The fourth Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts came to a close on Friday 8th September, following four days of presentations, knowledge sharing and discussion on this vital issue. Our very own Kelly Clark (Principal Ecologist) and Rich Hall (Principal Ornithologist) were in attendance; Baker Consultants have now been represented at the event on three out of four occasions, including its inception in Trondheim in 2011. We are proud to continue our strong association with this global collaborative effort to enhance our understanding of the impacts on wildlife from wind energy development, and thereby guide the evolution of mitigation – alongside academic institutions, technology innovators, fellow consultants, and of course the wind energy industry itself.

Portugal’s wind energy industry has already achieved impressive feats. Currently generating around 25% of the country’s energy demand from wind alone, its offshore capacity is also experiencing a surge, and technological advancements such as floating turbines place Portugal firmly at the forefront of wind energy development in Europe and at a global level. With this in mind, the country is the perfect host for the 2017 version of the conference.

Offshore wind energy is a rapidly growing industry; figures this week from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showed that the cost of generating energy from wind power in the UK will be cheaper than that from nuclear power for the first time in history. Advancements in strategy and technology mean that firms are beginning to overcome the issues and costs associated with logistics, efficiency and electricity storage. If these trends continue, it is likely that offshore wind will become a leading force in energy production across the UK and Europe and, where environmental conditions allow, on a global scale.

A presentation from WavEC Offshore Renewables illustrates the range of floating platforms in current development, advancing the options available to the wind industry.

 

 

Offshore Wind: a steep upward curve – a rapidly growing industry around the world.

 

With this in mind, it was encouraging to see firm commitment from industry and regulators to addressing the issues regarding wildlife impacts. Organisations such as ORJIP (Offshore Renewable Joint Industry Project) have been set up by offshore wind energy firms, in partnership with regulators, to fund vital research into the impacts of offshore wind farms with a view to advising meaningful mitigation, thereby reducing the costs and delays associated with poor science or a failure to fully address the range of potential impacts.

 

WavEC’s research also illustrates a little-known problem for offshore installations: bats.

 

Studying wildlife in the marine and coastal environment can be challenging, and gathering the level of data required to satisfy regulatory and legal frameworks even more so. Baker Consultants’ expertise and experience makes us ideally placed to provide an ecological consultancy service for the lifetime of any given project, from scoping and designing/ implementing survey protocols, through data analysis and impact assessment, to post-consent monitoring (construction and operation). Our in-house team includes consultants trained and certified to the highest standards, such as European Seabirds at Sea surveyors, and experts in avian and cetacean bioacoustics, as well as qualified UAV pilots – technology that can be particularly useful in conducting wide-ranging visual surveys as efficiently as possible.

 

With many years of combined experience in ecological and ornithological impact assessment, including coastal development, and offshore windfarm construction monitoring and mitigation, we also pride ourselves on innovation in terms of both technology and survey/ mitigation design. The growing issue of offshore bats is a case in point: a phenomenon that is difficult to study and poorly understood, but with our technology partners and unparalleled experience of bioacoustic survey, we are rising to the challenge of assessing this potential constraint on offshore development.

 

The theme of this conference is sharing and collaboration. Held every two years, it showcases the latest knowledge and research in the field, and drives the continuous improvement of techniques, methodology, analysis and assessment. A good example is the way we think about potential impacts – collision risk is still a topic of conversation, but inherent assumptions and flawed science that caused problems for this form of analysis are being driven out by well-resourced and well-funded research. The sharing of knowledge improves our understanding of statistical analysis, detailed monitoring of operational wind farms, and enhancing the importance of factors such as displacement from vital habitat, not to mention barrier effects.

 

Baker Consultants shares this enthusiasm for robust science, leading to proper assessment and targeted, effective mitigation. Working together with researchers, regulators, technology partners and the wind industry, we aim to promote these values, with a view to supporting the establishment of installations with minimal impact on wildlife, whilst maximising the potential for renewable energy.

 

Would you like to join Baker Consultants terrestrial team? We are looking for Senior Ecologists with at least 5 years’ experience to join us and expand our in-house team.  You will need to be self-motivated, have the ability to run projects, assist in attracting new clients and help drive to continue growing our business.

If you want to work in a fast-paced, innovative and forward thinking organisation that offers a flexible and nurturing working culture we’d love to hear from you. 

Contact any member of our senior team for an informal confidential chat (see our website for contact details) .

Recruitment agencies need not apply!  

 

Baker Consultants ecologist Steve Docker has recently completed an innovative research project, which used unattended acoustic recording devices to record the songs produced by male European nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus – a rare bird species that is listed on Annex 1 of the European Community Birds Directive 2009 and is an amber-listed species of conservation concern.

An accurate measure of the number of breeding pairs is essential when evaluating a site for nightjar and Steve’s research set out to identify whether different song types could be used to establish probable breeding. It is thought that acoustic recording technology has not been used for this purpose before for this, or any other, species.The standard survey method used by most surveyors is based upon a co-ordinated count of the number of ‘churring’ males.  However, singing is only indicative of possible breeding and does not provide evidence that birds have paired.  Furthermore, this method can be labour intensive and may over-estimate the number of breeding pairs because some singing males will be unpaired.

Male nightjars produce two song types, one with an abrupt ending and the other with a distinctive terminal phrase, see Figures 1 and 2.

Using nightjar songs, recorded on automatic devices placed in the field, the study looked at whether this change in vocal structure is linked to pairing status.  It revealed that the output of nightjar song with a terminal phrase was significantly greater for probable paired males – and is therefore indicative of a breeding pair being present.  This finding has the potential to provide a minimally intrusive means of measuring the number of nightjar breeding pairs at site level or as part of a national census of the species, see Figure 3.

 

Figure 1. Spectrogram (compressed view) showing male nightjar Song Type I (WITHOUT Terminal Phrase). It ends abruptly on either a minor phrase of a major phrase. Produced using Wildlife Acoustics Kaleidoscope® software

Figure 2. Spectrogram (compressed view) showing male nightjar Song Type II (WITH Terminal Phrase). The terminal phrase may be preceded by either a minor phrase or a major phrase. Produced using Wildlife Acoustics Kaleidoscope® software.

Scan the QR code to listen to a nightjar song (a ‘paired’ male).

 

Figure 3. Proposed Decision Flowchart (Nightjar Breeding Status).

In the future Steve aims to publish a scientific paper and also produce a nightjar song type recogniser to support the practical application of this ground-breaking research.

Find out how Baker Consultants are using such technology to support other research projects (Bird Bioacoustics & Nottinghamshire Bat Group) and inform our ecological consultancy projects (Terrestrial & Marine).

 

To find out more about this nightjar bioacoustics research please email s.docker@bakerconsultants.co.uk

 

The technology and techniques for recording bird songs and calls in the field have developed rapidly in recent years. Most of this development, though, has been for academic research, with little take-up so far by conservation bodies and ecology consultancies. Automated recorders and call recognition software can, however, offer better data and greater coverage than traditional survey techniques. This workshop aims to address this, highlighting the significant benefits for bird survey and monitoring – and starting the communication of important principles and best practice guidance between professionals.

The free workshop will include demonstration of available hardware and software, and presentations of case-studies. It will also seek input from attendees on how bioacoustics could be used in their work and what type of guidance they would like to see provided by recommended survey methods.

Date:  13th July 2017

Location:  Nottingham Trent University

Full programme details to follow

Interested in attending? Please email c.abrahams@bakerconsultants.co.uk

Andrew Baker, our Managing Director, is soon to publish a review of the recent court cases that have addressed air quality and how nitrogen deposition should be treated by the Habitats Regulations Assessment process. His paper will soon be published in the Habitats Regulations Journal http://www.dtapublications.co.uk/journal.

 

The cases all involve Wealden District Council and concern the effects of traffic pollution upon Ashdown Forest SPA/SAC. Together the cases will have far reaching implications for air quality assessments and how the impacts upon European sites (SPAs, SACs and Ramsar sites) are addressed. In the most recent case Natural England was heavily criticised for providing flawed advice which led the judge to conclude that an HRA of a local plan had been ‘vitiated by Natural England’s plainly erroneous advice’ that had resulted in a ‘clear breach of Article 6(3)’

 

The cases have called into question the validity of some key guidance on air quality assessments, the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DRMB) and AQTAG21 the latter having previous been widely used by Natural England, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales.

 

We will publish the full text of the article following publication in the Journal.

 

At the end of January 2016, a revision of the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) Bat Survey Guidelines was issued. Read more

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, provided evidence at the planning appeal

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants

In the ten days since the EU referendum we have been busy assessing the implications of the vote to leaving the EU, both for ourselves and our clients, their businesses and developments. The majority of the work carried out by Baker Consultants relates to EU derived law and its implementation.

From a legal point of view it is very much business as usual. The law that underpins environmental protection in the UK remains in force and must still be followed. Not to do so would instigate the same legal sanctions as before the referendum. Indeed, even when/if Article 50 is invoked EU law still applies up until the UK actually leaves the EU.

Through my work at the UK Environmental Law Association I have been very closely involved in the development and implementation of nature conservation law. In terms of the UK based work, we will keep on top of any changes to the wildlife legislation and any other changes in the law that affect our work.

For our European contracts we are exploring our options and what will be best for our continued success both in the UK and EU countries. In any event we will continue to give our clients the best service we possibly can.

If you have any questions about how the potential changes to our status with the EU may affect your projects and any ecological elements, do get in touch.

Andrew Baker FCIEEM
Managing Director