September 13, 2010

Objectors to windfarm have bird concerns; Rare Slavonian grebe nests near site being proposed for 31 turbines

By Neil MacPhail, The Press and Journal, 13 September 2010

An extremely rare little water bird could be recruited to help objectors fight plans for a major windfarm in a picturesque part of Inverness-shire.

The developers are proposing to put 31 turbines up to 400ft tall on Blairmore Estate in Glen Convinth not far from the village of Kiltarlity. At the moment the developers are conducting a “scoping” exercise to inform the community of their plans.

The landowners European Forest Resources (Scotland) have formed Druim Ba Sustainable Energy Ltd to advance the windfarm.

Objector Denise Davis, an artist of Whitehouse in Glen Convinth, is concerned that the site will be highly visible in the glen as it is not high in the moors like many other windfarms are. But now she has discovered that the mysterious Slavonian grebe nests at the nearby Balnagrantach Site of Special Scientific Interest. “I think that the proximity of Slavonian grebe needs to be brought to a wider attention. This is an extremely rare and protected bird, and I think there should be concern over it.”

An RSPB spokesman said: “The application raises concerns for us because the Slavonian grebe only appears to move around at night. Therefore assessing what the risk is for a bird that is at an extremely low ebb in population terms will be difficult indeed.

“In addition, the fact that a specialist protection area for this species is nearby means that the onus is on the applicant to show that there will not be an impact on the birds and we have advised that this will be extremely difficult.”

Donald Ross, director of Druim Ba Wind Farm, said: “We are aware there is a special protection area for Slavonian grebe near to Druim Ba and we have been monitoring the movement of the birds for some considerable time. The design of the windfarm will take into account the presence of the Slavonian grebe, indeed our initial plans – prior even to our scoping report – were reduced following early discussions with SNH in order to avoid their flight path.

“We are still at the consultation stage and have not decided on the final location of turbines, however one of the criteria we are using to decide on the siting is that none will be closer than 1km to any houses.

“We would urge people to attend our public information sessions in the first week of October in Kiltarlity, Abriachan and Beauly when we will have detailed plans to show people and where they can raise any issues and discuss any concerns.”

Despite 17 grebe chicks being born this year across the north of Scotland, only 22 breeding pairs of the bird remain in the country, which is causing conservationists concern, and has prompted new research into the secretive bird’s habits. RSPB Scotland’s conservation officer for the south Highlands Stuart Benn said: “What is clear is that while populations are thriving in Iceland and Norway, things aren’t going so well here.”

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