Wind Turbines: Reporting bird strikes in Scotland made simpler

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) says it has made it easier for the public to report potential bird strikes at wind turbines. It has created a new email address and asked that people to provide details such as date, bird species and location.

High profile incidents have led to the move. SNH said these included the death of a rare white-throated needletail on the Western Isles in June. The bird, 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.

Peter Hutchinson, of SNH, said it was not always easy for people to report suspected bird strikes. He added: “We will use the data collected to investigate links between migration routes, nesting sites and other patterns.”

Golden eagles

Meanwhile, SNH has said that a proposed 12-turbine extension to a wind farm on a Lewis estate could be accommodated if six of the planned turbines are removed.

The agency said the current plan for the Muaitheabhal Wind Farm south extension would affect the integrity of the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area.

There are also concerns about an impact on white-tailed and golden eagles.

Andrew Bachell, SNH’s director of operations, said: “Due to the likely impact of the 12 turbine proposal we have advised that turbines numbered one to six and their associated infrastructure, including the proposed substation near turbine six, be removed. “This would reduce the impacts sufficiently that we would not object to the proposal.”

RSPB Scotland opposed to SSE’s Strathy South wind farm

RSPB Scotland has described a 47-turbine wind farm planned for north east Sutherland as “one of the most worrying it has ever seen”.

Energy giant SSE’s Strathy South scheme is proposed for a site in the Flow Country – a vast expanse of peatland.

The RSPB said the site, a plantation of non-native conifer tree, should be restored to peatbog.

SSE said it recognised the importance of the habitat and that its project would involve restoring degraded peat.

The power company was given consent for 33 turbines at Strathy North in 2011.

It applied to the Scottish government in 2007 for permission for 77 turbines at Strathy South, but has since reduced the size of the scheme.

RSPB Scotland said the new site, a non-native conifer tree plantation, should be restored to peat bog. It added that the area was also home to rare birds.

The charity said birds included golden eagle, hen harrier, merlin, black-throated diver, red throated diver, greenshank and golden plover.

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “This is, without doubt, one of the most worrying wind farm applications we have seen in Scotland. “Not only does it risk harming some of the UK’s rarest species, it would make restoration of this core part of the globally important Flow Country much more difficult.” He added: “Wind farms play a vital part in tackling climate change but damage to our most important places for wildlife must be minimised.

“Over the last few years, SSE have shown that they can be a responsible developer, abandoning or amending some proposals elsewhere in Scotland that would have harmed wildlife – but this proposal sticks out like a sore thumb in their current portfolio.”

The Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) also opposes the proposed wind farm.

SSE said it had consulted RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on the scheme.

Nicki Small, Strathy South Project Manager, said: “Contrary to the claims of the RSPB, Strathy South will actually help restore over 1,000 hectares of degraded peatland while the wind farm will have an impact on less than 100 hectares.

“The project therefore delivers a significant positive environmental gain for the Flow Country as well as offering a wide range of additional environmental and local economic benefits.”

The project manager added: “We have discussed the proposals at length with RSPB, SNH and all stakeholders with a view to achieving the best outcome and we will continue to engage with RSPB in a pragmatic and scientific way should they be interested in doing so.”

2 comments to Wind Turbines: Reporting bird strikes in Scotland made simpler

  • The news that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has set up a dedicated email address for members of the public to report bird collisions with turbines is enough to make one weep.

    Why aren’t wind farm operators reporting bird collisions as a matter of course? They already employ people to collect the remains of birds hit by turbines. Why didn’t SNH demand this information when the very first wind farm went up in Scotland?

    But of course this is the last thing the wind industry wants to put into the public domain and for years it has successfully argued that such information is “commercially sensitive”. So why on earth hasn’t the Government made reporting mandatory?

    A case of shutting the door after the horse has bolted? If only. Instead we have SNH putting the onus on members of the public to prove that the horse bolted in the first place.

    Yet SNH does have a golden opportunity to act before at least one whole species of horse has bolted. The whimbrel population will be decimated if Viking’s 103-turbine wind farm on Shetland goes ahead. SNH objected to Viking’s application because of its adverse impact on the whimbrel, whose conservation was a matter of “national interest”. Very unusually, SNH maintained its objection despite considerable pressure from the applicant, but the Scottish Government dispensed with the customary public inquiry and consented the application.

    It was left to a tiny group of local objectors, Sustainable Shetland, to challenge the consent in the courts. A few weeks ago Sustainable Shetland won an historic legal victory when Lady Clark of Calton agreed that the Government had flouted the European Wild Birds Directive 2009.

    Under gigantic pressure from the wind industry, the Government is now appealing Lady Clark’s ruling. It knows full well that Sustainable Shetland does not have the resources for a second round of David and Goliath. So why isn’t SNH joining forces with Sustainable Shetland to ensure the Scottish Government sticks to the European Wild Birds Directive 2009 and saves the whimbrel from extinction by turbine?

    The reason is simple. SNH is government funded and obliged to follow Government policy. The Government has a policy of unlimited wind farm expansion, and its officers and agencies are required to bend over backwards to help wind developers gain consent. The Government has now taken its promotion of the wind industry to the point of asserting it is above the law. It has set aside Lady Clark’s ruling on the grounds that allowing large wind farms in general, and the Viking wind farm in particular, to go ahead is in the “national and political interest”.

    In other words, SNH is in hoc to the Government, and the Government is in hoc to the wind industry. And the wind industry fights tooth and nail to resist any regulation that would impede the march of turbines and the flow of subsidy.

    No wonder that SNH has proved so magnificently ineffectual in protecting our landscape and wild life from being destroyed by industrial turbines. Until SNH is properly funded and set free from government control, its mission “to promote care for and improvement of the natural heritage” risks sinking to the level of gesture and farce.

  • John Miles

    Well said. If the majority of SNH were sacked tomorrow it would make little difference. Most [as many have already left to do] would just sign up for the wind farm companies as have many ex RSPB staff as well. If Scotland gets independance forget about tourism or the uplands as their government would just give a free for all to these wind companies.