SHARP-EYED individuals around the Burghmuir area of Inverurie may have spotted some unusual birds of prey in the air but they should not be alarmed.
The birds are being used as a preventive measure to protect the new 3G sports facility at Strathburn Park run by the Garioch Sports Centre.
The centre’s operations manager Kevin Bonarius explained: “One of our most difficult problems with the old astro surface was the mess left by flocks of seagulls that roosted on the pitch, sometimes making the surface unplayable and requiring many hours of cleaning but inevitably reducing the quality of the pitch.
“With the investment in the new 3G pitch we felt we needed to take action to reduce or eradicate this problem to protect the surface for our users and it was suggested that we could use birds of prey to scare the gulls and crows away from the area.”
Ian Davidson works with NBC Bird and Pest Solution who are contracted to visit the centre several times a week and has his own hawks and falcons which are used to keep the area clear of the birds.
The birds will fly for a short period which is usually enough to scare off other birds from the environment around the pitch.
His Harris Hawk called Henna, who is three and a half, is a regular visitor and he explained that the seagulls and crows tend to stay well clear of the fearsome looking bird which Ian described as a very gentle creature.
By changing the days and times and lengths of visits and using three or four different birds the irregular patterns keep the gulls guessing and so far groundsman Peter Moultrie reports few problems.
He said that he would regularly arrive in the morning to find hundreds of birds on the surface but has seen any birds sitting on the pitch since the introduction of the haws and falcons visits.
General Manager Stuart Gordon said: “With an investment of a quarter of a million pounds it was imperative that we put in place an effective maintenance programme to keep the pitch in great condition.
“It is brushed weekly to raise the pile of the plastic grass and its critical that we keep the surface as clean as possible so we regularly remove wind blown debris such as leaves and twigs.
“For the first few weeks we monitored users to ensure that they had the correct footwear to avoid any damage to the synthetic pitch and this has proved effective.
“We are also happy with the effective bird control which has helped keep the surface clean.”
Stuart added: “The surface has proved playable when many grass based matches have been cancelled but the “all-weather” tag can be a misnomer when we get several inches of snow which then freezes.
“It’s technically possible to snow plough the surface but we have taken the decision to let mother nature take its course.
Commenting on the new pitch Stuart said: “It’s been really well received by the footballing community and its busy Monday to Friday with limited slots available. “Weekends so far have had occasional lets except for Colony Park FC who have their youngest squads their on a Saturday morning but there is still availability for full scale matches on Saturday and Sunday afternoons .
“We would be keen to see the pitch get regular matches.
“Inverurie Academy has played several senior matches and they have been complimentary about the new facility“
The new 3G facility was officially opened in October by Aberdeen FC manager Craig Brown. It replaces the original playing surface at the Garioch Sports Centre, which was installed in 1995.