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Industrial wind threatens our birds – winter raptors  

Credit:  Wind Turbines a Major Threat to Jefferson County - Golden Crescent and Thousand Island Winter Raptors | Contribution to JLL by Gerry Smith | Jefferson's Leaning Left | 9/5/16 | jeffersonleaningleft.blogspot.com ~~

Northwestern Jefferson county is a haven for many “mouse raptors” in winter. Several species including the Red-tailed Hawk,Rough-legged Hawk and New York State threatened Northern Harrier abound. Owl species including the state endangered Short-eared Owl and Snowy Owl are often present in impressive numbers. Nocturnal owls, such as the Long-eared also occur but their secretive habits make them harder to detect. Concentrations of Bald Eagle containing the occasional Golden Eagle are present. Our area hosts some of the largest assemblages of certain species seen in the northeastern United States in winter. Proposals for the Horse Creek and Big Galloo wind complexes place all these magnificent birds at risk.

Many factors,such as prey availability, population fluctuations of prey on breeding and wintering grounds and related breeding success ,affect numbers of raptors present locally in any given year. In years when meadow mouse populations are high in our area and food sources to our north fail many species winter in our area. In a good year dozens to hundreds of large birds of prey are concentrated in relatively small areas. While many species of Hawks and Owls are always vulnerable to these extremely tall turbines ,large concentrations increase the probability of mortality from these bird killing monstrosities.

In particular when high raptor numbers are present the frequency of aggressive interactions between birds increase. Some birds are better hunters than others and some try to make a living by stealing prey from their associates. Some species defend winter territories and aggressive interactions occur when boundaries are being contested. During these flights the focus is on the other bird and little attention is payed to the surroundings. Aggressive chases may continue for several minutes and rise well into the range of any turbine blades that would be present.

Many winter raptors occur in obvious pairs or form breeding pairs on the wintering grounds. By mid January and beyond pairs may be observed close sitting and in courtship flights to establish or reinforce pair bonds for the coming spring. As the birds hormones increase with expanding daylight these flights become more frequent and they will rise high then dive low and rise high again. As we all know when hormones are flowing in any animal the individual may be quite oblivious to other aspects of life. One need only observe the behavior of teen age humans on a beach for proof of this. Courtship behavior in our raptors has evolved to assure the strong pair bond needed in the breeding season. When turbines are present this formerly adaptive behavior places adults at risk as they pass through the aerial footprint of the blades several times a day.

A majority of these raptors are birds of open habitats.Filling quality habitat with six hundred foot tall “trees” has the potential to alter their habitat search image. This search image for prey selection, habitat and other factors of the species ecology impacts on the survival of an individual and the long-term success of the species. For example a Short- eared Owl choosing a night roost in a woodland ,rather than in tall grass far from woods, has a defective search image for a roost site. There is a high probability that such an individual would be sorted out of the gene pool as lunch for the Local Great Horned Owl before returning to the breeding grounds.

The fragmentation of our open areas by turbines and associated access roads could have very serious consequences beyond mortality for these populations.

Virtually no one is addressing the potential for large scale habitat degradation or the cumulative impacts of industrial wind complexes. The potential for Horse Creek and Big Galloo to degrade or destroy high quality raptor habitat is very real. The raptor concentrations in Northwestern Jefferson county have potential tourism benefits for birder’s. Thus the proposed turbine complexes have additional economic as well as ecological downsides. Most of these raptors reproduce slowing and their populations exhibit cyclic fluctuations. Mortality and habitat loss due to anthropogenic causes may threaten regional population viability. The winter hawk and owl concentrations are another reason to just say NO to proposed industrial wind complexes here.

Gerald (Gerry) Smith is the author of Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail.

JLL note: Boths ends of the New York State portion of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, running along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario shores, are now under the threat of being sacrificed to large scale industrial wind turbines, apparently with the blessings and cooperation of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Why would the DEC be encouraging wind turbines in a northeastern major flyway that they should be protecting for future generations?

Gerald (Gerry) Smith is the author of Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail.

Source:  Wind Turbines a Major Threat to Jefferson County - Golden Crescent and Thousand Island Winter Raptors | Contribution to JLL by Gerry Smith | Jefferson's Leaning Left | 9/5/16 | jeffersonleaningleft.blogspot.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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