THEY broke the law by visiting a wildlife haven on the Hampshire coast - and two rare chicks died as a result.

The tiny birds perished after trespassers held a barbecue on Gull Island, a spit at the mouth of the Beaulieu River which forms part of the North Solent Nature Reserve.

Now Lord Montagu of Beaulieu is urging people to comply with a sanctuary order imposed by Natural England to protect ground-nesting birds.

He said: "The order is recognised in law and anyone found breaching it is liable to prosecution.

"It was therefore with great regret that some disposable barbecues were found discarded on the spit. Nearby were the bodies of two very rare chicks which had recently perished, due probably to dehydration in the hot weather.

"This occurred without doubt because the parent birds, having been disturbed by the trespassers, were unable to tend to their young.

"It is almost certain that the perpetrators came by paddleboard or kayak as there have been many reports of illegal landings on the spit in recent weeks."

Lord Montagu said the dead chicks were found by a warden.

He added: "The parents did not realise what had happened and very sadly continued to keep bringing food back to the nest."

"The estate office has also received numerous reports about misuse of the Beaulieu River and the land adjacent to it by people who are either ignorant of the rules or are deliberately flouting them.

"This has included swimming, fishing without a permit and the launching of paddle craft from unauthorised locations.

"A viewing hide overlooking the river close to the marina has been vandalised and used as a public convenience."

Lord Montagu said a riverside walk was closed last winter to give the ground a chance to recover from years of soil compaction.

He added: "A recent survey by an independent ecologist has revealed that while there are some signs of improvement the condition of this area remains far from satisfactory.

"We therefore decided to extend the closure until the wood, which is part of a designated National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation, has properly recovered.

"Unfortunately, some people are set on ignoring the signs and continue to walk in this wood, their actions simply compounding the damage already done.

"We are appealing to everyone to respect this fragile environment and help its recovery by staying on the main footpath."