RSPB Conservation Manager, Stuart Benn, takes the One Show crew out to meet Black-throated divers.

One Show Divers

If there was a competition to find the most stunning of British birds, it’s hard to imagine that the winner wouldn’t be the Black-throated diver – a truly gorgeous combination of black, grey and white.  Always immaculate, with never a feather out of place they always remind me of a beautifully groomed star from the golden age of Hollywood.

Twenty-odd years ago it wasn’t looking good for these birds with research showing that most nests were failing.  BTDs are restricted as breeders to freshwater lochs in north-west Scotland but must nest very close to the water’s edge as they can only shuffle about on their bellies (their legs are set really far back on their bodies  - they can swim superbly but the downside is that they can’t walk).  So, water level rise means the nest gets flooded, fall and the birds just can’t physically reach their nests – too few chicks were being produced and a solution needed to be found.  Like any great idea, the answer was very simple – rather than keep the water levels stable, which would be difficult as many of the lochs are used to generate hydro-electric power, floating rafts were provided that go up and down with the water thus giving the birds a safe place to nest.

 

Photo: Chris Gomersall (Rspb-images.com)

Forty rafts are now in place and the divers have taken to them like ducks to water and, during those twenty years, the numbers have gone up from about 180 to 250 pairs.  It is a great conservation success story and The One Show thought so too and have been up filming us working with the divers this week.  Confirmation of the dates came quite late in the day which meant a bit of a rush to get the various permissions sorted but everyone involved – the different landowners, fish farm people, Forestry Commission and the National Trust for Scotland - were just brilliant and could not have been more helpful.

The weather and birds couldn’t have been more cooperative either – hot, sunny, flat calm and very accommodating so that both the Scottish Highlands and the divers looked at their absolute best.

We filmed at two lochs – one where we knew the raft hadn’t been used so there would be no disturbance and another where the pair had a small chick which we could safely film from the shore.  Filming went really well and everyone seemed well pleased with what we got – not sure yet when it’s going to be broadcast but we’ll let you know and, assuming I don’t end up on the cutting room floor you’ll get to see what I look and sound like too!