Poole Harbour's Bird and Recreation Initiative 


Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and Dorset Councils are working in partnership to deliver mitigation around Poole Harbour against the extra people that will be brought to the area by new residential development close by.  This project is advised by Natural England.

The work started officially in January 2021 to highlight the wonderful and important birdlife in Poole Harbour and to encourage all visitors to respect, protect and enjoy the landscape, nature and birdlife.  It will deliver a mix of coastal engagement with our local winter warden, and local projects working with recreation groups to create solutions that work for everyone and looking for ways to improve areas that are less sensitive to ensure excellent access to nature for everyone. 

Video: F Gamble

But why is it needed?

Over 20,000 waders and wildfowl migrate to Poole Harbour to feed on the rich source of worms and shellfish in the mud, fattening themselves up for their arduous journeys back to places like Siberia, Iceland and the Arctic.  When they aren’t feeding, they will rest on discreet islands dotted about the harbour or inland on the marshes and in the reeds.  Growing numbers of recreational activities like dog walking or paddle boarding along the harbour are creating disturbance to these protected waders and wildfowl, and as we become more adventurous in our exploration, places that were previously safe and undisturbed for birds and wildlife are now suffering too.  Disturbing them whilst they are feeding on the coastline or resting on land can have drastic impacts on whether they survive the journey back to their breeding grounds for the summer. 

But, it’s not just about the birds.  By reducing the biodiversity in the harbour we remove one of the biggest reasons we love exploring it - the natural wildness, the ethereal bird calls and all its sweeping beauty.  So, the goal is simple: to raise awareness about bird disturbance, learn simple methods we can all use to prevent it and sustain a rich a beautiful coastline.


What is disturbance?

  • If the birds start calling louder to each other and acting more alert.

  • If the birds stop feeding due to a perceived threat.

  • If they fly away because of a threat. For example, walkers, dogs, kite surfing equipment.


Why is it an issue?

  • If the birds are disturbed repeatedly, they won’t come back.

  • If birds are eating to prepare for migration, the energy they waste here is energy they won’t have to make it back.

  • If birds can’t rest when they aren’t feeding, then they get tired and don’t put weight on - making the migration even harder.


What can you do?

  • Keep an eye out for birds when walking the coastline - particularly at rising or falling tide times when the mudflats are exposed.

  • Keep dogs under control until you pass the feeding birds.

  • When you arrive at the coast take a minute to breathe in the salty air and see if the birds are there.

  • When exploring lesser known areas be mindful that birds could be resting there.

  • When launching your kayak or paddle board, check to find a space that doesn’t have birds feeding.

  • When setting up your kite for surfing or windsurf equipment move to a spot where birds are not feeding.

  • When exploring the nooks and crannies of the wild coastline, remember that birds hide in these places to rest.

  • Take note of signs - they are there for a reason.


For more information on the project or to share your ideas on how we achieve this goal please contact Ria on: ria.loveridge@dorsetcc.gov.uk

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Photo: F Gamble

disturbance to birds at whitley lakes F Gamble (4).jpg

Photo: F Gamble