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Wind farms in path of rare harriers

Rare species of birds have been found close to the sites of two wind farms.

Ornithologist Dr Anthony Prater gave evidence of the presence of Stone curlews and Montagu harriers at the public inquiry into two wind farms in Stanhoe and Syderstone.

Inspector Robert Mellor is considering whether to overturn West Norfolk Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for E.On and Renewable Energies (RES) to install turbines.

RES wants to build six 126.5m turbines on land off Jack’s Lane, Barwick, near Stanhoe.E.On is hoping to put up five 100m turbines on a site at Chiplow.

Dr Prater gave evidence on Wednesday for protest groups, Creake Action for Protecting the Environment and Against Turbines at Chiplow

He is employed by the RSPB as a Stone Curlew warden and runs regular surveys around West and North Norfolk.

Stone curlews are a crow sized bird and the UK has just 347 breeding pairs.

He told the hearing that this area has in the region of 11 to 14 pairs, over the last four years.

Dr Prater said: “In addition 11 birds or pairs were found in three locations further north of the Jack’s Lane area.”

He said that Stone Curlews first start to breed in the winter but can have a second attempt when they move sites in the summer if their first clutch of eggs fails.

Dr Prater said: “There is considerable movement around the area.”

Great Britain has a small breeding population of 15 pairs of Montagu harriers with three to six feamles being recorded in North Norfolk over a five year period.

He told the hearing that Montagu harriers can fly 10 to 12km from their nests in search of food.

He said: “There is a high probability that they would fly from the breeding area and cover the whole of this section of Norfolk, including both wind farm areas.”

He also said that about 85 marsh harriers in Norfolk. There are 404 breeding pairs in the UK.

Flocks of pink-footed geese are also attracted to the area.

Evidence was also given by ornithologist Dr Timothy Reed, who has worked for the National Audit office.

He questioned the RES calculations of collision rates between birds and the turbine blades as some data was missing.

RES barrister Marcus Trinick said this data had been provided.

The inquiry will resume on Monday and is expected to last until Wednesday, February 22.