Locals in Finuge erected posters on Monday highlighting the area’s importance as a wintering ground for the Whooper Swan in the latest move under a campaign against plans to erect ten wind turbines there.
‘Iceland to Finuge – Home of the Whooper Swan’ reads the slogan against a stunning picture of the birds coming into land taken in Finuge on Monday. The first 70 birds of an expected 500 arrived on Monday in their usual migratory path from Iceland.
Finuge’s importance as a winter home for the species is well-known within birdwatching circles nationally with ‘ twitchers’ – as they’re known – coming from as far as Kilkenny and Wexford to observe the graceful creatures feeding and nesting in Finuge.
But it is feared the erection of the ten turbines, if given the go-ahead, could pose a major threat to the birds. Awareness of their presence in Finuge comes as manna from heaven for the hundreds of locals fighting against the wind farm plans.
“What I would say is that these birds are very accident prone as low-level fliers with poor vision,” local man Matt Mooney said. “We’re trying to raise awareness of their presence at the moment and the water plant at Scartlea cross is one of the best places to view them from,” he said.
It is believed Finuge is one of the most important sites in the entire country for the species, home to ten per cent of their Irish numbers during the winter.
A survey of the Whooper Swan in 2005 found 9,748 wintering here, but that figure had declined to 5,000 by 2010 amid fears the proliferation of windfarms along the west coast of the country in that time impacted their migration patterns.
Birdlife International found that the emergence of windfarms here posed a ‘most recent threat’ to the Whooper. The threat is not just through direct collision with wind turbine blades, Birdlife International found. It said associated affects of the machinery poses a threat also, not least the impact of the low-frequency noise produced by the turbines on the birds. “We’re the first spot for them to land on their 800-mile trip from Iceland and they roost and breed here,” Mr Mooney added.