A study involving whooper swans wintering on a Dumfriesshire reserve could have a major impact on new wind farm developments across Scotland.
A total of seven birds have been tracked by satellite from Iceland for the BBC’s Autumnwatch programme.
One of their number – named Doon – has already completed his 500-mile journey to south west Scotland.
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust hopes the route the birds take can influence the positioning of turbines in future.
WWT Learning Manager Brian Morrell said the study of migration patterns could help answer a lot of questions.
“With a lot of applications for wind farms – up in the Western Isles there’s a huge one planned for Lewis – they want to know what route these birds are taking,” he said.
“Are they going across the area that is going to be earmarked for these wind farm developments?
“Just knowing exactly the way these birds go allows us to get the management system and everything in place there to help them.”
Experts previously knew the start and finish points of the birds but not the path they followed.
Early signs from this new study seem to be giving a clearer indication of the preferred direction of the birds.
“We know they are leaving Iceland and they are arriving in Scotland and Ireland but not what route they are taking down the country,” said Mr Morrell.
“So far there have been two different routes.
“Some have gone to Caithness and just come down through Scotland while some of the other ones have come down right through the Western Isles.”
As well as following their route, the WWT has also been able to track the dramatic progress of Doon and his family.
The eight-year-old male arrived on the Solway this week with his mate, Balfron, and four cygnets.
They arrived at the Caerlaverock reserve after flying south over the Western Isles via Lewis and Skye and flying between Coll and Tiree.
They then headed over Mull and Arran before hitting the mainland in Ayrshire and landing appropriately at Loch Doon.
However, in the process of their arduous journey a fifth cygnet went missing.
“We feared that one of the youngsters must have perished on that terrifying 500-mile maiden flight over the sea,” said Mr Morrell.
“However, one of our contacts on the island of Rhum reported a lone whooper cygnet on a lochan and managed to read the ring on its leg and, sure enough, it was our missing cygnet.
“Although the chances of him being reunited with his family are fairly remote, he will probably latch on to other whooper swans as they pass through.”
6 November 2007
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