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RSPB Scotland in the Outer Hebrides is launching a new awareness campaign to highlight ways in which people can connect and enjoy their local natural environment without causing damage or disturbance to wildlife and their habitats.

The campaign will raise awareness of the species under threat, their habitats and how to minimise disturbance and protect habitats.

The campaign aims to help people ‘Learn Bird’, in other words how to read their actions and behaviour especially when they are disturbed. Birds will call, fly away, dive and enact particular behaviours when they feel threatened. Learning more about these behaviours and giving birds space helps them to conserve their energy to raise their broods.

For example, Oystercatchers will start flying into the air and call when they feel threatened.  Although it may seem there are a lot of Oystercatchers in the Outer Hebrides, their numbers have been declining, especially in other areas of mainland Scotland. As a regular on our machair and shore areas, it is easy to forget that the islands are a stronghold for several species which are declining elsewhere.

An increasing number of people are now participating in outdoor activities such as walking, cycling, paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, outdoor swimming, running, photography, use of drones and traffic to several of our natural spaces, and is sometimes having a negative effect.

Tom Churchyard, RSPB Islands Manager explains: “It is natural to want to get closer to nature and we are lucky to live and work in areas where nature is on our doorstep, but there are times when getting too close is, in fact, disturbance. Knowing when you are too close and moving away will give birds a chance to breathe.”

In Gaelic, the Oystercatcher is known to shout ‘Bi glic, Bi glic’ which literally translated into English means ‘Be wise, be wise’ and the campaign asks for people to listen to the birds and be wise while out and about this Summer.

“We hope when people are out and about and hear the call of the Oystercatcher that they will be reminded to ‘Bi glic, Bi glic’ ‘Be wise, Be Wise’ and to give birds and other wildlife the space they need.” 

The advice is to keep dogs on leads and close at heel, keep to tracks, move away if a bird or other animal becomes disturbed by your presence, to take photos from a distance and to leave only footprints.

This summer will see the campaign at various events throughout the islands where staff can explain more about our fantastic species and what you can do to limit disturbance to breeding birds.

Funding for the campaign has been supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar through the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, managed by NatureScot.