The potential impact of wind farms on barnacle geese has led experts at WWT to fit GPS satellite tags to five birds to determine their precise movements as they migrate.
The five tagged geese will set off on their migration from Scotland to Norway any time now. Their progress can be followed online at wwt.org.uk/maps.
With at least two large offshore wind farms planned in the Firth of Forth and another half dozen along the coast of Norway (along the flight path for migratory barnacle geese), it is hoped the data collected by these tags (relating to the flight heights and timing of migratory movements of geese in relation to light levels) will be used to locate offshore and onshore windfarms where the risk of collision is low.
For example, it is thought that most of the geese rest overnight in the sea area around the Firth of Forth before continuing their journey.
If they spend the time in the same areas as the proposed wind farms, evidence of their precise movements will be critical in minimising any impact on the geese.
Dr Larry Griffin, for WWT said; “There is a strong need to assess the impact of the wind farms currently planned along the international migratory corridor of the Barnacle goose, a protected species, not only onshore and offshore in the Firth of Forth but also those planned and already in operation along the Norwegian coast.
“WWT has been closely monitoring the barnacle geese since the 1960s and since then, along with Norwegian and Dutch colleagues, has ringed over 10,000 birds.
“Numbers of the Svalbard barnacle goose, whose entire population winters on the Solway Firth, were down to as few as 300 in 1948. Through a combination of conservation effort with detailed research led by WWT over the last 50 years, numbers today have now risen to more than 35,000.
“However, the barnacle goose is still a protected species and this data should give us valuable insight into their behavior so that we can continue to protect them in the future.”
Numbers increased following protection from hunting and the creation of undisturbed feeding areas such as the WWT reserve established at Caerlaverock in 1970.
This coupled with the later goose management schemes administered by Scottish National Heritage since the early 90s to support local farmers to foster goose grazing.
The carefully managed saltmarsh and pastures of the Caerlaverock reserve provide a safe refuge where the birds can feed in peace prior to, or following, their epic spring or autumn migrations.