The entries are starting to trickle in from our team for the Baker Consultants R&R awards for the best places to stay or eat whilst on
site visits.

The first nomination is from Susan and Kelly for the Swan Hotel in the village of Whalley, Lancashire and its sister hotel, The Inn, at the Station in Clitheroe. Both are friendly with well thought out rooms, good food and good beer… three things that make late night and early morning surveys bearable.  The staff are also understanding about the weird hours us ecologists keep.

Here is a link to their website…. as a thank you!

Today’s themes were Cumulative effects, Tools and technology, Mitigation and compensation and Future challenges.

Again, a huge amount of interesting and relevant information which will
immediately be put into practice. Our approach to ecology for wind farm
developments is going to get a right good shake up next week! I’m not
going to go through all the good stuff about measuring and adjusting for
impact, and associated stats – that’s not for this forum, I am going to
take a philosophical direction tonight.

Scott Cole from the Centre for Environment and Resource Economics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences is an Environmental Economist. His presentation on how to realistically measure the credits and debits of ecology impacts and was exceptionally useful. But one part of his presentation threw up an interesting idea, something to mull over on a long train journey.

He suggested that the application of compensatory measures for wildlife is an issue of human psychology.

First up, I will not assume that you know what “compensation” is. It is a measure that is applied when a negative impact has been identified and after avoidance and mitigation measures have been applied but where there remains an unacceptable residual impact. Makes sense?

Here is an example, say that at a wind farm we know that 300 birds will be killed as a result of flying into moving turbine blades. An avoidance measure could be to identify which turbine is causing the majority of these deaths and take it out of the plan. A mitigation measure might be to paint the remaining turbines so that birds can see them better and fly round. Lets say that these two measures avoid 250 collisions but we are still not happy with the remaining 50 collisions. A compensatory measure could then be applied – for example getting hold of a poor piece of habitat near to our site and making it irresistible to the birds, the plan being that they will become too happy over there to bother with the wind farm any more.

So what’s the problem? Compensation takes time, the habitat has to establish and it will take further time for the birds to move over there even when it is in good condition. So although avoidance and mitigation measures are in place the population will continue to fall at a rate of 50 birds a year. When the birds eventually do move to the compensation site it may take many years to replace the 50 per annum lost during this interim.

Do the birds care about this? No. We don’t ask them. Its people who care about this and a basic thing that all economists and psychologists know is that we do not like to wait for anything and especially not for an identified problem to be fixed. Scott asked, if these birds were white-tailed sea eagles would we rather have 300 tomorrow or 100 in 2035 and 300 in 2050?

Scott argued that compensation is an anthropocentric requirement, the need is not for the birds it is with us. And if it is for us, how much are we prepared to “pay” to have it now?

Something to ponder, eh?

Susan reports on day two of the Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts conference in Norway.

The sessions today were: species-specific vulnerabilities and population
effects, behavioural and spatial responses, collision risk modelling
and Methods and statistics.

Day two – Susan writes: The sessions today were: species-specific vulnerabilities and population effects, behavioural and spatial responses, collision risk modelling and Methods and statistics.

Thomas Kunz
, University of Boston (incidentally who Kelly and I know well as we referenced his work extensively in both our undergraduate dissertations) is an engaging speaker who presented his case for a new scientific discipline – aeroecology.  This unites those studying birds, bats and insects but also biologists looking at organisms that exploit passive flight, such as pollen, spores and bacteria. Importantly this discipline also includes non-ecology scientists working in this three dimensional environment – meteorologists, climate scientists, geographers and medicine (public health) to name a few.

Among many interesting demonstrations, his work to use the US network of doppler radar stations to study bats was inspiring.  This technology is most familiar to us when seen on TV weather reports and forecasts, to supply these images meteorologists have to filter out the non-weather clutter first, and some of this clutter is biological information. Dr Kunz’s work is to retrieve this discarded clutter from the virtual bin and analyse it.

His video of the “clouds” of bats emerging from roosting caves in Texas and New Mexico and travelling across south and central US was phenomenal.  There are so many applications for this, for aeroecologists, we might soon be able to view in real time the movements of flocks of birds or bats and be able to react before collision or significant displacement effects occur.

There is some very interesting work going on in Germany at wind farms more like those that we have in lowland UK – for example sited within intensively managed farmland and with species that we encounter here.  The 7 year BACI (Before After Control Impact) by Marc Reichenbach is finding much lower disturbance distances in farmland birds than in previous published research from different environments.  His work is providing the evidence that we need to support what most of us already suspected – bird behaviours (including breeding, roosting and resting) are much more influenced by the cropping regime within the wind farm than the presence or operation of the turbines.

After Tuesday’s discovery of “vulture restaurants” (which must always be pronounced in a Spanish accent) today I learned about a technique for minimising the disturbance effects to harbour porpoise when pile driving in the construction phase of off-shore wind turbines – “bubble curtains”. I need to get myself some of those!

In the evening we went out of the city into the snowy birch forest and around the frozen lakes to see beavers, some very impressive dams and lodges. It was a brilliant trip and I now have a huge fascination for these animals. I should say though that on the way out I was sat with an Aussie and a Kiwi who were completely overwhelmed with joy at seeing a road sign that said “farthumper” (pictured)!

See tomorrow for a picture of myself and Fiona Matthews in a beaver swamp.

Susan writes: I’m at a fascinating conference in Norway, so I’d thought I’d share some of the findings so far. It throws up some interesting questions.
The conference is hosted by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and is called Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts. There are more than 300 delegates from 30 countries, mostly European but also some from US, Japan, Iran, South Africa and Japan.  It seems we share many similarities in the challenges of gathering data (both pre and post-construction) and assessing impacts.

Today’s presentations were on three themes: EIAs and site selection, pre and post construction monitoring and fatality studies.

In the first instance the importance of involving ecological considerations in the site selection process is crucial, most of our clients don’t bring us in until this has been done and it was agreed that delays and last minute surprises would in most cases be avoided (and a great deal of money saved) if some obvious issues were dealt with sooner.

There are a great many gaps in our knowledge about the impact of wind farms on wildlife, we are having to make impact assessments without adequate data and this is problematic.

It has been reassuring to see how much research is underway but it will be a long time before it is published. Also, not much of this research is happening in the UK which means that we will have to continue to extrapolate data from unfamiliar landscapes and from species that don’t occur here.

A notable exception is Simon Pickering’s work at Avonmouth – hugely impressed that not only is he conducting post development monitoring but that he also has the support of a cross-agency committee for the project. A double whammy!

Finally, a hugely successful project to reduce bird mortality at a large Spanish wind farm – vulture restaurants. I have the address and am making a reservation!

I have attached a picture of a nice street in Trondheim, Nedre Bakklandet, is down at fjord level but most of the city is piled up on the hills which is why you need – the bicycle lift!

I will try and do another tomorrow night but I have a late finish as will be on a beaver safari!