A keen wildlife photographer has issued a plea to dog owners to avoid taking their pets for a walk on Hunterston Sands.

Andrew Russell said the area was of vital importance to birdlife - and urged dog walkers to make use of the area's many other countryside and beach walks instead.

Andrew spoke of his concerns after capturing a stunning image of a white-tailed eagle at Hunterston Sands on Boxing Day.

While delighted to get such an eye-catching image of the eagle, which lives in the area, Andrew says he wants to use the picture to highlight the importance of the area to the local bird population.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Star attraction: White-tailed Eagle at Hunterston SandsStar attraction: White-tailed Eagle at Hunterston Sands (Image: Andrew Russell)

Andrew said: "I would like to make a plea with the locals not to use Hunterston Sands as a dog walking location, due to the site being an important place for birdlife, with large numbers of wildfowl and waders which have attracted the eagle to the area.

"The beach suffers from a large amount of dog disturbance, unfortunately."

The white-tailed eagle is the largest UK bird of prey. It has brown body plumage with a conspicuously pale head and neck, which can be almost white in older birds, and the tail feathers of adults are white.

Andrew added: "Boxing Day was mostly spent birding in the Hunterston area, the clear highlight being the resident white-tailed eagle which spent all morning unsuccessfully hunting shelduck and gulls.

"The views when it landed by the road in the early morning sun were stunning, and on three occasions putting every bird in the area into the sky. It landed fairly close to the road and was bizarrely joined by a little egret."

In flight the white-tailed eagle has massive broad wings with 'fingered' ends.

Its head protrudes and it has a wedge-shaped tail.

The species became extinct in the UK during the early 20th century due to illegal killing, and the present population is descended from reintroduced birds.

It has Schedule 1 protection, which means it is illegal to disturb this species.

The RSPB website describes the breed as follows: "White-tailed eagles are versatile and opportunistic hunters and carrion feeders, sometimes pirating food from other birds and even otters.

"They eat largely fish, but also take various birds, rabbits and hares. Some pairs kill many fulmars.

"Carrion is an important part of their diet, especially during the winter months. Most lambs are taken as carrion. When fishing, they fly low over water, stop to hover for a moment and drop to snatch fish from the surface.

"During the breeding season while they are rearing young, they require 500-600 grams of food per day.

"This drops to 200-300g per day during the winter months when the birds are less active."