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Islanders are encouraged to take extra care on Lihou Island as lockdown has allowed birds to nest closer to footpaths

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Monday 01 June 2020

As a result of lockdown and the absence of visitors, nature has been able to thrive on Lihou Island and internationally important bird species have been able to expand their nesting areas. Islanders are therefore encouraged to be extra vigilant when visiting the island.

During the first few months of the breeding season the numbers of visitors to Lihou Island fell due to the restrictions brought about by COVID-19. This spring, footpaths which in previous years were busy with thousands of feet fell quiet and tranquil. Because of this reduction in disturbance, many birds have been able to build their nests much closer to the footpaths. In some instances nests can be seen only a few feet away.

Whilst this increase in suitable nest sites was great news for the birds during the lockdown, now that the numbers of visitors will increase, there is a risk that these nests will be disturbed and consequently impact the success and/or survival of their broods. If disturbed too regularly, birds may abandon their nests and with it any eggs or chicks they may have.

Another risk to nesting birds is of trampling. Bird nests are deliberately well camouflaged to help hide from predators. However, this also makes it very difficult to spot a nest if a parent bird isn't sitting on it. Some species of song bird also nest in the grassland on Lihou Island, which would be almost impossible to spot underfoot.

For these reasons, Agriculture, Countryside & Land Management Services (ACLMS), together with La Société Guernesiaise, RSPB Guernsey Local Group, the Biodiversity Partnership and the Lihou Charitable Trust, are asking the public to take extra care when visiting the island and are reminding the public how important it is to stay on the designated footpath.

If you see a bird nest close to a footpath please do not interfere with it and carry on walking at a steady pace to reduce disturbance. Islanders are also reminded that dogs are not allowed on Lihou Island or the causeway.

Steve Sarre, Warden of the Lihou Charitable Trust commented:

"This is my favourite time to come across to Lihou with all of the new flowers, butterflies and the nesting sea birds. It is stunning and if you take your time and don't rush you will get to see a lot more of the wildlife around you. We all need to ensure that we are respectful to the nesting birds and stick to the paths. Just remember that we are the visitors not the birds, as this is their home."

Jamie Hooper, Conservation Officer at La Société Guernesiaise commented:

"Lihou Island provides a unique opportunity to watch nesting gulls at very close range. This gives a great insight into our locally important wildlife. It is important to remember however, that these are wild birds which are vulnerable to human disturbance and interference so we would ask everyone to keep their distance and remember that the welfare of the birds, their eggs and their chicks must always come first."

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