16 November 2017 by Chris Cathrine | Comments: 0
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Caledonian Conservation has been working to satisfy ecology planning conditions for RES at Freasdail Wind Farm in Kintyre since 2014, involving developing and delivering mitigation for a range of birds, mammals, reptiles and habitats, as well as providing Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) services. The final step in this process was the deployment of nest rafts to encourage red-throated divers – rare birds protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended in Scotland) – to breed.
Red-throated divers spend winter at sea, and return to breeding territories (usually small lochans in open moorland) in spring. The nest consists of a small scrape, normally located at the water’s edge, or on an island. As nests are often located within easy access of predators such as foxes, otters and gulls, disturbance and predation can cause breeding failure. Nests are also vulnerable to flooding during incubation – an increasingly common problem as summers become wetter as a result of climate change.
Artificial nest rafts have been found to greatly improve the success of breeding divers. These rafts are not susceptible to flooding, as they adjust automatically with the water level, and also limit access to land-based predators.
To avoid disturbance, nest rafts were installed after the major elements of construction were complete. Locations for rafts were carefully chosen to avoid risk of collision with wind turbines while red-throated divers commute between nesting lochans and feeding habitat (the sea and larger waterbodies), and to ensure there would be no human-caused disturbance during operational maintenance activities.
Working with Simon Lawrence (Lawrence Environmental Consultants), the nest rafts were successfully installed by Caledonian Conservation in April 2017, and will hopefully improve the breeding success of red-throated divers in the area in future years.
Read more about RES at: http://www.res-group.com/en
Read more about Freasdail Wind Farm at: http://www.freasdail-windfarm.co.uk/
Photo: Diver nest raft installed near Freasdail Wind Farm © Simon Lawrence