Wising up to bird disturbance campaign launched for Thanet coastline and Canterbury district

Turnstone Photo by Brian Whitehead

A campaign to help protect thousands of wintering birds from disturbance along the Thanet coastline and the Canterbury district – which is inclusive of Whitstable and Herne Bay – is up and running.

The ‘Wising up to bird disturbance’ campaign has been created by Michael Lee, the recently-appointed project officer for Bird Wise East Kent, a new partnership between Canterbury and Thanet councils, working with local conservation organisations.

Each year, migrating birds flock to the east Kent coastline from areas as far away as the Arctic circle. The Thanet coast and Sandwich Bay, as well as the Thames, Medway and Swale Estuaries, are designated as Special Protection Areas, which means authorities have a duty to safeguard their habitats.

At the same time, residents and visitors continue to enjoy the beaches and coastline during winter, so the campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the birds and steps people can take to help.

Michael Lee (pictured) will be visiting schools to run talks and activity sessions, holding events and coastal walks, providing free dog training, promoting the Savvy Sea Dogs Club and sharing tips and updates on the campaign’s social media pages on  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Cabinet Member for Corporate Governance and Coastal Development at Thanet District Council, Cllr Ruth Duckworth, said: “We are fortunate enough to have some of the country’s most beautiful coastline that we want residents, visitors and their dogs to enjoy. The ‘Wising up to bird disturbance’ campaign will not only raise awareness of the international significance of this landscape and its importance to birds but also educate people on how to enjoy the coast responsibly. We want these beautiful birds to continue to winter here for generations to come.”

Chairman of Canterbury City Council’s Community Committee, Cllr Neil Baker, said: “There are simple things that we can all do to help protect the coastline. These include keeping dogs under close control, staying back from feeding or resting birds, keeping to designated paths and picking up after our dogs.”

There are a wide range of feeding birds along the east Kent coastline including the Turnstone, Golden Plover, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Lapwing and the Purple Sandpiper.


  1. Cormorants are also popular along our coast feeding and roosting on marker posts and bouys. Then the more common types of Gulls that are regularly seen and deserve a mention on the reference list.

    • I’m all for raising awareness but I’ve got a problem with birdwatchers that insist upon strict controls on dogs (lead-only walks, fenced off areas etc). Most of Kent’s coastline sees very little dog activity. There’s plenty of space for all of us.

      • I’ve got a problem with dog-owners who take their dogs off the lead at nature reserves, and who take their dogs to our local beach during the summer months when there is a ban on dogs.

      • James Prater – No additional controls are being implemented by Bird Wise East Kent. There are PSPO’s already in force on the coast. Bird Wise East Kent aim to inform the public about the birds found on coast, and from that offer alternatives to walking on the beach, by providing areas to exercise your dog and limiting disturbance. Also, training to allow dog owners to walk with their dogs without the need for a lead, so they have control and awareness of the issues around disturbance.

    • Kent Resident – you are right. There are many more birds than the ones mentioned in the article. The twelve, or daring dozen, mentioned are highlighted as they are migrating wintering birds.

  2. These birds have overwintered here for hundreds if not thousands of years. Dogs have been walked and indeed horses ridden in the areas. I enjoy the birds and coastline but has the public really got that out of hand? If a flock of birds are scared up off a feeding site they soon settle on another. The peregrine falcon will scatter thousands of birds but again they settle back in their thousands too. You are only threatening the wildlife of you take away their habitat and clearly this isn’t the case. Sorry to say it’s just another name to jump on the green bandwagon of do Gooders without a just cause..

    • Mr Theed . You demonstrate exactly why this project is so important. You are just so wrong on this! If you consider the Ruddy Turnstone as an example their numbers have halved locally, just over the last few years. These Little birds migrate to arctic Canada as far east as Baffin Island some 3000 miles away. In order to do this they need to eat almost constantly. If they are disturbed they do not get enough food or rest to make this journey.
      The birds will feed on the best possible area, if they are disturbed they may move to a less optimal area and use valuable energy in doing so. I have never seen a Peregrine Falcon disturb them in the 7 years I have been monitoring them.

    • I think one is missing a important number of points here. The waders which overwinter on the coasts of Thanet have come from the Arctic Circle Area and it is our responsibility to look after these ever decreasing number of waders because of the ever increasing numbers of the Human Race. Take the Turnstone which breeds in EllesMere Island Canada, every time that bird is disturbed while it is in Thanet, it burns up its fat content, or it cannot consume it to build it up, the same as humans if he/she does not get their rest time or nutritious diet, they cannot play or work, so now back to the wadres that are being disturbed and cannot rest or take in their necessary food, they are not going to survive to make the long flight back to Canada to breed and return to us next Winter, so please give the wildlife some careful consideration, thanks.

    • Mr Theed – you are correct in that they will find another site to feed. The issue is the constant need to take flight and move down the beach. By doing this the birds are using up lots of energy and if it happens too frequently they will not have the energy reserves in order to migrate back to their breeding grounds. This has caused a decline in a lot of overwintering birds. We do not want to stop people enjoying the coast, we want people to have the knowledge to make an informed choice about how they use the coast.

    • Mr Theed – your comment is based mainly on supposition, and a little bit of denial. This is a campaign to educate and raise awareness. Not all dog owners are responsible, and if this encourages even a small number of dog owners to be more minful of the behaviour of their dogs, then that surely is a good thing? That is a just cause. Positive changes occur not when one person tries to do everything, but when lots of people do little things together.
      And if there is ever a good bandwagon to jump on, surely it’s a green one?

  3. Now we see another explanation for rising council tax!
    Yet another unneeded salary funded by local authorities to expand council officers empires.

    • Haygordon – The project is funded through housing development contributions and is not funded in any way through central funding. The council tax does not cover the project. New housing developments pay for the project.

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