By Dr Dave Parish, Head of Scottish Lowland Research Project
It was a cold, blustery couple of days at Auchnerran this week when staff were trained in how to use the lasers that will be used in the new EU-LIFE funded Laser Fence project.
Led by Dr Alex Mason of Liverpool John Moores University who also kindly joined us for the two-day session, with partners in Spain, we will see whether lasers that currently are very effective bird scarers can be used in a similar fashion on mammals.
Staff and neighbours discussing the Laser Fence project at Auchnerran this week,
with one of the Agrilaser Autonomic devices on display
Joep Everaers from the manufacturers, Bird Control Group, was on hand to lead us through the protocols, including the vital health and safety requirements. The lasers are not dangerous, but direct exposure of the eye to the beam would be damaging, so it is vital that the lasers are never pointed into the sky where they could dazzle pilots, or into any public areas like roads and houses.
After the morning training session, we hosted a number of our neighbours over lunch to explain what we plan to do, so they are not surprised by the nighttime light shows soon to start across the farm!
The project was positively received with everyone keen to hear all about it and impressed by the demonstration where Joep easily displaced a large flock of thrushes with one of the hand-held devices. Hopefully rabbits will be as obliging…
We hope to have the first trials up and running within the next month or so. These will be targeting a variety of predatory species that form the suite of potential nest predators of our breeding waders. Then we will be testing the technology on rats, rabbits, sheep and deer.
These first trials are a test of principle; so, do the lasers scare-off these target species or not? Thereafter, assuming a positive result, we will explore the practical applications of this technique.