Sequence captured of quad riders riding over bird habitat on Sneittsham beach
Heartbreaking footage has been released by the RSPB which shows quad riders recklessly riding Snettisham Beach, one of Norfolk’s strongholds for vulnerable breeding birds, including ringed plovers.
The clip, filmed by the RSPB, shows five quadbikes driving at high speed through both Snettisham Beach and the RSPB’s Snettisham Nature Reserve, several miles of vital nesting habitat for rapidly declining species as well as other birds such as oysters.
The individual can be heard shouting “stop” on the video as he captures the runners on film.
The events occur at the start of the breeding season after the birds have spent months displaying courtship rituals, pair bonds, and before spawning. Ringed plovers create scuff, shallow holes in the sand / shingle to lay their eggs, some of which have been flattened by the tires of these quad bikes.
The quads from this incident were seen crossing wildlife-rich coastal land owned by the Ken Hill Estate, where BBC Springwatch is currently being filmed.
Together with the Norfolk Police, the charity urges visitors to be on the lookout for wildlife in the countryside, with more than half of England’s most endangered breeding bird species nesting on or near the ground .
The ringed plover is one such bird, with its severe decline in part due to increased pressure from visitors to beaches where they nest close to the ground and remain well camouflaged. South Heacham Beach, which has been designated for its Wildlife of International Importance, is a key habitat for these birds. Therefore, such disturbances can have a huge impact, especially as the breeding population of Norfolk Ringed Plovers has declined by 79 percent over the past 35 years.
To help ringed plovers, which are suffering from the global decline, Plovers in Peril is working to educate beach users about the fragility of the species, while monitoring bird behaviors and habitats.
Ringed Plover Project Manager Wynona Legg said: “As a team, we observe the birds every step of the way while working hard to give them the space and protection they need. The RSPB is working with Ken Hill Estate and Norfolk Coast AONB to raise awareness of nesting birds on the beach at the site, and we hope to demonstrate that by watching your steps and giving nesting birds space we can together we ensure that their presence here is preserved long into the future.
This recent behavior of quad bikers, as evidenced by the project team and the public, is a blow to the project. Although luckily no eggs were seen by RSPB staff and volunteers at the time of the incident, if active nests with birds incubating eggs had been destroyed, damage to the birds’ breeding efforts. could have been much more serious and the offenses punishable by law.
Norfolk Police PC Chris Shelley said: ‘We are working closely with conservation charities, local councils and other key partners along the Norfolk coast to identify areas of concern, such as disruption of marine life, in an attempt to protect and preserve our rich wildlife habitats. In the summer, we are also proud to be part of the national Operation Seabird initiative. Our goal is to protect our vulnerable ground-nesting seabirds, such as small terns and the ringed plover, to ensure that the seals on our beaches are not disturbed, and to educate and encourage visitors to be responsible and always consider how their actions may affect our wildlife and, when necessary, take action against those who willfully and intentionally destroy our wildlife and its habitats. “
In conjunction with the RSPB, Norfolk Police encourage members of the public to report any suspected damage or disturbance to wildlife, eggs or nests at these sites, in addition to public safety matters.
All wild birds and their nests are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. For some beach-nesting species, including small terns, this legal protection is even stronger when the numbers are so low. . It is essential that anyone who witnesses any disturbance to nesting birds or their nests report it to the police as soon as possible, either 999 if the event occurs or 101 if the event has passed.