Rare birds at a nature reserve are under threat – from a mobile phone app which mimics their song.
Twitchers in Dorset have been using phone apps which imitate the call of the elusive nightjar in a bid to lure the rare bird closer for photographs.
But wildlife experts say it is diverting the nocturnal birds away from the important business of nesting at the Brownsea Island nature reserve in Poole Harbour.
Reserve manager Chris Thain said: “The apps are becoming quite common, and are great as education tools, but their use needs some guidance I feel.
“I’m sure visitors would be devastated if they realised the possible disturbance they were causing to wildlife.
“We need to spread the word that use of these apps is not suitable for nature reserves and can be potentially harmful to sensitive species.”
Dorset Wildlife Trust this week launched an online campaign to raise awareness after several incidents in which visitors to the nature reserve were caught using apps to imitate the unusual “churring” call of the nightjar.
Tony Whitehead, public affairs officer for RSPB in the South West, added: “People should never use playback to attract a species during its breeding season.”
The Trust warned visitors that it is an offence to intentionally disturb any nesting bird and said it will be discouraging the use of the apps on all of its 42 reserves across the UK.
Nightjars are nocturnal birds and can be seen hawking for food at dusk and dawn.
With pointed wings and a long tails their shape is similar to a kestrel or cuckoo, and their grey-brown and mottled plumage provides expert camouflage in the daytime.