Plea to help birds in Exe Estuary

PUBLISHED: 10:08 23 September 2016 | UPDATED: 13:49 23 September 2016

Brent geese on the Exe estuary by Julia Ryder.

Brent geese on the Exe estuary by Julia Ryder.

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Dog owners, water users and walkers enjoying the Exmouth Nature Reserve are being urged by the Exe Estuary Managment Partnership to follow a few simple rules to avoid disturbing protected birds this autumn.

Over the next few weeks thousands of birds, including brent geese, wigeon and northern pintail ducks, are expected to make their annual journey from the Arctic to East Devon.

Most of these birds start the autumn on the estuary at Exmouth because the mild climate and ice-free waters provide a good feeding ground.

They are attracted by the nourishing eel grass growing in the mud between The Duckpond and Courtlands Slipway at Lympstone.

During autumn the Exe Estuary is also particularly popular with visitors and leisure activities.

These activities can disturb birds like brent geese which feed right up to the foreshore of the Duckpond. They are usually disturbed by a dog or a walker going out into the water or onto the foreshore.

Now the Partnership is asking everyone to play their part in helping to protect these birds by following these rules:

Dog walkers – do not let your dog go into the water anywhere along the Local Nature Reserve, from the Imperial Recreation Ground to Courtlands Slipway, Lympstone.

Walkers - keep off the foreshore while the birds are feeding close in, and, as the tide goes out.

Kite and windsurfers – respect the exclusion zone; it is marked at Exmouth with a line of large yellow buoys. The area close into Mudbank is particularly sensitive as large numbers of wildfowl use the area as a roost at high tide.

Canoeists and paddleboaders – do not launch into The Duckpond from the foreshore; please launch from the slipway at the end of the Imperial Recreation Ground. Avoid heading straight towards the birds.

Devon County councillor Bernard Hughes OBE, chairman of the exe estuary management partnership said: “We are lucky to have such a fantastic wildlife reserve on our doorstep.

“At its peak in October and November birds can often be seen just resting on the water at high tide. It’s a real treat to see thousands of birds crowded in the water and when the tide goes out you’ll see their heads go down under the water to reach the Eeel grass.

“Everyone can play their part in helping to protect these birds. It’s only for two months, and then most of the birds move to other parts of the estuary. Please give the birds priority.”

Stephanie Clark, Exe Estuary officer, said: “Users of the Exe Estuary have worked alongside us for years to ensure that the natural beauty and wildlife of this special place is protected for all into the future. It is essential that we continue to work together to enable the variety of users to continue to enjoy the Exe without disturbing or damaging the protected features of the estuary.”

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