Unexpected Sights

Photo: PK Read

Photo: PK Read

We were out on an evening walk when we saw this very strange sight: On the edge of a golf course, an intact (but dead) fish located right below an electric fence. There’s a small pond on the course, a few long strides away from where the fish lay. The fish wasn’t clawed or damaged as one might expect if it had been caught by a cat, or one of the eagle hawks that fly around here. It was just a fish out of water, not where it was supposed to be.

Very strange.

It’s long been known that many animals avoid electrical pylons, even changing their migratory routes and breeding grounds to avoid the long stretches of power lines that criss-cross the planet. There was speculation that this behavior might be due to the open space of the pylon swathes, or the noise of the electrical pops.

Now, new research has shown another possible reason: Unlike humans, most animals’ vision spectrum extends into the ultraviolet range. What we see as electrical lines, they see as a source of bright, random and disturbing light flashes like the ones below, taken with a UV-sensitive camera.

This discovery could go some way in explaining why animals around the world avoid power lines, rendering power lines just as important as major roads when it comes to habitat impact.

None of this explains why we found a fish that had apparently been making a run for it across a golf course, especially since the fish seemed to be moving toward an electrical line, rather than away from it.