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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

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Power firm acts to stop swans flying into north Cumbrian electricity lines

Icelandic swans that migrate to Cumbria are making deadly flights into electricity lines.

Mike Pearson photo
Mike Pearson

Eight of the birds died last week after colliding with cables outside Silloth. They are also causing regular power cuts as a result of these flights.

They have tripped fuses and knocked electricity for as much as five hours at a time.

Around 700 of the birds, which are whooper swans, have set up home at a barley field on Middle Farm, an arable farm. They migrated from Iceland in autumn.

This field flooded earlier in the year following heavy rain. The water has not drained and, as the field’s crop has not been harvested, it is an ideal habitat for the swans. It is the first time they have migrated to this part of the county.

Mike Pearson, who owns the farm, said: “They are grazing in the field and then they are taking off at night.”

They are hitting the power lines during these flights away from the water.

There have been several power cuts in the last month, usually taking place at dusk an lasting for around two hours.

Mr Pearson says the resulting power cuts have been annoying but have not affected his work.

However, neighbour Robert Holliday, a dairy farmer at Blackdyke, said the cuts are coming when he is milking his cows.

“It’s a big inconvenience because it upsets them,” he told the News & Star.

A week ago George Scott, founder of the Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue Centre near Wigton, said plans for new pylons could have a “devastating” impact on swans.

The birds are not very agile and find it difficult to get out of the way of immediate obstacles in their flight.

Both farmers said Electricity North West had worked hard to get the power back on whenever there had been cuts. They also understood that engineers had to make safety inspections before they could restore the supply.

The firm is working with the RSPB to help stop the birds colliding with the cables.

They are hanging shiny objects, described as being similar to CDs.

The swans should be able to see from a distance great enough for them to be able to change direction.

A spokeswoman for the electrical company said: “We are working closely with the RSPB to do what we can to prevent the birds flying into the overhead lines.”


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