A bird of prey hovering over Carnoustie has claimed a large area of the town as its own and will attack to defend it.
The brazen buzzard has been swooping down and making contact with runners in the Shanwell area of the town, which now has the reputation of a no-go area.
It is thought the large bird is protecting a nest and forcing people to retreat out of its area by dive bombing at speed at their heads.
Several runners have reported the buzzard swoops so close they feel its wings on their heads and it has even drawn blood as people make their way down the path which runs at the back of Shanwell Cemetery.
One Carnoustie woman described her encounter with the buzzard earlier this week as one of the worst experiences of her life.
Alison Millar, 37, said: “It started to swoop at me and it was absolutely terrifying.
“I thought I’d just keep running to get past that bit and that it would leave me alone – but it continued to swoop down at me.
“The time between swoops and the distance between it and my head was getting less and less.
“I had to turn back and run back down the way I’d come. I kept running, screaming, flapping and ducking until it eventually went back onto a telegraph pole.
“I met two walkers with a dog at the bottom of the path and they couldn’t believe what they had seen.”
Irene Barnes, 52, who is training to run her first marathon in September, said: “There are birds of prey in a few areas surrounding Carnoustie. I have quite long hair and I thought maybe my ponytail was attracting them.
“When I ran in the Shanwell area on Monday I was holding a stick in one hand and my ponytail in the other and I just ran as fast as I could.
“The Shanwell one is particularly aggressive. It does give out a shriek as a warning. Some of my friends have had it come down and draw blood.
“It certainly makes you run faster. I’ve had great times going down there.”
Alan Hendry, a funeral director in Carnoustie, said: “It brushed the top of my head as I was running near the High School grounds. It swooped down three or four times.
“I’m pretty sure there’s a nest in that area and it’s protecting the nest. I turned round and walked back and it left me alone.”
Runner Marion Christina Murray said she had noticed the bird watching over the past year but that it had only recently become aggressive.
She said: “As I ran along to the end of the path on Wednesday, he followed me and I wondered if he had caught sight of some sort of prey – then I realised I was his prey.
“He never managed to swoop low enough to hurt me, but I had to turn round and go back. He followed me all the way back, watching my every move.
“It could be a new television series – Game of Birds. If I run that route again I’ll be going out with a bike helmet on.”
Lewis Morrison said he was attacked earlier this month. He said: “I run up that way and you see if flying from telegraph pole to telegraph pole. It swooped at me and I felt its wing over my head.”
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the buzzard was likely to be defending a nest.
A RSPB spokeswoman said the bird of prey’s dive bombing behaviour is designed to frighten a perceived threat to its young.
“I think the bird will just be being a protective parent – it is probably nesting nearby,” the spokeswoman said.
“The mobbing or dive-bombing behaviour of swooping down, flying close to but rarely making contact is designed to frighten the threat away without the bird risking getting injured by making full contact with a much larger and heavier animal or person.
“You will often see birds mobbing larger birds in the same way and many species do it as anyone who has been near a tern colony will know.”
She added that the buzzard’s aggressive behaviour is likely to stop once the young leave the nest.
In the meantime people are advised to stay out of the area.
“People can avoid the area or if that is not practical holding something above your head can help,” she added.
“The birds will often swoop at the highest point so if you hold something above you – umbrellas or bags for example – then that will get dive-bombed rather than your head.”