Artificial nesting rafts to aid rare duck

19 May 2017
Duck conservation

The rafts are made from durable polyethylene and recycled plastic. Image courtesy of Jim Manthorpe

One of Scotland’s rarest breeding ducks is set to benefit from two specially constructed floating nesting rafts manufactured by a recycled plastics company.

Fusion Marine designed and manufactured the 7m by 3.75m rafts, made from durable polyethylene and recycled plastic sourced from redundant fish farm pens, with the RSPB and Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) to attract common scoter ducks.

In the UK, common scoters (Melanitta nigra) breed in only a handful of freshwater lochs in the northern Highlands and it is hoped that the nesting rafts, commissioned as part of a conservation project, will provide safe new breeding sites.

Kenneth Knott, environment manager at FCS, said: “I am delighted that Fusion Marine took the challenge of helping the project develop and build a larger ‘island’ for use in the project. The research showed that the problems associated with the scoters rearing their ducklings could be addressed, at least in part, by this new style of artificial island. The more robust construction includes extra flotation allowing for a deep habitat layer to be supported on the island without fear of sinking.”

Peat, turf and heather are placed on top of the rafts, which are designed to look like natural floating islands to attract common scoters looking for nests safe from predators.

The common scoter is listed as a bird of high conservation concern, with only about 50 breeding pairs in the UK. It is envisaged that the rafts will enable researchers to better monitor scoter breeding behaviour.

Rhuaraidh Edwards, technical sales engineer at Oban-based Fusion Marine, added: “We have previously used our experience in polyethylene technology to manufacture rafts for nesting terns, which proved very successful. It is great that we have now been able to use such knowledge to help secure the future of one of Scotland’s rarest breeding ducks.”

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