‘No drone zone’ signs at St Abbs ignored

The public is being reminded that St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve currently has restrictions on the flying of drones in the area.
The public is being reminded that St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve currently has restrictions on the flying of drones in the area.

Two incidents of drones being flown close to nesting seabirds at St Abbs Head are being investigated by the police.

St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve warden Liza Cole was alerted to the first incident last Friday, May 11.

Speaking about the incident, Liza said: “I was alerted, by a concerned member of the public, to some drone footage on YouTube.

“The footage, taken in mid April, clearly shows that the drone is causing disturbance to breeding seabirds.

“The drone operators were committing offences on two counts. Firstly, it is an offence under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to use powered vehicles, including drones, on land without the landowner’s permission. And secondly, it is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 to disturb or harass a bird at its nest, or prevent it getting to its nest.

“The drone operators had passed two signs informing them that the area is a “no drone zone” between April 1 and July 31, and explaining why.

“The incident has been reported to the police.

“There is no doubt that drones offer us amazing perspective on the world, which is why we haven’t gone for a complete ban as some organisations have. But it is important that they are used responsibly to protect the wildlife that we work to conserve, and also the visitors who come to enjoy the wildlife.

“Please let us know on (018907) 71443 if you spot anyone unpacking drones or flying drones from our land. Thank you.”

PC Andy Loughlin reiterated that the nesting season was a “crucial time” for birds and they needed to be protected, adding: “Scotland has a very rich and diverse range of wildlife and we must do everything we can to protect it.

“The use of remote drones is an increasingly common pastime and I would like to encourage responsible use and ensure those operating drones abide by any local restrictions which, in some cases, request that drone users do not use them in particular areas.”

Liza was made aware of another drone being used at the weekend near the cliffs where the birds are nesting.

There are around 50,000 birds on the cliffs at the nature reserve - guillemots, razorbills, puffins, shags, kittiwakes and herring gulls - and according to the Natural Trust for Scotland, northern gannets also tried to breed on the cliffs at St Abb’s Head in 2017 for the first time in living memory.