Safe Divers Do It On Rafts!
Abstract from British Birds
22nd July 1996
The stunningly beautiful water birds, the Red-throated and Black-throated Divers, are very rare breeding birds in Scotland. There are less than 1,500 pairs of the former and only about 150 pairs of the latter.
Their haunting calls echo across the moorland and lochs of remote areas of the Highlands and Islands and they are specially protected by conservationists. One of these is David Merrie who has devised a simple way of helping them to breed successfully.
Reporting in the latest issue of the monthly journal British Birds he describes how he has provided rafts for the birds to nest on where there was a shortage of island nest sites in southern Argyll. Helped by BP Petroleum Development Ltd for the last 20 years he has installed eight nesting rafts.
The results were striking and important as the most chicks any pair of divers can produce is two per year. Where rafts were available the Red-throats produced an average of 0.60 chicks per pair but an average of less than 0.1 per year elsewhere. The Black-throats were only successful on rafts.
He found that rafts which were in sheltered areas did best and no nesting birds were successful at the two most exposed sites. This technique of helping these rare birds may be very important where protected sites on islands are not available and the birds would otherwise be forced to nest on shore where they may be disturbed by Humans and exposed to predation.
Chris Mead, formerly Head of the British Trust for Ornithology's ringing scheme said 'David has certainly started something. First rafts were used for nesting ducks, then very successfully for terns and now divers. Every suitable nesting loch, lacking any islands, should have one.'