RANGERS at Kinver Edge are urging dog owners to keep their dogs on a short lead when walking in areas of sensitive habitat this Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

The heathland at the Edge, which is cared for by the National Trust, is home to ground nesting birds and other rare wildlife.

Dog owners are asked to keep pets on a lead during breeding season, between March and July, to minimise disturbance to the animals that live there.

The Willow Warbler, a ground nesting bird that arrives at Kinver Edge in spring, flies 5,000 miles from Africa to the UK, and during autumn the small birds make the return journey.

The Warbler makes the epic journey to find food and breed as the UK’s warm, wet summers and long days provide parents with more insects and time to feed growing chicks.

Birds that make their nests, lay eggs and raise their chicks on the ground, including the Willow Warbler, Tree Pipit and Chiffchaff, are easily disturbed and distressed by dogs roaming off the footpaths.

Lead ranger Ewan Chapman said: “March to July is breeding season for many species, so it’s really important to keep your dog on a lead at this time. “Ground nesting birds might be prevented from settling if they’re disturbed by a dog, or if they’re already nesting they will fly away from their nests, neglecting their eggs or chicks.”

He also warned dog owners to keep their pets safe around the cattle that graze on the heathland during the summer months by looking out for signs saying dogs should be on a lead as they enter sensitive habitats.

Ewan added: “Away from the heathland, there are plenty of areas on Kinver Edge where dogs are welcome to explore off lead. The top of the Edge, the woodland and Hillfort are all good areas for dogs to run free.”

Dog owners who fail to control their dog around livestock and in sensitive habitats could face a fine or even prosecution.