Some migratory birds fly the best part of 4,000 miles to get here each winter and face all manner of perils on the way – so it seems unfair that they could be endangered by tiny machines that are designed to fly for just 15 to 20 minutes.
That is what could be happening over the Westcountry’s major estuaries this winter as more and more hobbyists fly drones over the water for fun.
Big flocks of overwintering birds like geese can be alarmed by drones – and flying off in mass panic to escape could be harming their chances of survival, according to experts from the RSPB.
It is not only the tiny buzzing flying machines – larger low-flying micro-lites and even pet dogs left to run off-lead can make be a nuisance around the estuarine areas where over-wintering birds gather in large numbers to rest and to take on much needed nourishment between autumn and spring.
Now the RSPB is appealing for visitors to the Westcountry’s estuaries to put wildlife first, in the hope it stops incidents of the birds being disturbed.
The charity says the problem is particularly acute on the Exe estuary, where thousands of geese, ducks and waders congregate, including winter-residents and migratory birds passing through.
Many other of the Westcountry’s estuaries also hold internationally important numbers of wintering birds, and the last thing they need is to be disturbed by people, their dogs, or by machinery of one kind or another.
Peter Otley, site manager for the RSPB’s Exe estuary reserves, said: “The Exe is one of the best places in the UK to see geese, ducks and waders in winter, it’s a wonderful but fragile place and the birds are sensitive to disturbance.