Conservationists have teamed up with a local community to help people enjoy watching wildlife at a popular nature reserve responsibly.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is working with the Newburgh and Ythan Community Trust to improve the car park, paths and viewing points on the Newburgh beach side of the Ythan.
Up to 2,000 grey seals at a time can haul out of the water on to the sand banks of the Ythan at Forvie National Nature Reserve (NNR) to rest.
But concerns have been raised about the marine mammals being disturbed by visitors walking down the north shore of the river.
Hundreds of seals have been seen bolting into the water which can cause them stress.
SNH is working with the newly formed Newburgh and Ythan Community Trust and hope building viewing points on the Newburgh beach side of the Ythan will help protect the creatures as wildlife lovers will have the best views of the seals from this site.
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David Pickett, SNH’s Forvie nature reserve manager, said: “Seeing thousands of seals hauled up together on the beach is truly amazing and we’d encourage people to experience this unforgettable encounter with nature.
“We’ve been working with the local community over the last few years to help people enjoy this spectacle without disturbing the seals. Further improvements will make it even easier for people to find the best place to see the seals.”
And Ron Macdonald, a trustee of the Newburgh and Ythan Community Trust, said: “We’re keen to improve the visitor experience in viewing the seals from the Newburgh side of the estuary and are negotiating a long-term lease with The Udny Trust which owns the land.
“This will enable us to apply for funding to build a new all-abilities trail and a viewing platform, together with revamping the car park and upgrading existing paths.”
Rope and signage remains in place at Forvie on the north side of the river to urge people to keep their distance to avoid disturbing the mammals.
Scottish Natural Heritage wants visitors to be aware that if one or two seals raise their heads when they are at the site, they are already too close to the animals.
The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code provides advice on how to enjoy watching marine wildlife responsibly.
The Ythan Estuary seal haul-out site was designated in 2017 to provide additional protection for the seals from any intentional or reckless harassment.
There are 195 designated seal haul-out sites across Scotland.