Don’t tread on the dotterel when heading for the hills

editorial image

The Cairngorms National Park Authority is encouraging people to keep their dogs on a lead and to tread carefully in the mountains this spring.

May is the month of ground nesting birds and the cheeps of dotterel chicks will soon be heard across the Cairngorms.

Owing to the low-lying location of the dotterels’ nest, they are at high risk from dogs running off the lead and can also be disturbed by walkers.

Nic Bullivant, head ranger at Cairngorm Mountain, said: “Most walkers are probably unaware of how vulnerable ground-nesting birds are to regular disturbance, especially by dogs. Dotterel and ptarmigan have no defence, no-where else to go.”

The National Park has issued the warning as warmer weather is predicted, marking the turn of the season and bringing with it the arrival of the dotterel.

Wildlife expert Dr Adam Watson advised that the worry is that if disturbed the birds may leave their nest, leaving their young vulnerable, particularly before they are able to fly. It is important that the birds are not kept off their nests.

He said: “Often the birds will sit tight. I have often seen a dotterel sitting on a nest with walkers going past a few yards away and they will stay put.”

Dr Watson warned that untrained dogs not used to working with birds or game are a particular risk to the dotterel and should be kept on a lead.

Walkers should also watch out for ptarmigan, which nest in alpine areas. The end of May will see the ptarmigan and dotterel nesting, with the season running until early July.