August 25, 2012

Study to focus on birds, bats and wind turbines

By Monica Wolfson, The Windsor Star | 25 August 2012

Wildlife researchers want to better understand the migration of birds and bats partly to help them avoid collisions with wind turbines.

There are four radar and 16 acoustic recording devices set up throughout the Two Creeks Conservation Area in Wheatley, including on top of the toboggan hill. The devices will tell researchers the height, speed and direction birds and bats fly. Biologists will use acoustic data to separate the insects from the birds and differentiate between birds and bats.

“We are trying to get a better understanding of movement and migration in southern Ontario birds and bats,” said Ryan Zimmerling, a wildlife habitat biologist with Environment Canada.

Researchers will also combine the data with information on the weather to find out how birds and bats react to a weather front. Do they fly higher or lower when the barometric pressure drops? Will birds avoid flying over the Great Lakes and follow the shoreline during particular weather events? Researchers hope to answer those questions with the data they collect within a two-kilometre radius of the equipment until early November. The equipment was set up Aug. 13. Some birds are known to start migrating south in late July. Most bird and bat species depart Canada in September to late October. Some birds and bats migrate as far south as South America.

While the amount of light left in the day will impact when a bird or bat decides to migrate, they also have internal clocks that alert them to the migration season.

“We are trying to get an idea of flight behaviour and seasonality,” Zimmerling said.

Eventually, researchers will design a model of behaviour to use as a reference for wind turbine operators who can decide when to shut off the machines during certain migration events to prevent accidents with birds.

There are hundreds of wind turbines in the Wheatley area, said Rick Taves, president of the Two Creeks Conservation Area, which is owned by the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority.

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