Enjoy wildlife watching on Barrow’s coast.
Some simple ways to minimize disturbance to our wildlife
Barrow and its surrounding coastal reserves are fantastic places
to watch wildlife, but how can we be sure that we are not harming
the species that we aim to see? We need to be aware of how to
minimize disturbance and stress to breeding, nesting and feeding
Reserves are chosen by birds for nesting and breeding because
disturbance is controlled and managed. When breeding birds
are disturbed other birds can eat their eggs or chicks, the eggs
can chill, or ultimately the nest may be abandoned.
We are privileged to have internationally important numbers of
wintering birds on our doorstep – birds such as the oystercatcher
and curlew. These birds need as much food as possible just to
survive through the winter. For a period around high tide though,
they cannot feed and so form ‘roosts’ of many thousands. Each bird
in these roosts aims to conserve as much energy as possible over
these two or three hours. When they are disturbed they are forced
to fly, using vital energy resources that are needed to maintain
their body temperature through cold winter nights. Birds like this
live on a knife-edge through the winter months, and have a limited
number of places to go during high tide.
Wildlife on Barrow's Doorstep (pdf 1.1Mb) - a guide to
nature reserves in and around Barrow.
So, what can we do to reduce disturbance to our local
Following are a few tips that will reduce your impact:
- Buy a pair of binoculars!
This will mean
that you can observe wildlife without trying to get too close to
it. Lots of suitable models are available, costing as little as
- Look out for breeding birds.
Through alarm calls and activities (such as a broken wing display),
most birds will tell you when you are close to their nests. This is
the time to put the dog on the lead and move on quickly. On the
coast, the nest will usually be on the ground on the shingle, so
look where you are walking and try to walk around the nest by
moving up and away from the beach.
- Avoid high tide roosts in the Winter.
the winter look well ahead to find high tide roosts before they are
disturbed, and alter your route to avoid them. Alternatively, try
to time your route to coincide with low tide, when the birds are
- ‘Head-up’ means back off – give birds
Look out for the ‘head-up’ signals that will precede disturbance.
Birds will often raise their heads prior to flying, or
alternatively, bob their heads up and down to alert the birds
around them to your presence. When you see this, it is time to
change course, walking around or away from the birds, which will
often then settle down.
- Give seals some room.
The last point is also relevant to the seals, which haul out at the
south end of Walney. When they are on dry land they are much more
fearful of passing boats and kayaks, and will always give the
‘head-up’ signal before they make a mad dash into the sea. If you
are aware of this, just changing course from head-on to sideways-on
will be enough to stop the seals stampeding into the water. Like
the birds, seals use this area because it is rarely disturbed. As
boat traffic increases though, both may look for other areas to go,
unless we take precautions when we see them.