Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks has published images which provide a rare insight into the life of a young family of hen harriers nesting in close proximity to its overhead lines.

The images, which show three young female chicks with their mother were captured by a trail camera installed by ‘Heads Up for Harriers’, a Scottish Government initiative, to remotely monitor the hen harriers during upgrade works to the overhead line between Beauly and Loch Buidhe.

SSEN Environmental Manager, Kenneth Reid, explains more:

“We knew through previous surveys that there were hen harriers in the general area, but they had never nested this close to the powerline before. So when we observed a pair of hen harriers attempting to nest in very close proximity to our works we were keen to ensure that we did not disturb them.

“Our project ecologists liaised with Brian Etheridge of the ‘Heads up for Harriers’ group who already monitors the Hen Harrier nests. When breeding was confirmed a remote trail camera was installed to remotely monitor the nest to minimise disturbance and we reprogrammed our works to ensure no works were undertaken in the sensitive breeding period.

“This is an excellent example of working responsibly and demonstrating a high level of care for the natural environment.”

Brian Etheridge of Heads up for Harrier, added:

“By monitoring the nest, we were able to see that three female chicks successfully fledged the nest and I was delighted that SSEN were able to suspend work on the towers nearby until the young had successfully fledged.

“The number of hen harriers is declining across the UK and the ‘Heads up for Harrier’ project aims to better understand the threats facing Scotland’s hen harriers, and ultimately promote recovery of the species by working in partnership with land owners and managers.

“Unlike most birds of prey, hen harriers nest on the ground usually in long heather on open moorland. They are thus vulnerable to large predators such as a fox, badger or wild cat and sadly, also to human persecution. When a breeding pair is detected, the land owner is approached for permission for a trail camera to be installed at the nest to monitor and detect any threats or problems that can occur at this critical time.”

The 91 steel towers that have been in place between Beauly and Loch Buidhe since the 1960s have been given a new lease of life following the installation of new higher-capacity conductors and fittings which have increased the capacity of the local network by around 30% and enabled renewable generation to be transported from the north of Scotland.

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