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Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

Well sadly no sign of the Hen Harrier at Catcott Lows today between 10:30 and 14:30, however we were entertained (if that's the right word!) by a Wildcat helicopter that was hovering and flying extremely low. It certainly put the wildfowl up making it easy to spot the hidden birds.

Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows, Somerset

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

Robin this is obviously of great concern. I will be contacting SWT shortly in case they are unaware and we will make a complaint about it. I have also been contacted by the Press Association about the disturbance created. Can you make out any ID letters on the aircraft and have you the precise time? Please e-mail me if you can, and copies of the photos would be very helpful.

Best wishes

Brian

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

Hi Brian,

The helicopter in question was ZZ405. The low level flying/hovering occured around 12:40 and lasted for around 15mins. I submitted details and photos to the South West News Agency yesterday so you might have heard from them.

Personally, I do NOT wish to see the pilot disciplined in any way, as it might have been a genuine error as it was an Army variant rather than the more usual Royal Navy ones and hopefully a one off event.

Best wishes

Robin

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

I have not witnessed such a low level flight as the one shown but the quantity of helicopter passes over all of the Avalon marshes reserves is a cause for concern. The military seem to use it as a regular training ground.

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

I was visiting from Wiltshire during this episode and as a member of Imber Conservation Group am familiar with the interaction between military activity and wildlife on Salisbury Plain - very little long-term harm results. However this was not one fly-by by ZZ405 but several passes and extended hovers in different parts of the reserve, including right past the front of the hides where the crew must have been able to see us watching and taking photos! There were far fewer birds on the water afterwards - clearly if this sort of disturbance recurred during very cold weather, or worse still, in the breeding season the consequences might be far worse.

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

And given that the Army Air Corps and their 600 personnel are soon to be based at Yeovilton it seems highly likely that disturbance from helicopters will only get worse in the future.

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Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

I was walking out to the Jayne's Drove Hide at about 1145 ( Not 1240! Have you put your clocks back yet Robin?))when the helicopter arrived. It did several passes ( 4?) and hovers very low over the reserve and put up everything.
I phoned SWT switchboard at about 1200 and sent them some photos by e-mail this morning.

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Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

I have passed a note to Simon C. at Natural England re this inc1dent as I was at Catcott with Robin .
Simon has circulated this to other reserve manages including SWT on whose reserve this took place. I can confirm that the time given by Robin is an hour out,it should be around 11.40 hrs; my camera clock is still on BST perhaps Robins is too. I have a dozen pictures of this incursion.

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Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

Hi Barry and Alan, many thanks for spotting that my camera is an hour out. Not sure how that's happened, but I will now correct it. Looks like I'm too keen to see start of BST, roll on end of March!!

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

Rather than waste time with the Press I would suggest contacting the Community Relations Officer for RNAS Yeovilton on 01935 455226 who will be better placed to do something positive and at least advise as to what is and is not permissable with low flying aircraft.

Having been an intermediary between helicopters from Middle Wallop and conservation concerns over Hen Harrier roosts in the New Forest, I have found that the quickest way to resolve problems is to get all interested parties together, as quickly as possible and discuss respective requirements.

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

I'm planning to visit with my friend SAM this week!

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Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

Most of the aircraft that exercise/test fly over this area are from Westlands Yeovil factory so contacting the military may not be the best option.

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Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

The pilot/crew would have been observant while hovering at low altitude and must have seen the hides....??

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

I agree with Nigel,as an aviation enthusiast,i am pretty sure the Wildcat is still on trials at the moment,as living in Yeovil i see them flying into Westlands all the time,i suspect contacting Westlands could be an appropriate move as the aircraft probably came from there,i think the Navy started trialing one last month. I hope this info helps.

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

surely life's too short as it is to complain about guys doing there best to practice the defence of this country, or test out new hardware for such ends.....and as we all know by experience......the birds will be back......sometimes I think bird watching gets too involved with itself.....after all if it had been a farmers tractor which put the birds up, would this thread have been started???

Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

I think the outcome of one of those aircraft ingesting a Wigeon thru its engine would also be interesting??

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Re: Unexpected Visitor at Catcott Lows!

It appears that the aircraft was in fact from Yeovilton and not Westlands,and after the photo's were published in the press and after only two complaints made to the Yeovilton PR office a full investigation is being carried out. I have been told that there is a local agreement with the airbase not to do this sort of thing in the area of the reserves and the new Army Air Corps pilots are being informed of this. Hopefully it will be a one off.
As for Ians comments i'm afraid i would disagree in this instance. If the area is frequently used for practice the birds will leave surely? There is a huge area that is not being used as nature reserves as well as Merryfield airbase. Flying discipline should be part of the pilots training and that will include suitable areas to perform low level manoeuvres, a nature reserve full of potential bird strikes is not such an area.
A farmer ploughing a field once a year, providing a new food supply at the same time, albeit temporarily, is not the same.