TURBINES KILL BIRDS.


THE GULL CULL

Tesco's small turbines in Barrow have proved to be pretty efficient bird killers:

'THE seagull population of Barrow has a new hazard to contend with — the whirling blades of the Tesco wind turbines.

'Pat Denny, of Cliff Lane, who runs a bird sanctuary, believes more than 40 seagulls have now been killed by the whirling wind turbine blades.

'She is nursing a permanently grounded gull which had a wing smashed by one of the turbines in the Tesco car park and is calling for the superstore group bosses to take action to save birds' lives in future.

'And she appears to have been backed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds which says in a letter that although it is not against wind turbines, it believes Tesco in Barrow should be doing more to save birds.

[...]

'Rowena Langston, a senior research biologist for the RSPB, said in a letter that the bird group was not against wind turbines. [Indeed not, they are actually in the turbine business through 'RSPB Energy' and their relationship with Scottish and Southern Energy PLC].

'The purpose of putting up the turbines had been to generate energy not to kill birds but in Barrow "birds are being killed as an unfortunate outcome of this energy installation".

'She added: "Morally, knowing birds are being killed by these turbines, Tesco ought to be trying to avert further deaths."

[...]'

(See full article: North West Evening Mail, 20 July 2007).

Comment: The RSPB is good at preaching after the event. Here, they can't even be bothered to insist that proper bird surveys are carried out according to normal best practice and the scoping guidelines for the environmental assessment. If the turbines were ever built and geese were killed, no doubt they would be telling the operators that 'something must be done'.



RARE BIRD KILLED BY WIND TURBINE

'A rare bird has been killed after getting caught in the blade of a wind turbine in Stirlingshire.

'The red kite, one of the rarest birds in the UK, was discovered at the Braes of Doune wind farm near Stirling.

'Wind farm owner Airtricity said the death had been "unfortunate" and added that it had carried out a risk assessment on the red kite population.

'This, it said, was done in consultation with other agencies such as the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

[...]'

(See full article: BBC News. 10 July 2007).



'WIND FARM 'IS THREAT TO EAGLES'

'Golden eagles are gravely threatened by a £200m wind farm scheme proposed for the Hebridean island of Lewis, campaigners have warned.

'Three of the predatory birds a year could be killed in collisions with turbine blades - the highest mortality from any wind power project in the UK.

'The figures come from the developer's own environmental statement.

'The planned 205 megawatt (mW) Pairc wind farm in south-eastern Lewis would comprise 57 turbines.

"When people talk about displacing birds from one area to another, they are simply moving them on to another wind farm"
Martin Scott, RSPB

[...]

'"The eagle kill is pretty horrific, as is the threat of peat slide," said Catriona Campbell, of anti-wind farm group Moorland Without Turbines (MWT).

'Collision risk

'Golden eagles are on the Amber list of birds of conservation concern and are afforded the highest level of protection under UK law. There are about 60 pairs in total on Lewis.

'"[Pairc] is a significant site, not only for golden eagles but also for sea eagles," said Martin Scott, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Western Isles conservation officer.

'The site has a high density of eagles in a relatively small area. There are three to four golden eagle pairs in the vicinity of the wind farm, with one pair nesting at the heart of the site.

'Extrapolating the figure of three deaths per year over the project's 25-year lifetime arrives at a figure of 76 golden eagles killed in collisions over the course of the scheme.

[...]'

(See full article: BBC News. 3 July 2007)



'BIRD EXPERTS SAY TURBINES EVIDENCE WAS LACKING

'Leading ornithologists claimed yesterday that Highland planners had based their approval for a number of windfarms on inadequate environmental data.

'The warning came from RSPB Scotland which is gravely concerned that, in many cases, insufficient time is allowed to gauge flight paths and breeding patterns of birds as part of essential environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

[...]'

(See full article: This is North Scotland. 7 April 2007)



MOORSYDE

With 'Moorsyde', having mentioned some of the many and crucial inadequacies of the ES bird surveys, the RSPB required merely that it be done properly, "in future applications".
And, "As is our practice [!], however, we have requested that the local planning authority include conditions on the planning permission requiring the developer to monitor local bird populations in the area and take appropriate action should this reveal any problems." So that's all right then!

(See 'RSPB DUCKS OUT' below for the full story).



SMØLA'S WHITE TAILED EAGLES

News of turbine and power line kills of white tailed eagles at the Smøla wind power station in Norway is very disturbing and underlines the threat posed by wind turbine arrays and power lines, especially to raptors. After initial reports (see the Birdlife website February, 2006), it now [23 June, 2006] appears that the news is even worse than feared:

'The RSPB says nine white-tailed eagles have been killed on the Smøla islands off the Norwegian coast in 10 months, including all of last year's chicks.
Chick numbers at the species' former stronghold have plummeted since the wind farm was built, with breeding pairs at the site down from 19 to one.'

(See the full BBC News article).



NAVARRE'S BIRD KILLERS

It is now well documented that turbines do kill birds (and bats), though the industry continues to assert that this is a myth. Ignoring the well known mass kills of raptors at Altamont, there are recorded kills at numerous other sites around the world (a brief survey of some of the international information that is available can be seen on the Iberica 2000 website). Spain has some of the worst problems with badly sited turbines, see this gallery of images from Spain.



SMALL TURBINES CAN KILL

Even a single, small turbine in the middle of a town in this country can do some damage, see 'Swan 'cut to pieces' by wind turbine blades'.



Gurelur - Killer turbines

© Gurelur - By kind permission.

Navarre, Spain - EHN's Killer Turbines.

Do have a look at the GURELUR website. Gurelur is an environmental organisation in the Navarre region of Spain.
They accuse EHN [Energía Hidroeléctrica de Navarra], the company currently scoping 3 power stations near Chillingham, Old Bewick and Edlingham, of constructing dense lines of turbines on the ridge lines of hills on major migration routes, with the inevitable consequence of large scale bird kills.


Gurelur, Navarre - Picking up Turbine Casualties

© Gurelur - By kind permission.

Navarre, Spain - Picking up Turbine Casualties


Petition to RSPB

An online petition asking that, "The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) call for a Moratorium on Proposals to site Wind Farms in Sensitive Areas", is being hosted at: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/rspb0206/.


Greylag Geese

Greylag Geese © Laurie Campbell


Mute Swans

Mute Swans © Laurie Campbell


BIRDS AT RISK


Moorsyde Action Group is firmly of the opinion that the bird surveys for the Environmental Statement that were carried out by Jacobs Babtie for Your Energy Ltd. are fundamentally flawed.

There were too few visits, leading to significant gaps in both over-wintering and breeding species recorded, particularly geese, swans, and birds of prey.

Geese and swans

As local people know, large flocks of overwintering greylag geese are seen in the area of the 'Moorsyde' site every year. Yet surveys of the area failed to record these flocks: during only 4 site visits in November–February 2004, only 2 flocks were recorded, with the largest having 89 birds in it.

If good practice had been observed, there would have been at least 6 visits. Both Northumberland County Council and Berwick Borough Council specifically stated, as part of the scoping exercise, that the Wintering Bird survey should comprise a number of site visits between early September and late March. In fact the visits that made up the survey took place on 13-14 November 19-20 December 16-17 January and 6-7 February. The ES admits that conditions on two of these days (ie. a quarter of the survey) were 'sub-optimal' with rain and wind (ES Appendix I, 2.1.2).

The surveys also fail to conform to normal good practice because they lack any detail on walkover routes, times and weather conditions. The person that carried out the surveys was based in Manchester, so there is some question as to whether he carried out early and late walkovers. The marked under-recording of geese, which normally fly through the site shortly after dawn and at dusk, raises questions about times.

During the same period a local bird expert regularly logged large flocks of geese, flying at heights between 50 and 600 feet. Geese were also regularly heard flying over the site at night.*

As well as using ponds on the edge of the site, swans regularly fly through the area at low levels. Geese and swans are known to be particularly vulnerable to obstacles such as wind turbines and the power lines which are likely to be required to connect the turbines to the grid.

Other birds which are likely to be vulnerable include lapwings and curlews, both declining over much of the UK but wintering and nesting locally; both these birds are likely to fly at turbine height if disturbed. Every winter sees large flocks of fieldfares and redwings, which thrive on wooded farmland – no studies exist to show how they are likely to be affected by wind turbines.

Curlew

Curlew © Laurie Campbell


Lapwing

Lapwing © Laurie Campbell


Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard © Laurie Campbell


Song Thrush

Song Thrush © Laurie Campbell


Barn Owl

Barn Owl © Laurie Campbell

Nesting birds

During surveys in the nesting season, the consultants found 46 birds on the 'Moorsyde' site which they considered likely to be breeding. As only four visits took place, it is perhaps not surprising that they missed at least 12 species which are breeding on the site. This is a 20% under-recording and casts real doubt on the usefulness of the survey. Tawny owls are not mentioned (was any recording done after dark? If it was, the EIA doesn’t mention it) yet they are one of our most successful breeding birds of prey. Short-eared and barn owls have a toehold, too, and there are 4 raptors breeding on site, though the Survey mentions only two.+ Like geese and swans, birds of prey are more likely to be the victim of turbine strikes as they hunt across open areas.

Other birds which nest here include linnets, house sparrows (currently the subject of a survey by the British Trust for Ornithology, to try to establish why they are declining so rapidly throughout Britain), tree sparrows, song thrush, grey partridge and reed buntings. All these, and more, are listed by various conservation groups as being “at risk” and all are protected during the breeding season.


* GOOSELOG


From the beginning of October 2005, the writer kept an impromptu log [now removed to Gooselog page] of geese and swans spotted while walking a dog on the Western side of the 'Moorsyde' site. From 1 October to 12 November over 3,300 geese and 8 swans were spotted flying through the site of the proposed 'Moorsyde' turbine array. This, please note, before the date when the Environmental Statement wintering bird survey even began. On 12 September 2006, the first of this winter's geese were seen crossing the site, underlining the scoping opinion of the County Ecologist regarding winter survey periods.


+ Peregrine Spotted by Newt Surveyors

Jacobs Babtie have recently done hasty surveys of newts and bats in an effort to respond to the criticisms of the ES by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust. On only their second brief visit to the site, the newt-counters were excitedly talking of a peregrine they had seen. This is one of several important, protected birds that mysteriously escaped the notice of the consultant hired to carry out the original bird surveys.

RSPB DUCKS OUT



The RSPB states:

Environmental assessment
The RSPB insists that wind farm proposals that may affect sensitive bird populations or their habitats are subject to rigorous environmental assessment before development is permitted and that the effects of any approved developments are monitored before and after construction.

We will, and do, object to specific wind farm proposals where there is an inadequate environmental assessment, where the assessment reveals potential environmental problems that cannot be mitigated, or where there is insufficient knowledge about the threat to sensitive bird populations or their habitats to conclude that there will not be a problem.

RSPB - Windfarms

The bird surveys in the 'Moorsyde' Environmental Statement [ES] use a flawed methodology which was described by the representative of the RSPB who was directly concerned in scoping consultations and site visits as "a snapshot, not a survey". Even though the local RSPB representative described the EIA surveys as "flawed", the regional office of the RSPB have been reluctant to address these criticisms.

Both Northumberland County Council and Berwick Borough Council specifically stated as part of the scoping exercise that the Wintering Bird survey should comprise a number of site visits between early September and late March. In fact the four visits that made up the survey took place on 13-14 November, 19-20 December, 16-17 January and 6-7 February. The applicants state that conditions on two of these days (ie. a quarter of the survey) were 'sub-optimal' with rain and wind (ES Appendix I, 2.1.2).

The surveys do not conform to normal good practice because they lack any detail on walkover routes, times and weather conditions. The person that carried out the surveys was based in Manchester, so there is some question as to whether he carried out early and late walkovers. The marked under-recording of geese, which normally fly through the site shortly after dawn and at dusk, raises questions about times as does the lack of owl recordings in the summer survey.

Again, only four visits took place to conduct the Breeding Bird survey and at least 12 species known to be breeding on the site were missed. That is a 20% under-recording.

Most striking is the gross under-recording of geese and swans, the two species that the RSPB expressed concerns about at the scoping stage. Neither the RSPB nor the consultants (Jacobs Babtie) attempted to consult with local bird experts. Had this happened, extensive evidence based on records kept over a number of years and personal evidence from a considerable number of people living close to the site would have shown that large flocks of greylag geese fly through the area on almost a daily basis during the winter months and that they also roost and graze in the area. Such enquiry would also have revealed that mute swans flight through the area very frequently and at low level.
The Environmental Statement records only two flocks of greylag geese, both at great height and the largest being 89 birds! Contemporary local records show flocks of many hundreds of birds flying across the site at varying heights depending on weather conditions at the time. Very large numbers (in the hundreds) of Greylag Geese were also roosting and grazing on the site (in a field next to the anemometer mast) during the period of the survey. They were also frequently to be heard crossing the area at night at low level, when they would be particularly at risk from collision with turbine blades. The Environmental statement admits that geese and swans are particularly vulnerable to turbine strikes.

The RSPB representative has stated, in a response to the ES, that its statement that "RSPB indicated ... they were content with the site being developed as a wind farm" was inaccurate. She further states that "11 of the species that are present on the site ... are on the Birds of Conservation Concern red list. They have been placed on the red list because they are considered to be of high conservation concern ... Therefore, the comments within chapter 9 ... that state that 'The species of concervation concern recorded on the site are all fairly common and widespread species ...' is misleading ...". In a paragraph on wintering birds, she observes that "the bare minimum" had been done to assess the site for the presence of geese and that "information contained in future applications needs to be much more detailed" [!]. She further observes that "This [local] information indicates that geese use the area surrounding the site of the proposed wind far more heavily than the information contained in the ES indicates."

The RSPB have stated: "With regards to the Moorsyde Windfarm proposal, we believe that the available information does not indicate that there would be a significant impact on birds in the area. Although your own records indicate that geese do utilise the area, the data was gathered from an area a few kilometres from the proposed windfarm site." [letter from Richard Oxley, RSPB]. Having written off the detailed records of geese movements by a respected local observer living 5 km. from the site (and with a clear view over it) and the reports of people living on the edge of the site, the RSPB then go on in a letter to the Acting Chair of MAG to say that , "we did not just rely on information provided in the ES [Environmental Statement]. We also discussed the proposal and how important the site and the local area are for geese with Phil Davies (English Nature site manager at Lindisfarne) and the North Northumberland Bird Club." [Letter from Anna Moody, RSPB, 27 May, 2005]. It should be noted that the Lindisfarne reserve is ca. 15 km from the site and that the North Northumberland Bird Club had no knowledge of the site when consulted at the scoping stage.

Having mentioned some of the many and crucial inadequacies of the ES bird surveys, the RSPB requires merely that it be done properly "in future applications". And, "As is our practice [!], however, we have requested that the local planning authority include conditions on the planning permission requiring the developer to monitor local bird populations in the area and take appropriate action should this reveal any problems." [letter to MAG, ibid.]. This is, frankly, risible.

We would ask:


Postscript:

The RSPB has recently responded to another approach from MAG in relation to the belated 'consultation' on the revised proposal. Quite laughably, they claim: "While we strongly support the sustainable development of wind power, we work hard to scrutinise individual wind farm proposals to assess their potential impact on birds." (Letter from the Assistant Conservation Officer, Planning. 20 February, 2007).


Construction Damage

Even if engineering work is halted during the actual nesting period, some of the long term effects of construction of a large turbine array would be:

If you think these are minor matters, have a look at the Cefn Croes photo-gallery which records the damage caused to the environment as a turbine array is built.


Bats

A detailed survey of the risks to bats was considered unnecessary by the consultants as the site was not considered to provide either roosting sites or feeding grounds for this protected animal. Yet all round the periphery of the 'Moorsyde' site there are known bat roosts.
This typifies the poor quality of the environmental assessment. Major omissions in habitat surveys, poor methodology and errors are highlighted in representations from the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and other bodies who have examined this document.*

* Jacobs Babtie personnel were carrying out a last minute bat survey towards the end of September in response to criticism of the Environmental statement by the Wildlife Trust and others. It is not the best time of year for a bat survey, but better late than never.


The bird photographs on this page are reproduced by kind permission of Laurie Campbell. Laurie is one of Scotland's leading natural history and landscape photographers.  To see more of his award winning photography, visit his website at www.lauriecampbell.com


Site design, graphics & photography:
Don Brownlow - Borders Photography