When Watching and photographing it is vital animals and plants are not disturbed or damaged in any way.
Do not be tempted to get too close. The most genuine wildlife encounters are those where the animals are behaving naturally, so keep your distance.
Follow the advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code
Keep to paths and routes that avoid disturbance to wildlife wherever possible. Be aware that regular use of routes can lead to wildlife becoming accustomed to your presence, but that over-use of routes could drive sensitive wildlife away from the area. Use your judgement and ask experts if in doubt.
Consider the size of your group in relation to the sensitivity of the situation.
Do not deliberately identify nest sites of rare or protected species; avoid them if possible.
Keep a good lookout. As soon as you see wildlife, start to assess how you are interacting with it and whether it is showing signs of disturbance (e.g. ‘heads up’ responses, alarm calls, sudden movements or aggressive behaviour) move away.
Where possible, make use of wildlife watching hides to observe species.
Use binoculars or telescopes to get better views, rather than getting too close.
If you approach animals, do so slowly and cautiously. Make sure that your movements are steady and predictable and do not approach directly. Never approach apparently lone young animals.
Take extra care during sensitive times of year in places where animals may be feeding, resting, breeding, on the nest or with their young. (e.g. shingle shores above the high tide mark)
Avoid boxing animals in. If other people are watching the same animals try and ensure that you all stay on the same side. Allow animals a safe escape route.
Do not come between mothers and their young. Avoid splitting up groups of animals.
If animals move on, do not follow.
If you lift rocks do so carefully, and put them back in the same place.
Welfare of birds must come first. Whether your particular interest is photography, ringing, sound recording, scientific study or just birdwatching, remember that the welfare of the bird must always come first.
Habitat protection. Its habitat is vital to a bird and therefore we must ensure that our activities do not cause damage.
Keep disturbance to a minimum. Birds' tolerance of disturbance varies between species and seasons. Therefore, it is safer to keep all disturbance to a minimum, particularly in the breeding season. No birds should be disturbed from the nest in case opportunities for predators to take eggs or young are increased. In very cold weather disturbance to birds may cause them to use vital energy at a time when food is difficult to find.
Never visit known sites of rare breeding birds unless they are adequately protected. Every presence may give away the site to others and cause so many other visitors that the birds may fail to breed successfully. In terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 disturbance at or near the nests of birds is a criminal offence.
Rare migrants or vagrants must not be harassed. If you discover one, consider the circumstances carefully before telling anyone. Will an influx of birdwatchers disturb the bird or others in the area? Will the habitat be damaged? Will problems be caused with the landowner?
The Law. The bird protection laws, as embodied in Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, are the result of hard campaigning by previous generations of birdwatchers. As birdwatchers, we must abide by them at all times and not allow them to fall into disrepute.
While flushing gulls when walking a dog on a beach in winter may do little harm, in the breeding season, the same dog would be a serious disturbance to nesting shore birds or a nesting gull colony.
Flora & Fauna
It is an offence to uproot any wild plant without the permission of the landowner or his tenant and in some cases a licence is required.
The aim should always be to leave no obvious signs of disturbance.