Conservation partnership launches “floating islands” in bid to save rare duck

commonscoters.jpg(RSPB 15 May; Photo Graham Catley)

An unprecedented partnership of organisations from industry and the conservation sector has come together in a bid to save the common scoter as a breeding bird in the Highlands of Scotland. The birds, which breed on the edges of a small number of lochs, will be helped by the creation of artificial floating islands made from redundant materials from fish farms. It is hoped that the scoters will choose to nest on the islands and this will make the nests safer from the unwelcome attention of predators and the risk of being flooded.

RSPB Scotland’s Dr Alison MacLennan said, “Within the last forty years the population of the now inappropriately named Common Scoter has fallen from several hundred pairs, with a wide distribution over the north and west of Scotland, to around fifty pairs found in a few isolated lochs. We are in real danger of losing this lovely bird as a breeding species in Scotland and I am delighted that this partnership has come together to help provide them with a future.”

Research conducted by a partnership of organisations including the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Blue Energy, the Ness & Beauly Fisheries Trust and RSPB , has pointed to a number of causes for this decline, many of which are linked to changing uses in the landscape.
In addition, mammalian predators have been identified as having a significant detrimental effect on the survival of common scoter nesting attempts and their success in hatching ducklings. In an attempt to address this problem in some of the Inverness-shire lochs, the partnership group joined forces with Fusion Marine and Marine Harvest to produce floating islands that will provide the ducks with safer nest locations with a reduced risk of predation.

Two of these islands have now been sited in common scoter breeding lochs in Inverness-shire as a trial to see if their use can boost the ducks’ success in rearing their young.

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