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Peterhead Substation teams lend helping hand to RSPB Scotland nature reserve

By Kirsty Brown

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A team from SSEN Transmission and contractors working on the development of a new electricity substation at Peterhead downed tools last week to volunteer at the RSPB Scotland nature reserve Loch of Strathbeg for a day.

A total of 11 volunteers including staff from the development of the new east coast substation development at Peterhead along with members of environmental consultancy EnviroCentre and Principal Contractor Balfour Beatty attended to help the RSPB Scotland team spruce up the area ahead of migrating birds returning in the spring.

Loch of Strathbeg is a designated Special Protection Area (SPA) for wildlife conservation purposes and a site of international importance.

The site is comprised of a shallow freshwater loch with surrounding wetland, dunes and grassland which is important for a variety of bird and mammal species.

As Britain's largest dune loch, Strathbeg is a vital wintering and staging post for up to a fifth of the world's pink-footed geese.

It's also home to a wide variety of wetland wildlife, such as breeding terns and gulls in the spring, migrating waders and wintering wildfowl.

The team of volunteers helped out with weeding and gravelling on a small man-made island which is a popular breeding ground for common tern, a summer migratory species which visit the coasts of Scotland to breed each year.

The island is only accessible by boat, so teams assisted with loading a trailer with gravel, transporting it to the island and offloading and raking the gravel across the ground.

The island was also weeded to help encourage native plants to grow, with another team working to remove redundant fencing from the site.

11 volunteers worked to help teams at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg. Picture courtesy of Joanna Thow
11 volunteers worked to help teams at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg. Picture courtesy of Joanna Thow

SSEN Transmission project manager for the Peterhead Substation Development, Russell Maxwell, said: “Helping at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg was a great opportunity to lend a hand in such an important ecological site in Scotland, and we were delighted to provide assistance and much needed people-power to their teams last week.

“As guests in the area it is really important that we give something back to the area, so volunteering in this way allows us to help leave a positive impact on the local environment and help these important species found at the reserve to flourish.

“We’re working to protect the environment and promote biodiversity as we progress with our development at Peterhead, and we’ll continue to uphold this at every stage of our project as work continues.”

Warden for RSPB Scotland Edward Grace said: “It was fantastic having the volunteers from SSEN Transmission, EnviroCentre and Balfour Beatty out to Loch of Strathbeg.

"Not only did they work incredibly hard in helping to build homes for our gulls and terns, but it was great to make such positive connections in the local community and show off this wonderful nature reserve.

"We hope more people will visit the site in spring to see the volunteers’ hard work paying off.”

EnviroCentre senior environmental clerk of works Joanna Thow said: ‘’Members of EnviroCentre’s ecology, ornithology, environmental assessment team as well as our managing director combined forces with representatives from SSE, Balfour Beatty and RSPB to undertake our biggest collective regional volunteering event this week at the RSPB reserve Loch of Strathbeg.

"Collectively, we made a vast improvement to the Common Tern and Black Headed Gull Island which will benefit breeding bird populations next spring.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to work collaboratively together on local conservation initiatives, learn about the work undertaken at the reserve and help with the restoration.’’

The new Peterhead substation is being constructed on the North East coast, and once complete, will form part of SSEN Transmission’s reinforcement of the Eastern network ensuring the continued safe supply of power to the North of Scotland.

On completion, the substation will facilitate the connection of new renewable generation to the grid, supporting the country’s transition to net zero emissions.

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