Quad bikers destroy rare birds nests on Prince's favourite beach
Quad bikers destroy nests of rare bird species as they plough up Prince William and Kate’s favourite local beach
- Video shows quad bikers driving across sandy beach at Snettisham, Norfolk
- RSPB workers say group destroyed nests of rare ringed-plover bird species
- The beach is a favourite of Prince William and Kate who live at nearby Anmer Hall
- Believed sand dunes at the spot also featured in couple’s video of family life released last month
Bird lovers were left horrified after a gang of quad bikers roared through a nature reserve and destroyed nests of rare species on Prince William and wife Kate’s local beach.
A worker for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) filmed the five quad bikes being ridden recklessly up and down the sandy beach at Snettisham, Norfolk.
The beach is a favourite spot for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children whose country home is at Anmer Hall on the nearby Sandringham estate.
It is believed that the spot featured on the couple’s video of their family life released last month which showed them marching through the dunes on a day out.
A worker for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has filmed five quad bikers driving recklessly up and down the sandy beach at Snettisham, Norfolk
The beach is a favourite spot for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children whose country home is at Anmer Hall on the nearby Sandringham estate. It is believed to be where they filmed a video showcasing their family life that was released last month
The footage released by the RSPB features the worker waving frantically and shouting ‘stop’ as the thoughtless riders rode over nests and carried on regardless for several miles.
The RSPB coastal reserve on the beach is known as a ‘vital nesting habitat’ for fast declining ringed plovers and other birds such as oystercatchers.
The tyres of the quad bikes flattened a number of scrapes and shallow holes made by ringed plovers to lay their eggs.
The incident followed months of courtship rituals and pair bonding between the birds and happened just a few days before eggs were laid.
But a spokesperson for the RSPB described it as a ‘heartbreaking blow’ to the site.
The footage released by the RSPB features the worker waving frantically and shouting ‘stop’ as the thoughtless riders rode over nests and carried on regardless for several miles
The area around Snettisham is described by the RSPB as a ‘key habitat’ for ringed plovers, a rare species of bird
She said the riders had only avoided prosecution because the nests which they were wrecked were not ‘active’ at the time.
The spokesperson added: ‘Had active nests with birds incubating eggs been destroyed, the damage to the birds’ breeding efforts could have been much more severe, and the offences punishable by law.’
The RSPB said it was releasing the footage to highlight how people should ‘be mindful of wildlife in the countryside, with over half of England’s most threatened breeding bird species nesting on or near to the ground’ in ‘well camouflaged’ nests.
The area around Snettisham is described by the RSPB as a ‘key habitat’ for plovers.
The spokesperson said: ‘Disturbance such as this can have a substantial impact, particularly as the Norfolk ringed plover breeding population has declined by 79 per cent in the last 35 years.’
All wild birds and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with offences punishable by up to six months imprisonment and an unlimited fine
The charity has launched a ‘Plovers in Peril’ partnership project to ‘educate beach users on the fragility of the species, while also monitoring the bird’s behaviours and habitats’.
The bikers also passed through the nearby Ken Hill estate where giant white tailed sea eagles are due to be released under a rewilding project.
Wynona Legg, the RSPB’s Ringed Plover Project Officer, said: ‘As a team we watch the birds at every step of their journey whilst working hard to give them the space and protection they need.
‘The RSPB is working collaboratively with Ken Hill Estate and Norfolk Coast AONB to raise awareness of beach nesting birds on the site, and we hope to demonstrate that by watching your step and giving breeding birds space, together we can ensure their presence here is safeguarded long into the future.’
Norfolk Police rural crime officer PC Chris Shelley said: ‘We work closely with conservation charities, local councils and other key partners right along Norfolk’s coastline to identify areas of concern, such as marine life disturbance, to try to protect and preserve our rich wildlife habitats.
‘This summer we’re also proud to be part of the national initiative Operation Seabird.
‘Our focus is on protecting our vulnerable ground nesting sea birds, like little terns and ringed plover, ensuring the seals on our beaches are not disturbed, and educating and encouraging visitors to be responsible and always consider how their actions may affect our wildlife and, when necessary, take action against those who wilfully and intentionally destruct our wildlife and their habitats.’
Norfolk Police are encouraging members of the public to report any incidences of suspected damage or disturbance to wildlife, eggs or nests.
All wild birds and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with offences punishable by up to six months imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
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