A leading naturalist has warned of a “cavalier attitude to wildlife” during construction of a controversial power line.
Sir John Lister-Kaye is concerned about work being carried out on the Beauly-to-Denny power line, which he believes is disturbing nesting birds and other creatures.
He claims helicopters delivering overhead wires to the job, which is being carried out by SSE, will be disruptive.
However, another bird expert said the low-flying helicopters would be far enough away from the nesting ospreys that are closest to the construction work.
Roy Dennis, a world famous ornithologist and wildlife consultant on the project, said: “I went to see what was happening when the helicopters were flying – and the birds didn’t even look at the helicopter.
“Ospreys in the Highlands are so used to low-flying military aircraft, they don’t bother them. I’ve seen Tornado jets go 300ft-400ft above them and the birds don’t even get off their nests.”
Sir John, who founded the Aigas field studies centre near Beauly, said there had been a contractual obligation on SSE to keep activities 750m away from the nests.
He said: “Roy told me he had spoken to SSE and they were going to be flying their helicopter for an hour, only dropping the earth wire on top of the pylons.
“I accepted that [drop] was going to be more than 750m away from the nest, and if that’s all it was, it wasn’t going to be much of a disturbance.”
However, Sir John added: “What SSE didn’t say to Roy was that they would be using a helicopter further away from the ospreys’ nests for much longer – several days on end. That helicopter goes back and forth to its base, and I would be very surprised if the pilot knew where the nests were.
“We have been watching the helicopter working for several days, and you get the impression that there is quite a cavalier attitude to wildlife in this patch.”
Sir John said he believed there should be no work done on the line during the nesting period.
He added: “Inevitably, there will be some disturbance – if not to nesting ospreys, then to nesting red kites, which are much closer to the line, and other species. We know we have goshawks nesting in the area, and buzzards.”
Tory MEP Struan Stevenson recently called on ministers to intervene over the controversial work. He claims overhead rewiring carried out by SSE across the River Beauly near Kilmorack Dam, 12 miles west of Inverness, may be in breach of legal conditions regarding wildlife.
A spokeswoman for SSE said the agreement with Scottish Natural Heritage was that there would a “buffer zone” of between 500m and 750m running between the work and the nesting ospreys.
“This has been adhered to and we have been working within the agreed conditions,” she said.
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