Spring is in the air and many of us will be looking out our walking boots and outdoors clothing in the hope of heading to the hills for the first time since last summer. While nature groups are keen for us all to enjoy our great outdoors, they are also making walkers – and indeed, cyclists ­– aware of vulnerable animals and birds.

Scottish Natural Heritage has launched a campaign that urges walkers and cyclists to take “act responsibly”.

Ashleigh Tooth, of SNH, said: “Scotland has some of the best access laws in the world for those who enjoy the outdoors, but with that comes responsibility for our wildlife.

“We want to encourage everyone to enjoy Scotland’s nature while caring for Scotland’s countryside at the same time – whether that means keeping your dog under control, avoiding fires, or picking up litter.”

One of Scotland’s most popular areas of natural beauty, the Cairngorms National Park, has also added its backing to the campaign with the launch of a localised Tread Lightly in the Park message.

A park spokesperson said: “Through information and events, we hope our campaign will encourage people visiting and living in the Cairngorms National Park to enjoy its amazing places and help care for them at the same time.”

Enjoy Scotland’s outdoors responsibly

Everyone has the right to be on most land and inland water providing they act responsibly. Your access rights and responsibilities are explained fully in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

The key things are to:

• Take responsibility for your own actions

• Respect the interests of other people

• Care for the environment

Visit: outdooraccess-scotland.com

Tread lightly message across UK

The same message is also important across the whole of the UK, whether in parks or in the countryside. The Tread Lightly campaign has been rolled out to other places including Richmond Park where a set of guidelines apply. These are useful for many areas of the UK:

* Take litter home with you or dispose of  it in bins.

* Do not light barbecues or fires

* Chestnuts are important winter food for deer so do not remove them, or flora, fungi and wood.

* Do not disturb fallen and dead wood that might damage the habitats of  beetles and other insects.

* Do not dump pets and plants in park areas. The contents of aquaria or garden ponds, spawn, tadpoles  terrapins and other pets upset the balance of native species.

* Pick up and dispose of dog waste in bins provided.  Not only is dog waste anti-social but the bacteria and parasites in the waste are a health threat to wildlife and humans, and the nutrients can damage acid grassland and wild flowers.

* Keep dogs under control.  Uncontrolled dogs can kill, injure and disturb deer, swans and water fowl; scare nesting skylarks and damage ponds.

* Cycle only on roads and designated paths. Off-road cycling can damage grass and paths through erosion. 

Enjoy the outdoors - but remember to leave no trace and tread as lightly as possible.