Conservationists say that a drone flying illegally and recklessly over a nature reserve in the United Kingdom has forced at least 150 migratory birds to flee in panic. At the same time, the drone “noticeably harassed” several sick sandwich terns who had most likely been infected with Avian Influenza (bird flu). The weakest of the terns soon perished thereafter.
The unfortunate incident took place on July 1 at St. Mary’s Island, a small sandstone island in England that also serves as a local nature reserve. It’s a no-drone zone where illegal flying could lead to fines and revocation of the operator’s license by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
St. Mary’s Island Wildlife Conservation Society detailed the incident on its Facebook page, saying, “It was great to see the return of the golden plover, the much-missed sound of them chattering away was fantastic to hear again. As we arrived on site, hearing the unmistakable sound of the golden plover we lifted our binoculars with a sense of excitement to see 150 of these perfectly camouflaged birds hiding on the rocks.”
In summer, many golden plovers breed in the upland moorlands of the UK, but much larger numbers come from northern Europe, Iceland, and Scandinavia.
The conservationists explained that while they were enjoying watching the golden plover carefully from the viewing areas, they were also saddened at the sight of many sick sandwich terns who were hoping to rest in peace at the nature reserve.
What happened next was devastating. A drone was flown over the nature reserve flushing all the Golden Plover which had flown hundreds of miles to rest on the reserve. Even sadder to see was the sick sandwich tern being noticeably harassed by the presence of the drone. Shortly after the weakest of the terns perished, while the others struggled to fly away.
The nonprofit group has also shared some photos from the day, showing the drone responsible for harassing the birds:
Conservationists are calling the incident “completely unacceptable.” They say more must be done to avoid similar occurrences.
Nature Reserves are places for wildlife, where it should be protected. If you know who was flying their drone on July 1 at St. Mary’s Island Nature Reserve, please share this post with them. This incident will be reported to Northumbria Police who are logging all serious wildlife disturbances.
Drones disturbing wildlife is not new. Last year, a 1,300-acre coastal estuary in California turned into a mass burial ground for unborn elegant terns when reckless drone use frightened mama and papa terns into fleeing the nesting site. The Animal Legal Defense Fund then offered a $5,000 reward for information on the pilot responsible for that incident.