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Wind Farms Blamed For Deaths Of Eagles

Wind farms have been blamed for the deaths of Europe's largest eagle, fuelling fears the controversial turbines will pose a threat to Britain's birdlife.

The discovery of the four white-tailed eagles off the Norwegian coast, and the failure of almost 30 others to return to nesting sites within the wind farm area, is evidence that UK wind farms will take a similar toll on native and migrating wild birds, conservationists warn.

The huge bird of prey is found in significant numbers on Smola, a set of islands about six miles from Norway's mainland. The island is listed by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area because it has one of the highest breeding densities of the bird in the world.

White-tailed eagles, which can live for up to 35 years if left unmolested, are also beginning to thrive in the Western Isles of Scotland as a direct result of a 30 year reintroduction project.

Developers also regard this area as ripe for wind farm construction.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds conservation director Dr Mark Avery said: "These findings are shocking yet may just be the tip of the iceberg.

"Research on Smola is being stepped up and if more dead birds are found, and even fewer are able to breed, we will be doubly determined to fight wind farm plans that could cause similar destruction... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
The discovery of the four white-tailed eagles off the Norwegian coast, and the failure of almost 30 others to return to nesting sites within the wind farm area, is evidence that UK wind farms will take a similar toll on native and migrating wild birds, conservationists warn.

The huge bird of prey is found in significant numbers on Smola, a set of islands about six miles from Norway's mainland. The island is listed by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area because it has one of the highest breeding densities of the bird in the world.

White-tailed eagles, which can live for up to 35 years if left unmolested, are also beginning to thrive in the Western Isles of Scotland as a direct result of a 30 year reintroduction project.

Developers also regard this area as ripe for wind farm construction.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds conservation director Dr Mark Avery said: "These findings are shocking yet may just be the tip of the iceberg.

"Research on Smola is being stepped up and if more dead birds are found, and even fewer are able to breed, we will be doubly determined to fight wind farm plans that could cause similar destruction in the UK."

The white-tailed eagle became extinct in Britain in 1918 after a prolonged period of human persecution. Trial releases of seven birds in Britain took place in the 1950s and 1960s after changes to legislation.

Between 1975 and 1985, 82 young white-tailed eagles from Norway were released on the island of Rum off the west coast of Scotland. The first clutch of eggs was laid in the wild in 1983 and the first successful breeding occurred in 1985.

Initially, population growth was slow and a further 58 birds, again from Norway, were released on the Scottish mainland between 1993 and 1998. In 2005, there were 33 pairs on territory in Scotland. The best places to see them are the islands of Mull, Lewis and Skye.

RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden said: "The news from Norway is of great concern to us. If white tailed eagles have died because of wind turbine collisions, there are major implications for our own eagle populations here in Scotland.

"We are campaigning hard against the proposed 234 turbine wind farm for the north Lewis peatlands partly because of the great danger it poses to Scotland's eagles.

"This environmentally sensitive site is protected under European law and a large wind farm there could have catastrophic implications for a wide variety of bird species - including both species of our native eagles - and the fragile peatland environment as a whole.

"This is why we are calling on the Scottish Executive to provide clear strategic guidance to developers to help them avoid such sensitive locations."

The four Norway birds were found between August and December last year. Two had been sliced in half, apparently by a turbine blade. Post mortems blamed multiple trauma for the birds' deaths, caused by a heavy blow. Much of the wind park is remote and rarely visited and it is possible that other deaths have gone undetected.

The 68 turbine Smola wind farm was built between 2001 and 2005. The Norwegian Government ignored advice based on an environmental assessment, warning against the development because of the danger it posed to white tailed eagles. BirdLife International took the case to the Bern Convention but the decision was not overturned.

Research by the RSPB, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and the Norwegian Sea Eagle Project will now be stepped up to include regular checks for casualties throughout the wind park, and monitoring of this spring's breeding activity.

Conservationists are yet to draw firm conclusions from their initial monitoring because breeding numbers of white tailed eagles often vary and in 2004 and 2005 especially, construction activity for the second part of the wind park was intense.

But the birds are already known to be deterred from nesting near new roads or buildings. They are also faithful to previous nesting sites.

NINA research scientist Arne Follestad said: "Breeding results on Smola have been strikingly poor compared with the 30 years before the wind farm was built, both on the site itself and the remainder of the island.

"We are only half way through the research, yet despite their site faithfulness, we are not confident white tailed eagles will adapt to the turbines and return to the wind park area. As older birds die, we do not know if new birds will occupy nest sites within the wind farm."

The RSPB strongly supports the generation of wind and other renewable energies to help tackle climate change but said interim research results have underlined the dangers of wind parks placed near sites that birds instinctively seek

Source: http://www.lse.co.uk/ShowSt...

JAN 28 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1097-wind-farms-blamed-for-deaths-of-eagles
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