Death in the skies
BIRDS and bats have been killed by turbines at the Bald Hills Wind Farm at Tarwin Lower since the wind farm began operating in June 2015.
Among them were seven young wedge-tailed eagles in spring 2015, prompting the wind farm to launch an investigation of eagle behaviour and risks posed by turbines, in line with State and Federal government requirements.
The wind farm’s newsletter July 2016 newsletter stated, “This investigation concluded that the potential consequences of the impact were not significant as the species is common and widespread throughout much of Australia.
“Notwithstanding this, the studies recommended mitigation measures to reduce the number of eagles affected.”
Wind farm general manager Matthew Croome was “extremely disappointed” by the 19 bird and 13 bat deaths.
“Bald Hills Wind Farm has completed a rabbit reduction program across the site before the start of spring 2016 to reduce the attractiveness of the site to sub adult eagles looking for new territory,” he said.
The newsletter stated, “Most affected species are common and widespread species characteristic of agricultural landscapes in south eastern Australia.
“The mix of species was similar to that found at other wind farms monitored in the same way elsewhere in south eastern Australia.
“As common species, the population consequences of such impacts are not considered significant. The required surveys for threatened bird species failed to record any threatened species using the site.”
Wind farm critic Andrew Chapman of Inverloch said the newsletter did not mention the eagles discovered under the turbines were all dead.
“Birds not killed but seriously maimed can move further away from turbines before dying so may not have been included in the tally,” the naturalist said.
“The total number of dead birds would also be higher if the observation period was longer including the rest of spring, summer and autumn. Eagle kills at wind farms don’t just happen in the first year but go on and on.”
Mr Chapman said when Bald Hills sought approval for the wind farm in 2004, consultants Brett Lane and Associates reported to the planning panel on the wedge-tailed eagle that “population impacts (were) therefore negligible.”
“The seven wedge-tailed eagles killed at Bald Hills in a period of four to six months is not a negligible loss,” he said.
“This mortality rate has an impact on a regional scale, creating a population sink. A population sink occurs when a new territory becomes available and birds move in to fill that space and are then themselves killed.”
Mr Chapman said when seeking approval for the 70 turbine Yaloak wind farm, the proponent commissioned Charles Meredith and Ian Smales to assess risk to eagles.
He said they found the turbines would kill up to 12 eagles per year, which would effectively create a population sink.
“As a result that planning panel recommended the wind farm not be approved and the government agreed,” Mr Chapman said.
“For the Macarthur wind farm, Brett Lane and Associates predicted a small number of birds would be killed.
“However monitoring of the constructed wind farm over 12 months by Dr Matthew Wood of Australian Ecological Services revealed the reality.
“He found that, when taking into account scavengers removing carcasses and surveyor efficiency, that annual mortality would be between seven and 13 birds per turbine of which approximately 30 percent would be raptors.
“The bird mortality at Bald Hills would, at the very least, be in the order of Macarthur which would put the total annual kill of all species in the many hundreds.”
Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=19603