BUDDIES who love wildlife will be able to enjoy a birds-eye view of young hatchlings being cared for by their mother after nature reserve bosses set-up cameras in their nest!
CCTV cameras have been fitted at Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park in Lochwinnoch so that bird-watching enthusiasts can see a pair of beautiful hen harriers at their nest on heather moorland in the remote Renfrewshire hills.
The cameras are now feeding live images back to the visitor centre at the reserve and visitors will be able to see the graceful birds – about the size of buzzards – guarding their eggs, protecting the young when they hatch and then feeding them as they grow up during the six weeks before they leave the nest.
The birds have laid five eggs and now excited staff are waiting anxiously to see the first sign of the new arrivals.
A spokesman for Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park said: “Spring has always arrived a bit later at Muirshiel Country Park but nobody could have guessed how late the hen harriers have nested this year.
“We now have five eggs in the nest but at this time in previous seasons, our chicks were flapping their wings preparing for their first flights. Maybe the harsh winter is to blame.
“We’re always a little apprehensive when watching our chicks grow.
“As ground nesting birds, they are vulnerable to disturbance and predation, and bad weather can affect the chicks’ chances of survival.
“The late nesting this season also brings the extra risk of the hen harriers running out of their favourite food, which at Muirshiel is the meadow pipit. So we’ll be eagerly watching the chicks progress this year.”
The ‘Discover Clyde Muirshiel Wildlife on Screen’ project has been made possible with the help of a £16,500 grant from the Scottish Government.
Hen harriers are one of our most threatened birds of prey due to persecution and habitat loss.
There are only 600 breeding pairs left in the UK, the majority of which are in Scotland.
Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park can support on average 10 to 12 breeding pairs.
The park was designated a Special Protection Area in 2007, recognising the importance of this moorland habitat for the hen harrier population.
As part of the project, there is also family-friendly interactive displays, a hen harrier wildlife diary, wildlife feeding stations, children’s entertainment, walking guides and refreshments.
And a Countryside Ranger service will be on hand to keep people up to speed and answer questions.
A park spokesman said: “We are expecting a great deal of interest in the Discover Clyde Muirshiel Wildlife on Screen project and would encourage people to come along and enjoy close-up views of these beautiful birds of prey.”
Muirshiel has a variety of trails for all abilities, from the rugged mine track leading into the heart of the moorland to the gentle trails around the visitor centre that offer the opportunity to glimpse these remarkable birds.
As well as hen harriers, the park has a wealth of wildlife. Wheatears and skylarks can be seen flying around the trails, while the mewing of buzzards can often be heard.
If lucky enough, you may even spot a common lizard basking on the path up to Windy Hill.
Down by the river, you can watch the dippers – remarkable little birds that can ‘walk’ under water in search of food.
And, if you don’t feel like venturing out, you can enjoy a coffee in the visitor centre while watching birds at their feeding stations.
A bus will pick up passengers from Lochwinnoch train station at noon and 1pm and return from Muirshiel at 3pm and 4pm.
There will also be a drop-off and pick-up service from Castle Semple Visitor Centre.
For further information on the wildlife viewing project or any of the other summer activities at Muirshiel, contact the team on 01505 842803 or go to the wildlife page at www.clydemuirshiel.co.uk