Joe Dobrucki was out on the tractor tending to the family fields when a large, shadowy figure flew overhead.
He looked up and immediately recognized the white-headed creature.
“All of the sudden, this big bird flew over, out of nowhere,” said Dobrucki, of Wellandport. “It had a huge wing span. I knew right away it was something different.”
The white-feathered head immediately gave it away. Dobrucki spotted a majestic bald eagle in his family’s field, located between Elcho and Canborough roads.
Soon, Dobrucki will see a new shadow cast upon his family’s fields.
In front of the Dobrucki residence is a sign protesting a wind farm proposed for the area. According to Dobrucki, they will be surrounded by the three megawatt turbines if Niagara Region Wind Corp. is given the green light to build. Dobrucki fears the spinning blades of the turbines will cause harm to the majestic creatures in the sky, such as the bald eagle he spotted twice in the field.
In nearby Fisherville, the Ministry of Natural Resources authorized the removal of a bald eagle nest to make room for a wind farm in that community. Protestors attempted to halt the removal but on Jan. 6 NextEra Energy employees cut down a tree limb holding the nest.
“Removing the nest will reduce the risk of eagle mortality at the site,” the ministry said in the permit. “NextEra plans to provide artificial nests in the surrounding areas to ensure that the eagle pair can safely relocate.”
The ministry says it was made aware of the nest last summer. It was built in a tree scheduled to be removed for the construction of a road, and within 20 metres of the blade sweep of one of the project’s 56 proposed turbines.
“I worry what will happen to the birds,” said Dobrucki, noting there will be at least 10 of the giant structures surrounding their home.
Once an endangered species, the bald eagle is protected from being hunted or trapped throughout Ontario under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. It’s populations declined starting in the 1950s due to widespread use of organochlorine pesticides such as DDT. As use of these chemicals is now restricted in Canada and the United States, populations have swelled. According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources bald eagles remain susceptible to illegal shooting, accidental trapping, poisoning and electrocution. It remains a special concern species under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.
In Ontario, 31 active nests are present in the southwest, while northern populations are healthier.
According to the ministry, roughly 2.5 birds per year are killed by individual wind turbines. With 77 turbines proposed for West Lincoln, Wainfleet and Haldimand by NRWC, that would equate to roughly 3,850 birds over the 20-year lifespan of the project.
NRWC said it is aware bald eagles have been observed in the area but no nests have been spotted.
“We are aware that bald eagles have been observed in the southern part of the study area and the Lake Erie shoreline is the predominant area for breeding bald eagles in south western Ontario,” said company spokesperson Randi Rahamim. “However, no nests or perches for bald eagles were identified during site investigations. As such, no candidate significant wildlife habitat for bald eagle was present within 120m of the project location (Stantec NHA, March 2013). The MNR has reviewed this information and confirms the site investigations, records review and evaluation of significance was conducted using applicable methods and procedures or accepted by MNR.”
Regardless of the wind turbines, Dobrucki was stoked to have spotted the majestic bird.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he said.
— with files from the Hamilton Spectator
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