Starting in late October 2017, and ongoing now, Scottish Hydro Electric employees were busy in north west Assynt carrying out works to minimise power outages during periods of bad weather. The most high-profile task was the replacement of any wooden power poles that showed signs of damage, rot, etc.
Given the lack of big trees in this part of Assynt all of these wooden poles, and the wires strung between them, are an important ‘resource’ for the local avian wildlife.
The pole in these photos was on the croft at Pollachapuill, Culkein Drumbeg and it had to be replaced, but why?
You might think that it had too much of a lean on it but that, it could be argued, is just character! Or you might say that the trees are too close to it; simply dealt with by a quick pruning.
Neither of these led to its demise; it had to go because Dendrocopos major had been having a go at it. The row of large holes, and all the smaller ones, are the work of at least one Great Spotted Woodpecker which had been prospecting for a nest site and had also been looking for food. To that amazing bird species, the old pole was simply another dead tree which would serve its needs.
Unfortunately for the woodpecker some of our winter gales can reach well over 80mph and would probably have snapped the pole, so some preventative work was needed now to remove that risk.
The woodpecker will no doubt find another suitably aged pole that passed the Hydro inspection; power cut anyone!
(The photo of the woodpecker was taken last year when Tony Mainwood, a licensed bird ringer, was at Lochinver Primary School as part of a wildlife project, but it gives an idea of the beak used to create these holes).