Kildonan secures protection for nesting oystercatchers

An information board explains the reasons why the beach has been roped off.

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By Colin Smeeton

Villagers at the south end have secured protection for nesting oystercatchers which lay their eggs among the boulders of Kildonan beach.

With the assistance of NatureScot, a temporary roped off area will prevent walkers and dogs from scaring away the birds which leave their eggs vulnerable to crow attacks.

Oystercatchers use the beach to nest each year from April to July, however, owing to nest disturbances and other factors the species has continued to decline by as much as 40 per cent over the last 25 years according to NatureScot.

One Kildonan resident who helped to secure the protected cordoned off area, Rory Cowan, has watched the progress of the birds over a number of years.

Mr Cowan said: ‘The birds have bred successfully on a very few occasions but sadly crows, assisted by people and dogs driving the incubating birds off the nest, have had a rather better time.

‘One year the birds put their nest too far down the beach and a late storm was in danger of swamping it, however, little by little we managed to move the eggs up the beach about 12 inches at a time as that seems to be the distance the birds can handle without losing sight of the eggs completely. They were successful that year.

‘Last year they were not successful as some selfish individual saw the eggs, went over and photographed them, then stood over the nest and sent an Instagram to all his friends. The eggs lasted only a couple of minutes more as the bird had been driven off the nest and the crows were quicker back than she was. Response from the Instagramer when challenged: ‘It’s alright, I won’t be long…don’t we love them?!’

The roped off area has an accompanying information board which explains why the area is temporarily inaccessible. It reads: ‘Please avoid this roped area as it is used by our only remaining resident oystercatcher family to nest from April to July. This site is very important as it’s the last remaining place on this stretch of beach that our oystercatchers still find safe for nesting.

‘We would be incredibly appreciative if you and your dogs could avoid the roped off area. This will allow the oystercatchers to keep their young birds warm and safe from predators like crows.’

Because the beach lies on the fringe of the South of Arran Site of Special Scientific Interest, a number of permissions had to be granted to block off the area.

Ian Cornforth, the NatureScot area officer, helped get the required permissions.

In a letter to residents and the Kildonan Community Association Mr Cornforth said: ‘This measure is aimed at promoting responsible access to the beach whilst protecting this species of wading bird which continues to suffer significant loses to its local population as a result of increasing visitor disturbance, the worsening impacts of climate change as well as ongoing habitat loss and fragmentation.’

The orange line shows the area that has been cordoned off to protect the nesting oystercatcher. No_B14Oyster01

An information board explains the reasons why the beach has been roped off. No_B14Oyster02

NatureScot designed this poster to raise awareness of this year’s last remaining oystercatcher family. of No_B14Oyster03