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Dedicated team working to keep flying birds safe in Fenland

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Thousands of swans and geese will be safer when they fly in for their evening feast thanks to a dedicated team that goes out in all weathers to erect bird diverters across countryside power lines.

UK Power Networks is currently working to keep flying swans and geese safer in the Manea, Chatteris, March and Littleport areas with the installation of diverters.

The diverters are small spinning fluorescent discs which hang from the live 11,000 volt cables. Putting them up is a specialist job carried out by trained engineers using a long specially-insulated rod.

Diverters have been installed on power cables across Fenland to help protect swans and geese. (55228873)
Diverters have been installed on power cables across Fenland to help protect swans and geese. (55228873)

The diverters are more visible to big birds with poor eyesight that need long take-off and landing paths and cannot suddenly turn away at the last moment.

Birds hitting cables is a major problem in the area, not only does it result in a fatality for the swan or goose but it causes inconvenient small blip-like power cuts to homes.

Last year UK Power Networks put up 4,360 diverters on 22km of live overhead lines in the eastern region, with the majority across Fenland, and also some around Mildenhall in Suffolk and Wissington and Hilgay in Norfolk.

As a result the birds steer clear of the cables and there will be fewer power cuts caused by their collisions, improving the resilience of the electricity network for local residents.

Birds like swans and geese might not see power lines when they venture to new locations or are new to an established landing site.

The busy team in the east are currently working at Welney nature reserve and recently finished a job erecting 960 diverters along the overhead wires in Great Fen near Peterborough where the local wildlife trust has been carrying out work on the nature reserves. They are enhancing the site and attracting more birds to the area.

Last year around 80 diverters were installed along 500 metres of power cable at Thorney Dyke, near Peterborough, after several swans collided with the power line. Whooper swans fly in low each night to feed in a field before they roost overnight. Since then the birds have been safer and the power supply more resilient.

This year the company will be carrying out more work in Manea, Littleport, Chatteris and March in Cambridgeshire.

The company often puts the diverters up after being approached by a wildlife enthusiast or member of the public where there have been injured swans and geese and repeated power cuts, often in remote areas.

Heather Patrick, UK Power Networks environment advisor, said: “Diverters benefit many birds including our resident mute swans and the smaller migratory swans which fly thousands of miles every year between the UK and their breeding grounds in the north. Swans and geese are not very agile flyers and being able to spot the diverters from a distance helps them to navigate more safely.”

The four-person team working in the east are based in King's Lynn and go out with their all-terrain Unimog vehicle erecting diverters in all weathers and fixing any cables which need repairing.

Steve Thurston, Lewis Wells, Adam Mason and Peter Beck enjoy their outdoor work. Steve and Lewis have worked together for 27 years.

Steve said: “We are passionate about saving wildlife and we really enjoy being outside doing our work.”

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