Drones have been banned at an Aberdeenshire seabird colony after reports the devices have knocked eggs nestled on cliff faces.
Signs have been erected at the RSPB’s Fowlsheugh reserve, just south of Dunnottar Castle, warning wildlife photographers to steer clear of cliff edges and keep their drones at home in order to protect the 130,000 or so birds that breed and nest at the site during the summer months.
Kirsty Nutt, from RSPB Scotland, said the guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and the small population of puffins that use the huge sea cliffs to safely rear their young could be scared out to sea by intrusive humans after the perfect shot.
She said: “We put the signs up in response to a known issue with drone flying and complaints we received about some photographers getting too close to the cliff edge, putting themselves in danger and disturbing the birds.
“While all the birds are susceptible to being disturbed, some seabirds don’t build nests and when frightened off the cliffs they often knock their eggs off too, which means they will have failed to breed for the year.
“Many of Scotland’s seabirds are in trouble. The numbers of 12 regularly-monitored species have declined by 50% in just 30 years.
“And if not adding to their problems is not enough incentive, disturbing birds without a license from the Scottish Government is illegal and can be subject to large fines.”
Andrew Bowie, the MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said sites such as Fowlsheugh must be protected from intrusive behaviour both to protect wildlife and to promote the north-east.
He said: “It is natural that visitors will want to come here and that people will want to take photographs but when that becomes intrusive, or it negatively impacts upon wildlife, then a line must be drawn.
“Drones in particular can cause problems and I think everybody can understand the position that the RSPB are taking on this.
“We should do all we can to encourage tourism, but we also need to protect the beauty and nature that draws people here in the first place.”
North-east MSP Lewis Macdonald added: “Drones have been banned from nesting sites so that we can all continue to enjoy the wild birds that make their homes here.
“It is up to all of us to give nature the respect it is due.”