Responsible Dog Walking During Bird Nesting Season.

Walking with a four legged friend is one of the most pleasurable aspects of living with dogs; especially when you are able to watch them run free and frolic in the open countryside.  However, there are certain times and specific places, where it is appropriate to keep dogs on leads. Holidays4Dogs promotes responsible dog ownership, especially when it comes to mixing with livestock, wild animals and birds.

In this article, Holidays4Dogs talks about the importance of keeping dogs under close control during the bird nesting season.  According to Natural England, the bird nesting season runs from February, right through until August. The busiest time for our feathered friends, is between March 1st and the end of July.

As far as tree nesting birds are concerned, any tree or vegetation clearing must be carefully assessed before work begins. This is to ensure that any actively nesting birds are not disturbed.  While tree nesting birds are usually safe from free roaming dogs, it is still important not to allow them to ‘worry’ birds while off lead.

In 2016 Chris Packham spoke passionately about responsible dog walking during the nesting season, pointing out the importance of protecting British wildlife.  Many dogs have natural instincts to hunt and chase which can have a detrimental effect on birds attempting to build nests. Sadly, in some cases, birds can be frightened away from their young, or nests can be destroyed by over exuberant dogs.

The Natural England Countryside Code states that;

“access rights that normally apply to open countryside and registered common land (known as ‘open access’ land) requires dogs to be kept on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July, to help protect the ground nesting birds, and all year round near farm animals”.

Ground nesting birds are often overlooked, but species such as ground nesting skylarks, which have a wonderful melodic warble, are even more vulnerable to being disturbed.

In my own area, the Malvern Hills, which is beautiful dog walking country, there are many ground nesting skylarks on the lower slopes of common land. The Malvern Hills Trust places signs asking people to keep to the paths and keep dogs on leads.  This is an important measure to help protect these beautiful birds.

According to Farmers Weekly (2021) there has been a decline in ground nesting birds in recent years. Farmers and land-managers are working hard to reverse this situation by implementing grass margins, agri-environment schemes and fallow plots.

However, these efforts are not always helped by off-lead dogs that disturb nesting sites, so farmers wish to promote the importance of keeping dogs under control.  A dog rushing over to a nesting spot can cause the parent birds to abandon their nest and chicks can perish quickly. The simple thing anyone can do is to keep their dog on a lead.

It is wonderful to walk with our dogs and witness the sights and sounds of the dawning of spring.  However, it is also important for dog walkers to respect the countryside code and protect British wildlife.