Whooper Swans arrive into Donegal, September 2013

According to the Irish Wildlife Trust, the first of this season’s Whooper Swans have now arrived into Inch Wildlife Reserve, Inishowen, Co Donegal. So if you require a wintering bird survey completed this year it’s time to start talking to Ireland’s leading ecology team. Although we had a very good summer weather wise, it’s clear that winter is in the post!

Bird Surveys Ecofact (7)

Whooper swans near the Cloghan wind farm site

Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus is a trans-Palearctic species listed under Annex I of the EU Birds Directive (EU 79/409/EEC) and Annex II of the Berne Convention on the Conservation of Wildlife and Natural Habitats. European populations have been classed as Secure from an assessment by BirdLife International. However, in Ireland they are rated as amber listed in ‘Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland’ because more than 20% of the European wintering population occur here. This listing is also because the majority of Whooper Swans winter at ten or less sites; in addition to its very small breeding population. Habitat degradation and loss, including the reclamation of coastal and inland wetlands, is a major global threat to Whooper Swans.

Winter bird surveys (39)

Whooper swans near the Seven Hills wind farm site

The increasing numbers of wind farms in many parts of the Whooper Swan’s west European wintering range, including Ireland, pose a more recent potential threat to Whooper Swans moving between feeding and roosting areas. While current studies investigating collisions caused by wind turbines indicate relatively low levels of mortality, care needs to be taken as to the reliability of these results in helping inform decisions regarding planning permissions.

“make Ireland’s leading ecology team your first choice environmental partner”

ECOFACT are experts in assessing the impact of wind energy developments on this species. We have recently secured planning permission for several major wind farms located in areas where this species winters. At one of these sites (Seven Hills Wind Farm, Phase 1) we proposed the MERLIN Avian Radar system which will detect approaching flocks and automatically ‘feather’ down the turbines to a temporary stop to allow the flocks to pass safely.  This wind farm has recently received approval from An Bord Pleanála and is now likely to the first site in Ireland to have this technology installed. This was probably the most contentious wind energy proposal to date in Ireland, and it was our objective and expert assessment that secured permission for this project for developers Galetech Energy.

Power lines are a greater threat to whooper swans than wind turbines

Power lines are a greater threat to whooper swans than wind turbines

ECOFACT staff have already received detailed operational and technical training on use of the MERLIN Avian radar system for wind farm pre-construction surveys and for operational wind farms. Further details on this system can be found on the link www.detect-inc.com. It is noteworthy that our expert wintering bird survey work showed that, although whooper swans were regularly in the vicinity of the proposed wind farm site, they only very rarely crossed the site itself. This system was therefore included in this proposal as a ‘belt and braces’ approach due to the sensitivity of the local ecological receptors.


Whopper swans in Co Offaly

ECOFACT professional ornithologists have extensive experience of undertaking winter bird surveys on a range projects; but particularly wind farm developments where we now consider ourselves to be the market leader in ecology services.  For a successful outcome in your wind farm planning application, make Ireland’s leading ecology team your first choice environmental partner.

If you have a requirement for a winter bird survey, please contact us now for a free project evaluation and proposal.

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