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Elusive but important

The dotterel is among the more interesting of Britain's birds, partly because the brightly coloured female leaves the pesky business of rearing young to the male of the species.

Spotting the breed has never been easy (it is confined to the Cairngorms) but the worrying news is that it is getting even harder to spot, with the latest State of the UK's Birds report showing the number of breeding pairs in the UK has fallen significantly.

This news will be of concern to anyone who values Scotland's natural heritage, although the report does have good news on some other species, such as the goldfinch and the red kite and, thankfully, the RSPB is embarking on research to determine the possible causes of the decline in the dotterel.

It will be some time before the results of the research are known, but what we know already is the kind of impact humans can have on native species. The habitat of the lapwing, for example, is being lost to housing or farming in some parts of the UK.

The mission must be to do whatever is necessary to arrest the decline of the dotterel before it is too late. It might not have the status of he red squirrel, and it might be hard to spot, but it deserves our protection too.

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