on their land during the lambing season which could lead to miscarriages in the animals.
Until the end of July, the Trust is asking the public to keep dogs on leads while walking on its nature reserves to protect birds species such as curlew, skylark, lapwing and stonechat which nest on the ground.
It says that though ground nests are well camouflaged and may be little more than a scrape, eggs and chicks are already at risk from predation by foxes, crows and badgers, so dogs become an added hazard.
Under the Countryside Rights of Way Act of 2000, it is the law to keep a dog on a lead of no more than two metres on open access land between March 1 and July 31.
Nabil Abbas, living landscapes manager (south) at Sheffield and 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.”
For more information about Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves, visit wildsheffield.com/nature-reserves.