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Conservationist urges 'irresponsible' dog owners to keep their pets under control

PUBLISHED: 11:56 25 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:01 25 June 2019

Sheringham and Beeston Regis commons honorary warden Francis Farrow looking out across the pond where a woman was seen throwing a ball for her two dogs.
Picture: KAREN BETHELL

Sheringham and Beeston Regis commons honorary warden Francis Farrow looking out across the pond where a woman was seen throwing a ball for her two dogs. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

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A lifelong conservationist is sending out a plea to "irresponsible" dog owners to spare a thought for wildlife, after a woman was seen allowing her two pets to leap into a pond where protected birds are nesting.

A moorhen mother sitting on her nest on the pond at Beeston common.
Picture: KAREN BETHELLA moorhen mother sitting on her nest on the pond at Beeston common. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

Francis Farrow, who is honorary warden of Sheringham and Beeston Regis commons, was shocked to receive an email from a regular visitor to the Site of Special Scientific Interest, saying a woman had been seen repeatedly throwing a ball into the pond for her two large dogs to fetch, also filling a bag with wildflowers she had picked.

As well as attracting 21 species of dragonfly, which lay their eggs on floating vegetation, the pond is currently home to a pair of moorhens, which, in their second attempt to produce young this year, have built their nest on a central 'island'.

A moorhen mother sitting on her nest next to the floating bird 'hotel' on the pond at Beeston common.
Picture: KAREN BETHELLA moorhen mother sitting on her nest next to the floating bird 'hotel' on the pond at Beeston common. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

"It is irresponsible and it makes you wonder what people are thinking," Mr Farrow said. "The dogs were obviously causing distress to the birds, which could cause them to leave the nest and, particularly in wet weather, the eggs could get cold and not hatch."

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The birds are a welcome sight for Mr Farrow, who earlier this year, installed a moorhen 'hotel' on the pond with the help of a group of town councillors who decided to take action after two broods of chicks were either eaten by crows or drowned.

It is hoped that once vegetation has grown around the 'hotel' moorhens and other birds will use it.

A moorhen mother sitting on her nest on the pond at Beeston common.
Picture: KAREN BETHELLA moorhen mother sitting on her nest on the pond at Beeston common. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

Mr Farrow, who has been involved in conservation work on the commons since 1969 and is a founder member of Beeston Common Management Group, said dogs could also pose a threat to young mammals, including foxes, deer and rabbits.

A noticeboard is already in place next to the pond, giving information on the flora and fauna of the commons and urging people to, "leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs", and Mr Farrow has now installed more signs asking dog owners not to allow their pets to swim in the pond.

A Common Blue, one of the 26 species of butterfly recorded annually on Sheringham and Beeston Regis commons.
Picture: FRANCIS FARROWA Common Blue, one of the 26 species of butterfly recorded annually on Sheringham and Beeston Regis commons. Picture: FRANCIS FARROW

"There are eight species of UK orchid growing around the SSSI, one of which occurs at only one other site in Norfolk and wildflowers should be left for everyone to enjoy," he said. "And, if people can't keep their dogs under close control, they should be kept on a lead."

To find out more about the commons, visit www.beestoncommon.org

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