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Kayaking on the River Hamble

This spring Bird Aware Solent launches its new guidance for wildlife aware paddle and windsports.

Ranger Julie explains why it makes a difference when watersports enthusiasts stay nature-friendly.

Ranger Julie from Bird Aware Solent who developed the wildlife aware guidance with watersports organisations
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Watersports with Wildlife

As I wrote this blog, I was putting the finishing touches on our wildlife friendly watersports map, which has proven to be a more complex piece of work than I originally anticipated. It will all be worth it if these resources help people coexist with nature by reducing disturbance to protected birds and habitats.

Initially we planned to create a set of guidelines to help people stay wildlife aware on the water, much like we did for beach cleaning.

However after collaborating with organisations such as watersports businesses and harbour masters it became apparent that what was really needed was a wildlife friendly watersports map. This would encourage people to use entry and exit points less likely to disturb wildlife, as well as provide guidance on where amenities such as parking and toilets are.

Bird Aware Solent's new wildlife aware watersports map

Bird Aware Solent’s new wildlife aware watersports map

Wind and paddle sports are both growing in popularity, and there are more people enjoying the benefits of these sports on the Solent and in the New Forest than ever before.

By providing a map as well as behavioural guidance, we can ensure those who enter these sports today will understand that they share space with vulnerable species.

The natural places that are enriching their own lives are also vital feeding and resting places for our birds.

The map is accompanied by specific behavioural guidance that paddle and wind sports enthusiasts can adopt in order to reduce disturbance to protected birds and habitats.

SUP at River Hamble
Two new guides for watersports fans

Two new guides for watersports fans

My hope is that the map and guidance for paddle and wind sports will be well received by the watersports communities.

The majority of disturbance observed by our rangers on the coast is completely unintentional.

It’s not that people don’t care about nature and wildlife. It’s just that there isn’t a clear understanding of what disturbance is and what the consequences are if birds are not allowed to feed and rest.

Decades ago it may not have mattered if a canoe or an off-lead dog spooked a flock of waders or ducks. And that’s because it happened so infrequently.

Today our rangers see the birds interrupted from feeding and resting over and over again by different recreational activities.

The frequency of disturbance now means not only that they lose feeding time, but that they also lose energy by flying or walking away constantly from a perceived threat. This is what can affect their chances of survival.

Sanderling

Sanderling feeding on a shingle beach

By changing our behaviour: looking out for birds, moving further away when they become alert, and by following requests on signs, we can help our  coastal birds thrive.

All the Bird Aware Solent initiatives, including our new Watersports with wildlife resources, aim to create a balance between human activity and nature.

It is a fine balance indeed, but most people understand that nature must be given a chance.

Find out more about Ranger Julie’s watersports with wildlife map and guidance. And discover paddle routes which have been recommended as wildlife friendly.