Wall Street Journal [paywall], 15 May, 2016.
‘The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency charged with protecting bald and golden eagles, is once again trying to make it easier for the wind industry to kill those birds.
‘Two weeks ago the agency opened public comment on “proposed improvements” to its eagle conservation program. It wants to extend the length of permits for accidental eagle kills from the current five years to 30 years. The changes would allow wind-energy producers to kill or injure as many as 4,200 bald eagles every year. That’s a lot. The agency estimates there are now about 72,434 bald eagles in the continental U.S.
‘Let’s hope Judge Lucy H. Koh is keeping an eye out. Last August, Ms. Koh, a federal judge in California, shot down the Fish and Wildlife Service’s previous “improvements.” In a lawsuit brought by the American Bird Conservancy, Judge Koh ruled that the agency had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by declaring that it could issue 30-year permits without first doing an environmental assessment. Now the agency has drafted an environmental review and is still pushing for the 30-year permits.
‘Yet as Judge Koh noted in her ruling, one of the agency’s own eagle program managers warned that 30-year permits are “inherently less protective” and “real, significant, and cumulative biological impacts will result.”
‘A 2013 study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin estimated that wind turbines killed about 888,000 bats and 573,000 birds (including 83,000 raptors) in 2012 alone. But wind capacity has since increased by about 24%, and it could triple by 2030 under the White House’s Clean Power Plan. “We don’t really know how many birds are being killed now by wind turbines because the wind industry doesn’t have to report the data,” says Michael Hutchins of the American Bird Conservancy. “It’s considered a trade secret.”
BBC News, 15 April, 2016.
‘The construction of a wind farm in Sutherland led to an 80% drop in the number of golden plovers in the area, according to a five-year study.
‘Scientists have now said their research project should be used as the basis for future studies on the effects of wind farms on other bird species.
‘The study was funded by the Gordonbush site's owners, energy company SSE, and conducted by RSPB Scotland.
‘It monitored golden plover numbers before, during and after construction.
‘According to the report, the drop in numbers was greater than in areas surrounding the wind farm that were studied over the same period.
‘Lead researcher Dr Alex Sansom said: "Golden plovers breed in open landscapes and it is likely that the presence of wind turbines in these areas leads to birds avoiding areas around the turbines. “This study shows that such displacement may cause large declines in bird numbers within wind farms.”
Study published by Ibis, the International Journal of Avian science.
San Jose Mercury News , 31 October, 2015.
‘Altamont Winds Vice President Bill Damon wrote in the email to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service that "the reduction of avian impacts" was the primary reason ...The shutdown was a surprise, as Altamont had earlier this year received an extension to operate until 2018, which frustrated environmentalists. ...Judy Holzworth, the regional communications director for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said her agency was happy to hear the news.
‘LIVERMORE -- A wind power provider that operates about 800 turbines in the Altamont Pass -- where thousands of birds are believed killed by them each year -- is shutting down its operations.
‘Altamont Winds told the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in an email Oct. 23 that it is ceasing operations as of Sunday.
‘The decision was applauded by environmental groups, which for years have been fighting to build awareness around the large numbers of golden eagles, raptors, burrowing owls and other birds that are killed by turbines.
University of Exeter, Research News, 28 September, 2015.
‘Offshore wind farms which are to be built in waters around the UK could pose a greater threat to protected populations of gannets than previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at the universities of Leeds, Exeter and Glasgow.
‘It was previously thought that gannets, which breed in the UK between April and September each year, generally flew well below the minimum height of 22 metres above sea level swept by the blades of offshore wind turbines.
‘However, while this is the case when the birds are simply commuting between their nest sites and distant feeding grounds, this new study shows that they fly at an average height of 27 metres above sea level when actively searching and diving for prey. Crucially, the study also shows that the birds' feeding grounds overlap extensively with planned wind farm sites in the Firth of Forth, heightening their risk of colliding with turbine blades.
‘The researchers estimate that up to 12 times more gannets could be killed by turbines than current figures suggest, although they stress that the figure is based on calculations using current typical turbine sizes, which could be different to those actually installed, and that there is great uncertainty over actual turbine avoidance rates.
Herald Scotland, 4 June, 2015.
‘Wildlife campaigners say they are “disappointed” by a council’s decision to greenlight a new windfarm development near a protected wildlife site.
‘RSPB Scotland have warned that the 11-turbine green energy development at Glen App, north east of Cairnryan in Dumfries and Golloway, could have an adverse affect on hen harriers nesting nearby.
‘The wind farm being built by ScottishPower was given approval by South Ayrshire Council earlier this week.
Herald Scotland, 25 May, 2015.
‘An educational conservation charity is calling for further research to be undertaken to ensure that the risks to puffins and other seabirds from offshore wind farms are minimised.
‘It comes as a judicial review lodged by RSPB Scotland into the Scottish Ministers’ decision to give the go ahead to four offshore windfarms off the Firths of Forth and Tay begins tomorrow.
‘The legal challenge to the the Seagreen Alpha, Seagreen Bravo, Neart na Gaoithe and Inch Cape developments is expected to last up to eight days.
‘But the Scottish Seabird Centre is concerned that insufficient research has been undertaken into the estimated annual mortality of seabirds as a result of the operation of the proposed wind farms.
‘It argues that the Firth of Forth is of international importance for seabirds. The Bass Rock is the world’s largest colony of northern gannets with over 75,000 occupied sites, and the Isle of May National Nature Reserve is the largest puffin colony on the east coast with around 46,000 occupied burrows.
‘Some estimates suggest that over 2,500 seabirds, including puffins and gannets, will be killed annually from being hit by the blades of the turbines. Others estimates that seabird mortality will be much higher.
CBS News, 20 May, 2015.
‘Tens of thousands of wind turbines have been installed in areas that are considered critical to migratory and threatened birds and that number is set to more than double in the future.
‘An analysis by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) shows that more than 30,000 turbines overlap with federally protected bird habitat, including 24,000 in the migratory corridor of the whooping crane and 3,000 in breeding grounds of the endangered Greater Sage-Grouse.
‘More than 50,000 additional turbines are planned for construction, the group said.
‘“Wind turbines are among the fastest-growing threats to our nation's birds,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.“ Attempts to manage the wind industry with voluntary as opposed to mandatory permitting guidelines are clearly not working. Wind developers are siting turbines in areas of vital importance to birds and other wildlife, and this new data shows that the current voluntary system needs to be replaced with a mandatory permitting system.”
ScienceDaily, Central Ornithology Publication Office, 6 May, 2015.
‘Shifting to renewable energy sources has been widely touted as one of the best ways to fight climate change, but even renewable energy can have a downside, as in the case of wind turbines' effects on bird populations. In a new paper in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, a group of researchers demonstrate the impact that one wind energy development in Kansas has had on Greater Prairie-Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) breeding in the area. Virginia Winder of Benedictine College, Andrew Gregory of Bowling Green State University, Lance McNew of Montana State University, and Brett Sandercock of Kansas State University monitored prairie-chicken leks, or mating sites, before and after turbine construction and found that leks within eight kilometers of turbines were more likely to be abandoned.
Justice News, 19 December, 2014.
‘PacifiCorp Energy, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, based in Portland, Oregon, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Wyoming today to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in connection with the deaths of protected birds, including golden eagles, at two of the company’s wind projects in Wyoming.
‘Under a plea agreement with the government, the company was sentenced to pay fines, restitution and community service totaling $2.5 million and was placed on probation for five years, during which it must implement an environmental compliance plan aimed at preventing bird deaths at the company’s four commercial wind projects in the state. The company is also required to apply for Eagle Take Permits which, if granted, will provide a framework for minimizing and mitigating the deaths of golden eagles at the wind projects.
‘The charges stem from the discovery of the carcasses of 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows by the company at its “Seven Mile Hill” and “Glenrock/Rolling Hills” wind projects in Carbon and Converse Counties between 2009 and the present. The two wind projects are comprised of 237 large wind turbines sited on private and company-owned land.
BBC News, 3 December, 2014.
‘Thousands of birds and bats could be killed by the development of small domestic wind turbines, researchers in Stirling have warned.
‘Domestic “microturbines” are growing in popularity among homeowners.
‘However, researchers at the University of Stirling say planning measures must be introduced to keep them away from bird and bat habitats.
‘The study is the first to address small turbines rather than large wind farms.
‘Previous research has suggested that birds and bats may be killed in “significant” numbers by colliding with turbines at large wind farms.
‘The Stirling research, carried out in collaboration with the British Trust for Ornithology, claims small turbines could have a similar impact.
Science Nordic, 12 November, 2014.
‘Sea eagles and wind turbines have a difficult relationship, as experience has shown time and again. The construction of a wind farm can cause birds to leave their territory, and the ones that stay often die a sudden, brutal death. Is it possible for us to help prevent this fundamental conflict and reduce fatalities? New research says yes.[Not quite. Ed.]
‘Smøla, a large island in Møre og Romsdal, has Norway’s densest population of sea eagles. It also is home to the largest wind farm in the country. This makes it the ideal place to research the difficult relationship between birds and wind turbines.
‘Espen Lie Dahl has been studying the effect of the development of Smøla’s wind farm on the nesting sea eagle population in the area, and the ensuing mortality rates. He recently defended his PhD thesis “Population dynamics in white-tailed eagles at an on-shore wind farm area in coastal Norway” at NTNU.
‘“The wind farm affects sea eagles, that’s for sure. But it all has to do with distance from the turbines. If you live far enough away, you’ll probably be fine,” he says.
‘The border between life and death
‘Since the wind farm was established twelve years ago, research has shown that one-third of deceased adult sea eagles died in a collision with the rotor blades of a wind turbine. That’s 57 individuals, all told.
‘Many of the birds that have died by flying into the wind turbines had their nesting territory within a five kilometre radius of the wind farm, meaning that the population in this area has dropped since the wind farm was built.
See below for more information.
No Tricks Zone, 11 November, 2014.
Not only do wind turbine make noise, disturb the surrounding natural environment, and create industrial blight in idyllic landscapes, but they also kill wildlife – especially protected birds.
The latest example is presented by the website of the anti-wind turbine group Gegenwind-Vogelsberg, in English “Against-Wind Vogelsberg”.
Vogelsberg is located in Central Germany and has been a natural reserve since 1956, thus making it one of Germany’s oldest. But that hasn’t stopped Big Wind from deforesting in the area to make way for industrial access roads and many dozens of 200-meter-tall wind turbines. Now this natural park “is the region in Hessen with the highest wind turbine density“.
According to the Gegenwind-Vogelsberg website:
“Here there are over 220 turbines – another 40 are now in the permitting and planning process – 75% of all Central Hesse and 25% of all wind turbines in Hesse.
“Through the unreasonable, money-greedy mayor and investors, and because of the zeal by energy suppliers to be energy-independent, the Vogelsberg and its surrounding area have mutated step-by-step from a natural park to an industrial park.””
Press & Journal, 30 October, 2014
‘Wind turbines have killed more birds of prey in Scotland so far this year than deliberate poisoning or shooting, a government report has revealed.
‘Four raptors were confirmed killed by the devices between January and June this year and a fifth bird – a golden eagle – was electrocuted by a power line.
‘Just two birds were confirmed to have been poisoned or shot over the same period.
‘The figures were revealed by in an interim report published by the Scottish Government-funded Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.
The Australian (Pay-wall access), 21 September, 2014.
‘Eagles, falcons and other raptors make up to a third of the estimated 1500 birds killed each year at Australia’s biggest wind farm.
‘The finding of an independent report for Macarthur Wind Farm operator AGL follows 12 monthly searches of 48 turbines at the 140-turbine operation in Victoria that found 576 bird carcasses.
‘After adjusting for birds eaten by scavengers between searches and the total 140 turbines, Australian Ecological Research Services estimated each turbine killed about 10 birds a year.
‘The analysis said this would include 500 raptors a year.
‘Does the government give green-energy firms a free pass on bird deaths?’
National Review, 27 August, 2014.
‘Two former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators tell National Review Online that the federal government acted with a bias, giving renewable-energy companies a pass on unlawful bird deaths while rigorously prosecuting traditional energy companies for the same infractions.
“If birds were electrocuted or in oil pits, we prosecuted those companies,” says Tim Eicher, a special agent who handled cases involving migratory birds, eagles, and endangered species until his retirement three years ago. But the Fish and Wildlife Service “has drunk the Kool-Aid on global warming,” Eicher tells NRO. When it comes to wind- and solar-energy companies, “the end, to them, justifies the means: They’re saving the planet, and if eagles die in the process, so be it.”
‘Dominic Domenici, a former Fish and Wildlife Service investigator who worked with Eicher in Wyoming, says the bias is obvious because, when unlawful bird deaths occur, the federal government “prosecutes everything except for wind and solar — and they give [those renewable companies] permits” for bird-killing. That bias, Domenici says, is “top-down” within the Fish and Wildlife Service.
It is reported that a male Sea Eagle known as Red T, which was released into the wild in Fife in 2011 as part of the East Coast Sea Eagle project was killed by a wind turbine in February this year.
The bird was fitted with a radio-tracking device which aided discovery the bird’s carcase below a wind turbine in the Ochils.
Post mortem tests showed that the most likely cause of death was collision with the turbine blades.
‘Tentsmuir sea eagle first to be killed by wind turbine’, Fife Today, 24 June, 2014.
Graphic series of photos of a young eagle’s terminal encounter with a wind turbine near Kristianstad, in Sweden by August Thomasson, a birder and photographer from Sösdala in central Skåne.
White-tailed eagles, like golden eagles and other raptors, are particularly vulnerable to wind turbines, as has been demonstrated at the Smøla wind park in Norway. Here, 49 white-tailed eagles were killed by turbines between 2005 and 2012 (See below).
Audubon Magazine, March-April, 2014.
‘Wildlife-smart wind power may be as close as it gets to “green energy”. But over vast swaths of America, the “smart” part is still more hot air than reality--especially when it comes to raptors.
‘“All wind projects, no matter where they are, kill birds. The question is become how many, what kinds, and is the mortality acceptable?” So declares wind developer Christian Herter, president of the Massachusetts-based Linekin Bay Energy Company. If the word “acceptable” sounds provocative, bear in mind that a project Herter’s company helped plan for northern Maine called Aroostook Wind Energy may well represent the best approach for the planet and, in the long run, for birds as well.
Deccan Herald, 10 February 2014.
‘The latest threat to the ecology and already waning bird species and population in the Indian sub-continent comes from the wind farms that are fast dotting and spreading like rashes in the hinterland, according to a study by the country’s oldest conservation and research organisation, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
‘The research paper published last week in the prestigious magazine ‘Buceros’ brought out by Environmental Information System (ENVIS), the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF), has rung the alarm bells for the first time warning of the haphazard installations of the wind farms.
National Audubon Society, 6 December 2013
‘In a stunningly bad move for eagles, the U.S. Department of the Interior has finalized a new rule that would make it possible to grant wind energy companies 30-year permits to kill Bald and Golden eagles. Audubon's CEO released the following statement:
‘“Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “It’s outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the Bald Eagle. Audubon will continue to look for reasonable, thoughtful partners to wean America off fossil fuels because that should be everyone’s highest priority. We have no choice but to challenge this decision, and all options are on the table.”
‘US energy supplier Duke Energy agrees six figure settlement after pleading guilty to killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at Wyoming wind farms’
The Telegraph, 23 November, 2013
‘The U.S. government for the first time has enforced environmental laws protecting birds against wind energy facilities, winning a $1 million settlement from a power company that pleaded guilty to killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at two wind farms in the western state of Wyoming.
Birdwatch, 20 September, 2013
‘RSPB Scotland is objecting to a proposal for a large-scale wind farm in the heart of the flow country in Sutherland.
‘The flow country, a wide expanse of peatland and wetland with about 1,500 square miles of blanket bogs, is currently being considered as a potential World Heritage Site. Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Black-throated and Red-throated Divers, Greenshank, Dunlin, European Golden Plover and Merlin all breed in the habitat.
‘Energy company SSE have applied to build a 47-turbine scheme on an area of commercial conifers at Strathy South. The site is completely encircled by globally important peatland habitats, protected under European and Scottish law. The area proposed for development would have been given similar protection were it not for inappropriate planting with conifers in the 1980s.
‘The final go-ahead for the proposal will rest with Scottish Ministers but The Highland Council will have a strong influence too. RSPB Scotland is urging those concerned about the proposals to email the Scottish government’s energy consent unit at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy to Highland Council at email@example.com
‘RSPB spokesman Kenny Graham said: “A number of wind farms have already been consented on the margins of the internationally important peatlands, outside of the core area. However, this proposal at Strathy South is very different. If agreed, we will see a large-scale wind farm being developed slap-bang in the heart of the flows, in an area surrounded by designated peatlands and populated by protected species.
‘“Thirty years ago, non-native conifer plantations were planted in the flows. This is now universally acknowledged to have been a terrible mistake. The proposal, which would replace a plantation with a wind farm, would show that the lessons of that unhappy episode have not been learnt. It would also drive a coach and horses through the shared aim of government and various conservation organisations to restore huge swathes of this internationally important habitat, and right the wrongs of past forestry policy. It would also pose a grave threat to the flows’ candidacy for World Heritage status.”
Birdwatch, 21 Jul 2013
‘New research from the United States indicates that bird deaths from wind farm collisions may have been underestimated by up to 30 per cent.
‘After the sad death of the White-throated Needletail on Harris, Outer Hebrides, on 26 June when it hit the shaft of a wind turbine on the island, some birders were vocal in their disapproval of the prominent energy generators, proclaiming them to be killers of bird in large numbers. While some of these claims were somewhat exaggerated, it turns out that they may inded be more dangerous than thought previously.
‘A new study just published in the United States has estimated that around 573,000 birds were killed by wind turbines in 2012 (including 83,000 birds of prey), in increase of 30 per cent on a previous estimate by the US fish and Wildlife Service in 2009. Bats are even worse hit, says author K Shawn Smallwood, and probably top 888,000 killed per year.
BBC News, 27 june, 2013.
‘An enthusiast who travelled to the Western Isles to view a rare bird has told of his "dismay" after watching it fly into a wind turbine and die.
‘The white-throated needletail, which breeds in Asia and winters in Australasia, was spotted on Harris.
‘About 30 birdwatchers travelled to the island to see the unusual visitor, which has only been recorded five times in the UK since 1950.
‘However, they then saw it die after colliding with the wind turbine.
Rewire, 13 June, 2013.
‘Four California-based wind power facilities have applied to the federal government for permits to harm eagles, ReWire has learned.
‘The applications, revealed as the result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) search by an Oklahoma journalist, would shield the wind power companies from prosecution under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) if eagles are injured or killed by their turbines.
Associated Press, 14 May, 2013
‘The Obama administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind farm for killing eagles and other protected bird species, shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret, an Associated Press investigation has found.
‘More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country's wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.
Lokalavisen, Denmark, 6 May, 2013
‘A young sea-eagle was yesterday cut in half by a turning turbine in Skagen. The Danish Ornithological Society is in uproar and considers that badly placed turbines may cost the lives of more birds.
‘The dead bird, which had a wing-span of 2.25 metres, was found on the ground on Sunday morning. The broad wings and the head lay in one place while the eagle’s underbody, with the long sharp claws, lay a distance away from the three turbines near Buttervej on the outskirts of Skagen, according to the Danish Ornithological Society (DOF).
‘“Early in the morning six sea eagles were on migration over Skagen. They circled over the Reserve and close to Grenen before flying south again in the fresh westerly wind. It would appear that the young eagle that was killed was one of the six migrating birds,” says Knut Pedersen, who usually follows the migration on a daily basis on Skagen.
‘The turbines are 40 metres high and possibly have more bird lives on their conscience, but when the area is deserted bird bodies are collected by foxes before they can be registered.
‘Birders think there is a risk of yet more kills, because Frerikshavn Commune has plans to build 11 new wind turbines in the drained Gardbø lake. Each turbine will be 140 metres high.
‘“One can hardly think of a worse location in Denmark than Gardbø to build large wind turbines, because the turbines will stand right in the flyway in to the Skagen peninsular which in the Spring is the scene for one of Europe’s largest and most concentrated migrations north. Between 10,000 and 15,000 raptors migrate every year towards Skagen. On top of that come hundreds of thousands of smaller birds,” says Thorkild Lund, Chairman of DOF, North Jylland, in the society’s newsletter.
‘“From Norway we have documentation that large wind turbines are life-threatening to, for example Sea-eagles. In the course of seven years from 2005 the 68 wind turbines at Smøla Wind Park on the west coast of Norway taken the lives of 49 sea-eagles which have collided with the turning blades,” says Thorkild Lund.
[...]’ [Our translation].
Daily Mail, 7 April, 2013.
‘The RSPB is making hundreds of thousands of pounds from the wind power industry – despite the turbines killing millions of birds every year.
‘Golden eagles, hen harriers, Corn Buntings and other rare and threatened species are especially at risk, conservationists say.
‘Yet in its latest ‘partnership deal’, the bird charity receives œ60 for every member who signs up to a dual-fuel account with windfarm developer Ecotricity.
‘It also receives œ40 each time a customer opens an account with Triodos Bank, which finances renewable industry projects including wind turbines.
‘In a previous partnership with Southern & Scottish Electricity (SSE), which invests in wind and other renewable energy, the RSPB admits to having made œ1 million over ten years.
The Green Optimistic, 5 February, 2013
‘According to Birdlife International, two threatened vulture species in southern Africa may be at risk of extinction if a new wind power project in the mountains of Lesotho comes to fruition. The vultures are often killed by the spinning blades of the wind turbines, and experts are certain the wind power project will have dire consequences.
‘Both Bearded and Cape vultures are at risk if the wind farm planned by PowerNet Developments comes to pass. The vultures at risk are found nowhere else in the world. Only 200 breeding pairs of Bearded vultures exist in southern Africa and 60% of the population is found in Lesotho. The Cape vulture, which is only found in southern Africa is at great risk with only 12% of the global population remaining in Lesotho.
‘In a move that still astounds conservationists, in 2011, Classical Environmental Management Services released a report that did not mention the two vulture species and even went so far as to say there were no major environmental flaws to prevent the wind farm project from proceeding.
Luke Dale-Harris, The Ecologist, 30 January, 2013
‘Luke Dale-Harris questions whether our concern over climate change is actually driving us to invest in renewable technologies that negatively impact the very natural wonders we are aiming to preserve....’
Ontario Wind Resistance, 5 January, 2013.
‘Today, at approximately 10:30am, Florida based wind company Nextera Energy chainsawed down the tree limb (large cottonwood) holding a beautiful, active, bald eagle nest (species of Special Concern in Ontario).
‘How is this possible? Yesterday at 5:00pm the MNR [Ministry of Natural Resources] gave a permit to this corporation to destroy this eagle pair’s nest, and cut down the tree— as long as they were able to do it by January 6th – tomorrow. In typical cold government language, it is justified that the tree and nest should be removed as it was “scheduled to be removed for the construction of a road, and within 20 metres of the blade sweep of a proposed turbine“.
The Spectator, Clive Hambler, 5 January 2013
‘Wind turbines only last for ‘half as long as previously thought’, according to a new study. But even in their short lifespans, those turbines can do a lot of damage. Wind farms are devastating populations of rare birds and bats across the world, driving some to the point of extinction. Most environmentalists just don’t want to know. Because they’re so desperate to believe in renewable energy, they’re in a state of denial. But the evidence suggests that, this century at least, renewables pose a far greater threat to wildlife than climate change.
‘I’m a lecturer in biological and human sciences at Oxford university. I trained as a zoologist, I’ve worked as an environmental consultant — conducting impact assessments on projects like the Folkestone-to-London rail link — and I now teach ecology and conservation. Though I started out neutral on renewable energy, I’ve since seen the havoc wreaked on wildlife by wind power, hydro power, biofuels and tidal barrages. The environmentalists who support such projects do so for ideological reasons. What few of them have in their heads, though, is the consolation of science.
The Courier, 22 December, 2012.
‘Campaigners have hit out following the news that two rare birds of prey died after striking wind turbines.
‘RSPB Scotland revealed that an adult hen harrier had been found dead at the 68-turbine Griffin windfarm in Highland Perthshire earlier this year.
‘A second raptor was discovered with a broken wing three weeks later and sadly died from its injuries.
‘Investigations suggest that both birds were fatally injured as a result of mid-air collisions with the turbine blades.
The Griffin turbine park became fully operational in July 2012.
According to RSPB the first hen harrier was discovered by engineers below a turbine on 18 April, just three weeks later a second male was found unable to take off close to the same turbine. The bird was found to have an injured wing and later died. (RSPB website)
RSPB state, “In relation to the events at the Griffin wind farm at Aberfeldy, our priority now is to keep working with SSE in monitoring and researching the site,...”. Somewhat late in the day for one of the UK’s most threatened species, it might be thought!
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB), 2 July, 2012.
‘Local wind turbines may have large-scale negative effects on distant ecosystems. Results of research by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) demonstrate that bats killed at German wind turbines originate mostly from northeastern Europe.
Previous studies have already highlighted that more than 200,000 bats are killed each year by German wind turbines. Researchers are convinced that such high mortality rates may not be sustainable and lead to drastic population declines in their breeding ranges. “Bats have a very low reproductive output, with only one or two offspring per year”, says Christian Voigt from the IZW. Bat populations may need a long time to recover from any additional losses owing to fatalities at wind turbines if they recover at all.
BBC News, 24 May 2012.
‘RSPB Scotland has voiced "serious alarm" at moves to expand a proposed 39-turbine wind farm on Lewis.
‘The charity has always opposed the Eisgein Estate project due to concerns that the turbines may harm golden eagles and sea eagles.
‘The area has one of the highest densities of golden eagles in Europe.
‘Planning consent has already been granted for 39 turbines on the site, and there are now plans to seek permission for up to 30 more machines.
the RSPB in England and Scotland is deeply compromised by its financial relationship with the wind industry and its misplaced enthusiasm for wind power generation. It has repeatedly ignored its own guidelines in endorsing wind proposals with inadequate bird surveys, against the advice of local bird experts.
See below for just one example.
“I don't think that the American people are ready to watch Minnesota’s nesting bald eagles be destroyed on behalf of a Texas millionaire”
UPI, 24 February, 2012.
‘RED WING, Minn., Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Minnesota regulators say they’ve delayed a proposed wind farm since the developer failed to produce an adequate plan to protect bald eagles and other creatures.
‘The Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to deny the plan, demanding that AWA Goodhue Wind, owned by Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, provide better research on how many eagles and bats fly through or near the site located in prime hunting and nesting territory.
‘“I don't think that the American people are ready to watch Minnesota's nesting bald eagles be destroyed on behalf of a Texas millionaire,” said Mary Hartman, one of a number of local residents of Red Wing who have been fighting the 48-turbine farm for years.
‘The commission’s decision highlights an emerging conflict between a demand for clean energy and growing evidence wind farms can kill hundreds of thousands of birds and bats a year.
Winnipeg Free Press, 17 February, 2012.
‘PICTON, Ont. - A proposed wind energy project in Ontario’s rural Prince Edward County has ruffled feathers with Nature Canada, which says the turbines would threaten several endangered bird species.
‘The location of the project at Ostrander Point, on land owned by the province, is “one of the most significant sites for migrating birds in eastern Ontario,” the national conservation group says. Every year tens of thousands of birds stop there to refuel, drawn by the unique geography of the area on Lake Ontario’s shoreline.
A local comment reads:
If you read Gilead’s application it states “Gilead Power Corporation has applied for a permit under clause 17(2)(c) of the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) to kill, harm and harass Blanding’s Turtle and Whip-poor-will as well as damage and destroy the habitat of Whip-poor-will for the purpose of the development and operation of Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park in the Township of South Marysburgh.” This is in the actual application to the Ontario Ministry Of the Environment.
American Bird Conservancy, Press Release, 2 February, 2012.
‘American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, said today that the build-out of wind energy proposed by the federal government to meet a Department of Energy target of generating 20% of the nation’s electricity through wind power is expected to kill at least one million birds per year by 2030, and probably significantly more.
‘ABC considers the one million estimate, which is based on a 2005 paper, 1 and widely cited by the wind industry, as likely a significant underestimate of bird mortality. For example, a more recent 2009 estimate by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) indicated that approximately 440,000 birds were already being killed per year.2 At the time, 22,000 turbines were in operation representing 25GW of installed capacity, a fraction of the 300GW of production capacity needed to meet the 20% by 2030 target. Wind farms are also expected to impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial habitat, and over 4,000 square miles of marine habitat by 2030, some of this critical to threatened species.
1 Based on mortality estimates in Erickson, Wallace P., Johnson, Gregory D and Young Jr., David P. (2005). A Summary and Comparison of Bird Mortality from Anthropogenic Causes with an Emphasis on Collisions. USDA Forest Service Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-191, pp 1029-1042.
2 The 440,000 estimate corrects for biases regarding: inconsistencies in duration and intensity of searches; size of the search plots; failure to estimate mortality during the peak periods of migration, or during some migration periods at all; impacts from wind wake and blade tip vortices; biases from unaccounted crippling losses; and the possibility of mass mortality events where nighttime migration coincides with inclement weather, that are not typically addressed or corrected for by existing studies.
Austrian Times, 29 january, 2012.
A wind-farm project on the top of an Austrian mountain plateau has not been switched on over fears that it is in the middle of a key bird migration route and that the spinning blades could lead to thousands of bird deaths.
Austrian energy company Salzburg AG has invested in building the five giant wind turbines on the Windsfeld at Flachauwinkel in Pongau, part of the province of Salzburg. It confirmed that there were no plans for it to go into operation in the immediate future because the environmental protection department of the regional government had now launched an investigation over claims that it lay in the middle of a key bird migration route.
Green campaigner Walter Maier told local radio: "“The wind park is on a plateau between two mountain ranges. Birds on a migratory route do not fly over mountains – they use the easiest alternative and in this case the two mountain ranges channel all of the birds towards the plateau which is the lowest point where they can cross”.
Star Tribune, 20 January, 2012.
‘A controversial wind farm proposed near Red Wing plans to ask for federal permission to legally kill eagles, making it one of the first in the nation to participate in a new federal strategy aimed at managing the often-lethal conflict between birds and turbine blades.
‘U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say they urged the developers of AWA Goodhue Wind to seek the new permit because the deaths of an unknown number of eagles and endangered golden eagles will be inevitable once the 50-turbine project is up and running.
Sign the petition against this.
Forbes Magazine, 16 January, 2012.
‘The revival of the iconic California Condor is colliding with the state’s wind farm boom. How an environmentalist’s nightmare has become a multibillion-dollar dilemma.
ClickGreen, 6 January, 2012
‘Conservation group RSPB Scotland says it is seriously concerned about the impact a recently consented scheme by Scottish Ministers to extend a wind farm will have on golden eagles and white-tailed eagles.
‘The scheme, to develop six new wind turbines, would be built in addition to the already consented 33-turbine Muaitheabhal Windfarm on the Eisgein Estate on the Isle of Lewis. Each new wind turbine would measure 150m to the tip of the blade and have a blade diameter of up to 120m making them some of the largest onshore turbines in the UK.
‘The conservation charity says it is concerned that not enough attention is being paid to the cumulative effect of consented and proposed schemes.
‘Martin Scott, RSPB conservation officer for the Western Isles, said: “The area where the turbines will be built supports one of the highest densities of golden eagles in the world and it is increasingly important for white-tailed eagles.”
The region of Extramadura has been described as ‘Europe’s Serengeti’, it shelters five species of eagles, three of vultures, two of storks, a critically important population of great bustards, 80,000 wintering cranes, Iberian Lynxes and many other important and threatened species. Spared from wind farms to date, it is the latest region of Spain to be threatened by wind speculators.
As many as 97 wind farm projects are in the pipeline, totalling 1,700 MW of headline capacity. Given the low winds prevailing in Extremadura, the average load factor could be as low as 15%, i.e. 255 MW. This is less than 50% of what can be produced, reliably, on demand, by a single gas-fired power plant (the gas-fired power stations are anyway being built to back up the huge expansion of wind parks). Bird experts are questioning whether it is worth seriously damaging Europe’s most important bird sanctuary for so little electricity.
Spain is already seeing huge numbers of migratory birds killed by turbines in regions such as Navarra. 1
In interviews on January 18th and 19th, Jos‚ Manuel Soria, Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism in the new Spanish government declared that there may anyway be no need in his country for more investment in renewable energy, at least for several years. 2
He said on ‘TVE Canal 24h’ that Spain has as much as 100,000 MW of generating capacity, while its peak demand is less than half that figure. This is why his Ministry is wondering, he announced, if Spain must keep adding new subsidised capacity.
The Minister also insisted that Spain must remain competitive in the global market. Its electricity, he said, costs on average more than that of France, one of Spain’s principal competitors, and this is hurting the Spanish economy.
Spain has accumulated a “tariff deficit” of 24 billion euros in subsidising renewables. This deficit is the difference between what electricity has cost to produce in recent years, and what has been charged to consumers. This has added to Spain’s sovereign debt and poor credit rating.
Scotsman, 23 November 2011.
‘THE Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has condemned a Scottish Government decision to approve a 33-turbine wind farm by an internationally important wildlife site, claiming it could affect protected species.
‘Fergus Ewing, the energy minister, yesterday gave the go-ahead to the Strathy North development in Sutherland, proposed by SSE Renewables.
‘However, RSPB Scotland objected, as the site is close to the Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve and is bounded on three sides by a special area of conservation and special protection area for birdlife. The charity said the wind farm could affect birds including golden eagle, hen harrier, black-throated and red-throated divers, greenshank and golden plover.
‘RSPB has also objected to SSE’s plans for a 77-turbine development at Strathy South and a third wind farm, planned by a different developer at Strathy Forest, immediately to the east.
CBC News, 10 October, 2011.
‘An internationally recognized “Important Bird Area” is being threatened by an Ontario wind power development, a Canadian conservation group alleges.
‘Gilead Power Corporation hopes to build a nine-turbine wind farm on the south shore of Prince Edward County, a huge peninsula that juts into eastern Lake Ontario.
‘Nature Canada worries the project will kill untold numbers of migratory birds because it is right next to a National Wildlife Area used by hundreds of thousands birds as a stopover point on their yearly journeys north and south.
More Greek sovereign debt will be created to finance 20 year subsidies for a planned 111 x 3MW wind turbines on the south side of Skyros island, within a Special Protection Area. This SPA has the largest colony of protected Eleonora’s falcons (falco eleonorae) in the country.
The Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS/Birdlife), the Hellenic Zoological Society, and the Hellenic Ecological Society published a report in 2010 in which they recommend that wind turbines be excluded from “SPAs and IBAs with sensitive qualifying species” 1. This includes the Skyros Island SPA.
The Greek government disregarded this advice: the windfarm project was authorised within the SPA in question. The European Commission did not object. Replying to a written question by a Member of the European Parliament, they wrote: “It will be the responsibility of Greek authorities to ensure proper enforcement of these provisions” - i.e. provisions regarding the location and operation of wind energy projects within Natura 2000 areas, which include SPAs.
Marcel Duchamp of Save the Eagles International warns: “The EU Directives on windfarms in Natura 2000 Areas are effectively a road map showing developers how to obtain licenses to build (and to kill) in Europe’s nature reserves.” 2
forargyll.com, 6 September, 2011.
‘RSPB Scotland has just issued a media statement condemning a decision by a developer to appeal a second ruling by ministers to refuse consent for a wind farm as “wholly irresponsible, and damaging to the industry’s green credentials. It is also a huge waste of money and a drain on precious public resources that are already under pressure.”
The statement goes on:
‘Bagmoor Wind’s proposal for a 14 turbine wind farm development at Stacain near Inveraray in Argyll was refused for a second time in July following a six-year planning process that involved two public local inquiries, costing a great amount of time and money from the public purse. The development, within the Glen Etive and Glen Fyne Special Protection Area (SPA) for golden eagles, would pose a significant threat to birds due to habitat loss and risk of collision with turbines.
Wind Watch reporting on Northern Times letter, 15 July 2011
‘A Loth man has accused Scottish Natural Heritage of “double standards” when assessing wind farm impact on birds.
Peter Davies, in a letter to the Northern Times this week, says: “In a recent article on the illegal poisoning of birds of prey, SNH area manager Lesley Cranna appears to be more concerned for the “designated site of European importance for hen harriers (on the Skibo Estate)’ than the protection of the actual birds.” And he continues: “During the planning process for the Gordonbush wind farm the local area of office of SNH was more concerned about where the boundary of another designated site was, rather than where the actual species it was meant to protect were nesting. Now Lesley Cranna has reinforced this approach.
“An SNH report places an economic value of nature-based tourism to Scotland, yet in practice it fails to adequately protect the very species without which there would be no value.
“There is more than a suspicion of double standards being used by SNH when it, rightly, condemns poisoning birds of prey, yet fails to protect the same species from wind farms.” In reply, Ms Cranna told the Northern Times that she accepted there will be bird casualties from wind farms “but our aim is to ensure that losses are at a level where the regional population of the species can be sustained.
Seattle Times, 2 august, 2011.
‘LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities are investigating the deaths of at least six golden eagles at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Pine Tree Wind Project in the Tehachapi Mountains, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday.
‘So far, no wind-energy company has been prosecuted by federal wildlife authorities in connection with the death of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. A prosecution in the Pine Tree case could cause some rethinking and redesigning of this booming alternative energy source. Facilities elsewhere also have been under scrutiny, according to a federal official familiar with the investigations.
‘“Wind farms have been killing birds for decades and law enforcement has done nothing about it, so this investigation is long overdue,” said Shawn Smallwood, an expert on raptor ecology and wind farms. “It's going to ruffle wind industry feathers across the country.”
Video documentary with ornithologist Dr. Shawn Smallwood, hosted on the EPAW website.
The Independent, 3 August 2011
‘Plans for two giant wind turbines that threaten to claim the lives of scores of pink-footed geese every year were today given the go-ahead by the High Court despite a legal challenge by local residents at Eagland Hill in Lancashire. The proposed turbines will be located about 5km from Morecambe Bay where a special protection area hosts a range of birds, including pink-footed geese.
“Given the Administration's commitment to scientific integrity, it’s hard to understand why the peer-reviewed work of agency scientists was dismissed in favor of text written by an industry-dominated Federal Advisory Committee,” said Kelly Fuller, Wind Campaign Coordinator at ABC. “ABC would like to see the next draft include more of what the agency scientists wrote.”
American Bird Conservancy in ‘American Bird Conservancy’, 22 July, 2011.
‘(Washington, D.C) American Bird Conservancy (ABC)-the nation's leading bird conservation organization-today raised concerns about new draft Department of the Interior (DOI) guidelines for wind development that appear to have been overly influenced by energy industry lawyers and lobbyists. The new draft reverses agency protection recommendations for many bird species and adds unrealistic deadlines that would lead to "rubber-stamping" of wind projects. ABC expects millions of migratory birds to be harmed by poorly-planned wind energy as a result.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 17 July 2011.
‘The butterfly effect suggests the flapping of a tiny insect’s wings in Africa can lead to a tornado in Kansas.
‘Call this the bat effect: A bat killed by a wind turbine in Somerset can lead to higher tomato prices at the Wichita farmers market.
‘Bats are something of a one-species stimulus program for farmers, every year gobbling up millions of bugs that could ruin a harvest. But the same biology that allows the winged creatures to sweep the night sky for fine dining also has made them susceptible to one of Pennsylvania’s fastest-growing energy tools.
The 420 wind turbines now in use across Pennsylvania killed more than 10,000 bats last year -- mostly in the late summer months, according to the state Game Commission. That's an average of 25 bats per turbine per year, and the Nature Conservancy predicts as many as 2,900 turbines will be set up across the state by 2030. [our emphasis].
Clive Hambler, Lecturer in Biological and Human Sciences, Hertford College, University of Oxford.
‘I think wind farms are potentially the biggest disaster for birds of prey since the days of persecution by gamekeepers, and I think wind farms are one of the biggest threats to European and North American bats since large scale deforestation. The impacts are already becoming serious for white-tailed eagles in Europe, as is abundantly clear in Norway. A wind farm – built despite opposition from ornithologists – has decimated an important population, killing 40 white-tailed eagles in about 5 years and 11 of them in 2010. The last great bustard in the Spanish province of Cadiz was killed by a wind development. In my experience, some “greens” are in complete denial of these impacts, or hopefully imagine that these bats and birds can take big losses: they can’t because they breed very slowly.
‘Birds of prey often soar where wind farms are best-sited, and may be attracted to their deaths by the vegetation and prey around the turbines. A similar deadly ecological trap has been proposed for bats, with some species attracted by insect prey or noise around the turbines.
‘There are very serious suggestions of a cover-up of the scale of the problem, by some operatives hiding the corpses of birds, but you only have to look at the Save the Eagles website to see the evidence accumulating despite scavengers or deception.
‘To my mind one of the worst problems is that wind farms will prevent the recovery of birds of prey, other threatened birds, and bats – denying them great swathes of the European and North American continent where they once dwelt. This flies in the face of the legally binding Convention on Biological Diversity, which encourages restoration of habitat and species whenever practicable. It makes a nonsense of the idea that wind is ‘sustainable’ energy – except in that it sustains and renews ecological damage.’
LA Times, 6 June, 2011.
‘Scores of golden eagles have been killed after striking the thousands of wind turbines in the Bay Area, raising questions about California’s move toward alternative power.
‘Scores of protected golden eagles have been dying each year after colliding with the blades of about 5,000 wind turbines along the ridgelines of the Bay Area’s Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, raising troubling questions about the state's push for alternative power sources.
‘The death count, averaging 67 a year for three decades, worries field biologists because the turbines, which have been providing thousands of homes with emissions-free electricity since the 1980s, lie within a region of rolling grasslands and riparian canyons containing one of the highest densities of nesting golden eagles in the United States.
‘“It would take 167 pairs of local nesting golden eagles to produce enough young to compensate for their mortality rate related to wind energy production,” said field biologist Doug Bell, manager of East Bay Regional Park District's wildlife program. “We only have 60 pairs.”
A partnership project between the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural Research, RSPB and private estates within the National Park, with additional funding from Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Action Plan and Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland, is tracking raptors in the Cairngorms area with the aim of better understanding their movements and behaviour.
The project website shows the movements of individuals that are being satellite tracked.
This project is supplying a growing body of evidence of the potential for damage to raptor populations - golden eagles in particular - from the massive turbine parks that are being consented in the Highlands, and the Cairngorms in particular.
‘European Raptors, Biology and Conservation’, 10 March, 2011.
‘Markus Jais: What other threats to White-tailed Eagles do exist in Norway?’
‘Alv Ottar Folkestad: During the history it has time and again been demonstrated that the main threats to the White-tailed Eagle are connected to human activity, directly or less directly. For about a century and a half it was persecution. Today it is land use in different ways, forestry, tourist industry, boating, and hiking, but what to me is a really scaring prospective is the way wind power development has been introduced in this country. The first wind power plant of significant size in Norway, on Smøla, is localized into the most spectacular performance of nesting concentration of White-tailed Eagles ever known. There are plans for making wind power into huge dimensions, and most of them localized in the most pristine coastal landscape of the most important areas of the White-tailed Eagle. During the last five and a half years, the wind power plant on Smøla has been killing 40 white-tailed eagles, 27 of them adult or sub adult birds, and 11 of them during 2010. There are no mitigating measures taken so far, and hardly any to think of, and there is no indication of adaptation among the eagles to such constructions.’
See below for more information on the Smøla disaster.
Irish Times - Monday, 4 April, 2011.
‘A white-tailed sea eagle introduced to the Killarney National Park from Norway three years ago has been killed after colliding with a wind turbine near Kilgarvan, an area designated as suitable for wind farms in the Kerry county development plan.
Bloomberg, 2 March, 2011
‘Germany’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation has stopped a planned 500 million-euro ($690 million) wind farm in the North Sea because of concerns about its impact on the environment and bird life, Die Zeit reported, without saying where it obtained the information.
‘The proposed “Sandbank Extension” was to have had 40 wind turbines, the newspaper reported today in an e-mailed article that will be published tomorrow.
WFAA.com, 19 November, 2010.
One of the most interesting and endearing sights on the Texas prairie is the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. During mating season, males strut and dance, puff up orange air sacks on their necks, and raise horn-like feathers. Maybe you've never heard of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken but the odds are you will.
CanalSur news video on EPAW website - 12 November, 2010 (English subtitles).
Andalusia’s public television channel report on The Migres Foundation findings that more than 100 migrating Griffon Vultures are killed every year by wind turbines overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Age, November 17, 2010.
‘The number of eagles killed by turbine blades at one of Australia’s largest wind farms is climbing, with a rare juvenile wedge-tailed eagle the 22nd to die at Woolnorth in Tasmania’s north-west.
‘The juvenile eagle was the only wedge-tailed bird from the critically endangered Tasmanian sub-species to successfully fledge locally last season, according to Tasmanian Greens MP Paul O’Halloran.
Croatian Times, 1 November 2010.
‘Conservation workers in Bulgaria this week recovered the body of a rare Griffin Vulture from a contested wind farm park.
‘There has been an explosion in the number of wind farms being built in Bulgaria and the St Nikolas park where the vulture was killed is located along the Black Sea coast in the western part of the Kaliakra Important Bird Area (IBA).
‘The park run by AES Geo Energy is in the focus of two EC infringement procedures for failing to properly protect or care for local birdlife.
‘A great number of fatal incidents with Griffon vulture are registered in Spain and Greece. This is the first case recorded in Bulgaria.’
‘En Roumanie, la multiplication des parcs éoliens menace la riche biodiversité du delta du Danube. [In Romania, the multiplication of wind energy facilities threatens the rich diversity of the Danube delta.]
“It is being called the the greatest attack on nature in Norway’s history, as power companies want to build thousands of wind turbines along the coast. Large areas of untouched nature are in danger of being industrialised. Coastal people protest against new neighbours that will fill the horizon and biologists fear that we are destroying our last wilderness.” (Programme note).
This Nature Magazine programme for Norwegian TV1 is beautifully filmed and does not need any understanding of the language to follow the story of what the wind industry has done to Smøla and threatens to do to the Norwegian coastal skerries, which are not only incredibly beautiful, but also an important ecosystem and avian migration route of international importance.
See also:‘Smøla Wind Park is a Catastrophe for White-tailed Eagles’, below.
The Danish government is bulldozing through plans for the world’s largest industrial test centre for offshore wind turbines in Northern Jutland. It is proposed to build seven 250 meter high offshore turbines, clearing 15 square kilometres of forest and wetland between the Thy National Park and Vejlerne, a Ramsar site which is northern Europe’s largest breeding ground for migratory birds.
The area is currently categorised as a recreational area, where the building of wind turbines is prohibited.
Local people have formed an association, ‘Landsforeningen for Bedre Miljø’ (The Association for an Improved Environment) with the aim of providing information on the environmental and social consequences of building the national test centre. So far they have to persuade the Danish government to produce a more thorough investigation of the project’s environmental impacts.
Calgary Herald, July 10, 2010.
‘Last month’s guilty verdict against Syncrude in the deaths of 1,606 ducks at an oilsands tailings pond received international media coverage.
‘Meanwhile, little attention has been paid to 1,982 bird and bat deaths at Canada’s second-largest wind farm, Ontario’s Wolf Island Eco-Power Centre.
‘According to a monitoring report in May, the nearly 2,000 bird and bat deaths during the first eight months of the wind farm’s operation involved 33 birds species and five bat species. No charges have been laid.
Dorset Echo, 3 July 2010.
‘A œ20,000 wind turbine brought in to make a Portland primary school more environmentally friendly has been turned off because it was killing seabirds.
‘Headteacher Stuart McLeod, of Southwell Community Primary School, said they “tried everything” to solve the problem but had no choice but to shut it down.
‘In the past few months the nine metre high generator has taken the lives of 14 birds – far higher than the manufacturer’s estimate of one per year.
‘The wind turbine was installed at the school around 18 months ago, thanks to grant funding, to provide six kilowatts of power an hour.
‘Mr McLeod said: “ We’ve got the ideal location for wind power but unfortunately seagulls kept flying into it.”
‘“We were told by the manufacturer to expect maybe one fatality a year but it killed 14 in six months so we took advice and made the decision to turn it off.”
‘“If it had happened at night time you could understand that the birds couldn’t see the blades, which rotate at 135mph but it was happening at all different times of the day.”
The Scotsman, 25 June 2010
‘Experts believe an endangered bird of prey found dead at a wind farm in the Highlands was killed after colliding with a turbine, despite assurances that the devices are harmless to wildlife.
‘The kite was satellite tagged as part of a monitoring project under the Eyes To The Skies project. Its flight path was being logged by RSPB Scotland as well as children from Aviemore Primary School, who adopted the bird and nicknamed it “Tweety Pie”.
RSPB red kite community officer Claire Buchanan said: “We had been tracking its progress through its satellite tag and plotting its movements on our dedicated website.
“It is really sad that we have lost Tweety Pie and, of course, the children have been much saddened about what has happened. Any loss of a kite is serious because the red kite population on the Black Isle is already under intense pressure due to illegal killing.”
See Mark Duchamp’s report on the Red Kite International Symposium 17-18 October, 2009, Montb‚liard, France.
Mr Duchamps references the RSPB’s financial interest in the wind industry and states that:
Contrary to delegates from Germany, Italy, France, and Spain, RSPB members downplayed the risk that wind farms represent for the survival of the Red Kite in Europe.
Whereas a German government-funded study recommends a setback of 1 to 2 km between wind turbines and red kites’ nests and roosting places (my own recommendation is 3 km), an ornithologist from the RSPB argued that at the Braes of Doune windfarm in Scotland, the consultant had found that the red kites were avoiding the windfarm.
Since a red kite had collided with a turbine before their research started, this would imply that Scottish red kites are able to learn to avoid windfarms. This would also imply that red kites in the rest of Europe are more stupid, because they get killed in large numbers: in Germany, the estimate is 200-300 red-kite/wind-turbine collisions per year, and in Italian valleys where windfarms have been installed they have almost disappeared entirely (relief and the use of declivity winds may explain the higher mortality as compared to Germany).
Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, 16 June 2010.
‘Pearce-Higgins, J.W. , Stephen, L., Langston, R.H.W., Bainbridge, I.P. and Bullman, R. 2009. The distribution of breeding birds around upland wind farms. Journal of Applied Ecology 46: 1323-1331.
‘With respect to negative effects of wind farms, the authors write that “the displacement of birds away from turbines can result in individuals abandoning otherwise suitable habitat,” and they say that such “has been found to occur in a number of individual wind farm studies,” citing the works of Leddy et al. (1999), Larsen and Madsen (2000), Kowallik and Borbach-Jaene (2001), Hotker (2006), Hotker et al. (2006) and Larsen and Guillemette (2007). In fact, they report that “some poorly sited wind farms have resulted in sufficient deaths to produce a population-level effect,” referencing the studies of Barrios and Rodriguez (2004, 2007), Everaert and Stienen (2006), Smallwood and Thelander (2007), Sterner et al. (2007) and Thelander and Smallwood (2007).
‘In an effort designed to study this issue more broadly, Pearce-Higgins et al. assessed the degree of occurrence of twelve widely-distributed species of breeding birds within the vicinity of wind farm infrastructure (turbines, access tracks and overhead transmission lines) on twelve different wind farms located within unenclosed upland habitats (moorland, rough grassland and blanket bog) in the United Kingdom, which sites included most of the existing large upland wind farms in Scotland and northern England.
The five UK scientists obtained “considerable evidence for localized reduction in breeding bird density on upland wind farms.” More specifically, they report that after accounting for habitat variation, “seven of the twelve species studied exhibited significantly lower frequencies of occurrence close to the turbines,” and that there was “equivocal evidence of turbine avoidance in a further two,” while “no species were more likely to occur close to the turbines.” Access tracks, on the other hand, proved much less of a nuisance than turbines; and there was no evidence for consistent avoidance of overhead transmission lines. All things considered, they thus concluded that “levels of turbine avoidance suggest breeding bird densities may be reduced within a 500-m buffer of the turbines by 15-52%, with buzzard (Buteo buteo), hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria), snipe (Gallinago gallinago), curlew (Numenius arquata) and wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) most affected.”
Globe & Mail, Ontario. 9 June, 2010.
‘“Shockingly high” numbers of bird and bat deaths caused by one of Canada’s biggest wind farms should serve as a warning to planners of other projects that may be built in crucial wildlife zones, one of the country’s key conservation groups says.
‘The 86 huge turbines on Wolfe Island, just outside Kingston, Ont., began to produce power about a year ago, and an on-going count of bird and bats that have been killed by the blades has been conducted since then.
‘A consultant’s report covering the period between July and December of 2009 was released recently, indicating that 602 birds and 1,270 bats were killed by the turbines over that stretch. While the report says the numbers of dead birds and bats are similar to other wind farms in North America, Ottawa-based environmental advocacy group Nature Canada says the figures are actually surprisingly large and represent a significant threat to several endangered species.
Sunday Times, 3 January, 2010
‘Britain’s upland birds are in danger of being driven off hills and mountains by onshore wind farms.
‘Scientists have found that birds, including buzzards, golden plovers, curlews and red grouse, are abandoning countryside around wind farms because the turbines act as giant scarecrows, frightening them away.
‘The impact is small now because there are few wind farms but researchers warn that, with hundreds more planned, plus an increase in the size of turbines, the effect could become much worse.
‘“We found evidence for localised reductions in bird breeding density around upland wind farms. Importantly, for the first time, we have quantified such effects across a wide range of species,” said James Pearce-Higgins, an ecologist with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland.
‘His research was conducted with scientists from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish government’s environment research directorate. It is one of the first scientific analyses of how the wind-farm construction programme might affect wildlife.
‘The UK has 259 onshore wind farms, of which 108 are in England, 91 in Scotland, 33 in Wales and 27 in Northern Ireland. Planning permission has been granted for a further 222 and there are plans for another 270 after that.
‘In the study Pearce-Higgins surveyed the populations of 12 bird species around a dozen upland wind farms in Scotland and northern England.
‘These were compared with a similar number of control sites that had no turbines, but which had similar topography and vegetation.
‘Upland areas were chosen because they have the strongest winds and so are preferred by wind-farm developers. They are also favoured, however, by some of Britain’s most vulnerable bird species.
‘Writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Pearce-Higgins and his colleagues said birds tended to stop nesting within half a mile of any turbine. Since the effect extends around each machine, up to two square miles could be affected by one turbine.
‘Pearce-Higgins said: “Our results highlight significant avoidance of otherwise apparently suitable habitat close to turbines in at least seven of the 12 species studied, with equivocal evidence for avoidance in a further two species.”
BBC Radio Four’s ‘Farming Today This Week’ programme on Saturday, 14 November, had a memorable interview with landowner James Hamilton Stubber who has 20 turbines on his land in Northern Ireland.
Mr Stubber, though lukewarm about the visual impact of turbines, enthused at the “beneficial effect on the environment” of the turbine access roads across the moor which apparently benefited his grouse because they had access to road grit. Another benefit he mentioned was that the turbines “keep aerial vermin away”.
The BBC interviewer did not bother to ask Mr Stubber what sort of aerial vermin he had in mind - Hen Harriers? Buzzards? Red Kites? Eagles?
(Press release from Mark Duchamp, Director, Iberica 2000 and President, Save the Eagles International, 19 October 2009).
‘The Red Kite International Symposium took place Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th in Montb‚liard, France.’
‘Contrary to delegates from Germany, Italy, France, and Spain, RSPB members downplayed the risk that wind farms represent for the survival of the Red Kite in Europe.’
See also Mark Duchamp’s observations on the behaviour of RSPB and SNH in Scotland in favouring wind development over the welfare of large raptors.
“Birds learn to avoid wind farms.” (RSPB spokesman).
The Scotsman, 26 September 2009.
‘Some of Scotland's most vulnerable bird species are in decline because of “poorly positioned” wind turbines, a new study has shown.
‘The RSPB Scotland study looked at 12 operating upland wind farms in the UK and found that numbers of several birds of high conservation concern are reduced close to the turbines.
‘Affected birds include the hen harrier and golden plover, which are protected under European law, and the curlew, which is a high-priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
‘The study found that the population density of breeding birds is reduced by between 15 and 53 per cent when nests are within 500 metres of a turbine.
Associated Press, 21 September 2009.
‘For years, a huge wind farm in California's San Joaquin Valley was slaughtering thousands of birds, including golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and burrowing owls.
‘The raptors would get sliced up by the blades on the roughly 5,400 turbines in Altamont Pass, or electrocuted by the wind farm's power lines. Scientists, wildlife agencies and turbine experts came together in an attempt to solve the problem. The result?
‘Protective measures put in place in an effort to reduce deaths by 50% failed. Deaths in fact soared for three of four bird species studied, said the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area Bird Fatality Study.
‘The slaughter at Altamont Pass is being raised by avian scientists who say the drive among environmentalists to rapidly boost U.S. wind farm power 20 times could lead to massive bird losses and even extinctions.
New wind projects “have the potential of killing a lot of migratory birds,” said Michael Fry, director of conservation advocacy at the American Bird Conservancy in Washington.
See also - Video: ‘Fatal attraction: birds and wind turbines, with ornithologist Dr. Shawn Smallwood’ (on EPAW website).
New Scientist, 6 September 2009
‘COULD wind farms hasten the local extinction of an endangered vulture in southern Spain?
‘Studies have so far focused on the short-term effects of wind turbines, looking at the number of bird collisions per turbine per year. Martina Carrete of the Do¤ana Biological Station in Seville and colleagues took a new approach. They recorded the number of Egyptian vulture carcasses with collision injuries found around 675 wind turbines in southern Spain between 2004 to 2008. They then plugged this information and data on wind turbine locations and vulture nesting sites across Spain into a computer model to predict what will happen to the entire population of Spanish birds over the next 100 years. The results suggest that if the number of wind turbines stays the same as it is today, the population will go extinct 10 years sooner than if there were no wind farms.’
BBC News, 24 July 2009.
‘An aquarium in Devon has taken down two wind turbines after seagulls were killed when they collided with the blades.
‘The 15m (50ft) high 6kW turbines at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth were installed in 2006 for a œ3.6m sustainable energies project.
‘But the Hoe-based attraction has taken them down after several birds died, it said.
‘The aquarium also said they had not produced as much electricity as hoped.
Read Dr Mike Hall's response1 to the RSPB’s call for more onshore wind development2:
....I have been too busy writing evidence for a Public Inquiry for the past 5 weeks at Armistead ( Cumbria) to write to you with my own objection until now. For Armistead, the RSPB adopted its usual fig-leaf cop-out position in supporting ‘a habitat management plan’ proposed by the developer and so did not object. Your lack of objection is despite the existence on and around the site of Hen Harrier (14 sightings in the last 6 years including a pair this year), Merlin, Peregrine, Curlew, Lapwing (including a field adjacent to the site in the Countryside Stewardship scheme for lapwing breeding), Yellowhammer, Skylark, Twite, Reed Bunting, and many other more common birds. Quite appalling....
....One would not mind if you had any basis for your ‘carefully considered position’ but you have none. Wind farms destroy peoples lives, split communities, devastate habitats, kill bats and some birds, decimate the landscape, destroy peat, and are only built because of the subsidies they can reap. I attach an article from the Building Magazine ( April 11th 2008) about the peat on Whitelee wind farm site. Just read it and see if you don't get angry. They see peat as an engineering challenge to be destroyed and tamed. I also attach a Proof I have prepared for the Armistead Public Inquiry, and a summary of the history of CO2 savings by wind farms - which the BWEA has just HALVED to 0.43t/MWh after repeated defeats by the ASA. The BWEA action alone will have halved the savings or (put another way) doubled the number of turbines needed for any given saving. I won't go on in detail except to point out that even these supposed savings are greatly overstated. I believe in reducing CO2 emissions but unlike the RSPB realise that this is the wrong technology to even begin to address the issue. Hence the RSPB have mistakenly decided to back a technology which cannot contribute anything significant to the issue of climate change, the issue you use as your only excuse for backing this deceitful, dishonest and divisive industry. Your action is indefensible as well as being contrary to your charitable status.
Mike Hall’s experience of the RSPB sounds all too familiar to people in north Northumberland. Here, having mentioned some of the many and crucial inadequacies of the ‘Moorsyde’ 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).
Christina Gillham, Newsweek, 13 August, 2009.
‘In Wyoming, it’s the sage grouse. In Colorado, it’s the lesser prairie chicken. In the Northwest, it’s the Washington ground squirrel. Across the country, a growing number of species are finding themselves at the epicenter of a new battle being waged by environmentalists and developers. The issue—species being threatened by encroaching human development—is nothing new, of course. What is new? The encroachers aren’t the usual suspects—say, a sprawling McMansion community developer—but the environmentally friendly wind-energy industry.
‘Wind energy has been touted as cost-effective to produce clean energy as well as jobs. That promise, along with new government subsidies, has helped wind turbines pop up on hills and fields throughout America. But not every environmentalist is happy about that development. Critics charge that wind-energy development can cause habitat fragmentation—a displacement of a species that can eventually reduce its numbers—as well as the deaths of birds and bats (a species that is especially vulnerable due to its low reproductive rates) that collide with the wind turbines' massive rotor blades. A 2007 study by the National Academy of Sciences puts the number of birds killed each year at about 20,000 to 30,000. That's a low estimate, says Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy. According to his group, turbines kill three to 11 birds per megawatt of wind energy they produce. Right now, there are about 20,000 megawatts produced in the United States, which can mean—at worst—up to 220,000 bird fatalities a year. With wind energy expected to produce 20 percent of this country's energy by 2030, output would grow tenfold and, environmentalists worry, deaths could increase at a similar rate. Whatever the number, the wind industry is hoping to avoid damaging its green reputation and is struggling with finding the right solution.
Australia’s biggest wind farm in north-west Tasmania has become a “black hole” for endangered wedge-tailed eagles.
The 62-tower Woolnorth farm has killed up to 18 of the island's endangered subspecies of the wedge-tail in its giant rotor blades.
(See full article: Sydney Morning Herald. 3 January 2008.
‘The Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area is also a symbol of the wind industry's biggest stain - the killings of thousands of birds, including majestic golden eagles, by turbines. The result has been a wrenching civil war among those who are otherwise united in the struggle to save the planet and its creatures. It's been nearly a year since a controversial legal settlement was forged among wildlife groups, wind companies and Alameda County regulators. That agreement, opposed by some parties to the dispute, promised to reduce deaths of golden eagles and three other raptor species by 50 percent in three years and called for the shutdown or relocation of the 300 or so most lethal of the approximately 5,000 windmills at Altamont. But five scientists appointed by the county say the settlement and accompanying efforts to reduce bird deaths are not on track to meet the 50 percent goal ...“We are deeply distressed about the continuing bird deaths and about the companies not being on track for the 50 percent reduction, ” said Elizabeth Murdock, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, a chief plaintiff in the lawsuit that has reshaped the battle over the birds.
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 are good at preaching after the event. In the ‘Moorsyde’ case, in north Northumberland, they refused to insist on proper bird surveys being carried out according to normal best practice and the scoping guidelines for the environmental assessment. If the turbines had been built and geese were killed, no doubt they would have been telling the operators that “something must be done”.
‘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).
This final version of the first-year survey of the wind facility on the Tug Hill Plateau in Lewis Country, N.Y., concludes that an estimated 2,200 to 4,094 birds and bats were killed by 120 turbines during the 5-month study period in 2006. Ignoring seasonal variability (as well as shortcomings of methodology), that would extrapolate to 8,580 to 15,967 birds and bats killed by the currently operating 195 turbines over a whole year. That’s up to 23 birds and 59 bats per turbine per year.
(Study downloadable from IWA website).
‘Golden eagles are gravely threatened by a œ200m 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).
‘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)
‘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)
Norwegian Ornithological Society (NOF), 9 May 2006 (our translation):
‘SMØLA WIND PARK IS A CATASTROPHE FOR WHITE TAILED EAGLES’
‘Eight months after the Smøla wind park started working and, with pomp and ceremony, was declared open, unfortunately we have to conclude that nine white tailed eagles have been killed by the wind turbines. NOF will demand that the turbines are stopped so that everyone can sit down and undertake a thorough review of the problem before more birds are killed.
‘NOF sacrificed large resources over several years’ of casework in order to stop the construction of a wind power station on Smøla. Our background material was large; through NOF’s Project White Tailed Eagle NOF possesses unique knowledge on the species’ population and habitat use on Smøla. In addition NOF has considerable understanding of the negative consequences that wind parks can have, especially for raptors. While the authorities and developers used research from wind parks in Denmark and the Netherlands as the basis for their evaluation, NOF went to the large parks in the USA and Spain to check the results from their investigations. We did this in order to find areas with fauna similar to our own, that is with large raptors that actively use wind park areas. Here we found clear evidence that large raptors are hard hit by such developments. When, in addition, we then showed through Project White Tailed Eagle that Smøla has one of the world’s densest breeding populations of white tailed eagles, then the tragic consequences that we see today were inevitable!
‘Of the nine dead white tailed eagles that so far have been found after eight months operation on Smøla, there are six adult, fully fledged birds and three young birds. Last year radio transmitters were attached to six of the young birds on Smøla. Now, less than a year after tagging, three of these have already been found dead. The discovery of six adult birds will also have dramatic consequences for a species with a low breeding rate and a long life span. With over 100 applications for various wind installations along our coast under consideration, of which many are associated with breeding areas for white tailed eagles, we may in a few decades find that the white tailed eagle population is much reduced. Also other species such as golden eagles, horned owl, red-throated diver etc. may easily be victims of the wind turbines’ beating blades.’
Do watch the beautifully filmed Nature Magazine programme by NRK1 TV - see above.
See the report on the Bern Convention Standing Committee’s appraisal visit to Smøla, 15-17 June 2009 (PDF download).
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).
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'.
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 which scoped 3 wind 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. EHN has since been acquired by Acciona, whose board Miriam Clegg, known professionally by her maiden name Miriam González Durántez, joined in June 2010, just after the coalition was formed.
[The ‘Moorsyde’ proposal (the name was invented by the applicants) was for 110m turbines on land at Grievestead, Felkington and Ancroft Southmoor, 6 miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland. A planning application was submitted for 14 turbines in 2005. Numbers were subsequently reduced to 7. The scheme was unanimously refused locally despite a recommendation to approve by Berwick Borough Council and Northumberland County Council planning officers. This refusal was upheld at appeal in 2010.]
“The RSPB insists that wind farm proposals are subject to rigorous environmental assessment before development is permitted.” (RSPB - Windfarms).
The bird surveys in the Moorsyde Environmental Statement [ES] used a flawed methodology which was described by the local representative of the RSPB who was directly concerned in scoping consultations and site visits as “a snapshot, not a survey”. She described the EIA surveys to the writer as “flawed”. Despite this, the regional office of the RSPB refused to address these issues.
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 stated 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 did 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, raised questions about times as did 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 was 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 recorded only two flocks of greylag geese, both at great height and the largest being 89 birds! Contemporary local records showed 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 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 stated 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 [sic] concern recorded on the site are all fairly common and widespread species ...’ is misleading ...”. In a paragraph on wintering birds, she observed 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 observed 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 [sic] (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 where Phil Davey operates 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.
The above should be compared with a response from English Nature, in which Phil Davey is again referenced:
‘He refutes the assertion within 9.3.33 [Moorsyde Environmental Statement] (and requoted within other parts of the ES) that “the route is not on a known flyway”. He advised at the time about the use of sites he knows, he did not discount bird use of the proposed development site and identified those who may know that area in more detail.’ (Consultation response from English Nature to Development Services Manager, Berwick, 16 February 2005).
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 risible.
We would ask:
What is the point of requiring bird surveys if it is not also required that they be properly conducted according to the criteria agreed at the scoping stage?
Should the RSPB be making decisions on the basis of unrecorded chats with third parties rather than proper evidence-based procedures; e.g. properly conducted bird surveys?
Is the RSPB compromised by its financial interest in the construction of turbine arrays? (In 2003-4, when the ‘Moorsyde’ bird surveys were carried out, the RSPB earned “around œ190,000” from its relationship with Scottish and Southern Energy PLC, through ‘RSPB Energy’, a so-called ‘green energy’ scheme. The Advertising Standards Authority found against the RSPB for some of its ‘green energy’ claims in this period.)
The RSPB responded to another approach from MAG in relation to the belated ‘consultation’ on the revised proposal in 2007.
Entirely against the ‘Moorsyde’ evidence, they claimed: “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).
ELECTRICITY GENERATIONU.K. National Grid Status