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Feathers set to fly over birdlife  

Is bird life at risk from wind turbines? Naturalist Geoff Sample gives his view.

There are areas of land in north Northumberland which Geoff Sample reckons are unmatched in the country for recording birdsong.

“There’s such a range of habitats here. There are outposts of low moorland from Doddington Moor across Ford Moss and Barmoor to Etal Moor with little pockets ranging from open moorland to boggy bits. It supports a tremendous variety of birdlife and, as a lot of those pockets are three to four miles away from main roads, it is very quiet for sound recording.”

Geoff is an internationally-recognised professional naturalist who lives near Wooler and has worked extensively in the Barmoor area which is threatened by proposals for wind turbines.

He says: “In winter, patches of woodland on these low lying ‘moors’ shelter a few interesting species – bullfinches, jays, nuthatch, woodcock, long-eared owl, goshawk and suchlike. The open heath provides hunting grounds for occasional visitors – merlin, hen harrier and peregrine – as well as its resident buzzards and kestrels. Depending on the vole population cycle, up to four short-eared owls might settle in for the winter.

“Then in spring, the open areas come alive with skylarks, meadow pipits, grasshopper warblers, cuckoo, curlew and snipe. The thickets become home to linnets, yellow-hammers and a whole range of warblers, including blackcap, white-throat, garden and willow warblers. Although none of these species is endangered, many are suffering long-term declines through man-made changes and loss of habitat.

“The Barmoor area remains a fine refuge for these traditional bird communities as well as a flyway between the extensive coastal habitats of Lindisfarne and Budle Bay and the river valleys and upland moors further inland. The windfarm proposal at Barmoor has the potential to continue the disruption and fragmentation of our few remaining wildlife habitats.

“Areas like this don’t get properly considered by planning departments. There are areas of heather, woodland and archaeological sites but none of them individually ‘scores’ highly on a national level. It’s more of a cumulative quality and an area to spend time in, so it suffers a bit.

“There’s a direct problem with bats and birds of prey, but it’s very difficult to get solid knowledge because the people who put the environmental statements together for the wind power developers underplay the situation and underestimate the ornithological and ecological interest in the area. They say, ‘no evidence’ but, actually, the evidence hasn’t been gathered. It’s difficult to prove any direct impact from wind turbines on any species.”

By Jane Hall

The Journal

14 July 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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