ScottishPower Renewables has announced its findings from a two-decade long research project into how breeding golden eagles have responded to habitat management at Beinn an Tuirc windfarm in Argyll and Bute.
The twenty year project, run by ecological consultancy Natural Research Projects and commissioned by ScottishPower Renewables, began in 1997 to safeguard a golden eagle breeding territory identified during the planning process for Beinn an Tuirc windfarm.
Since then, the monitoring project has investigated how the eagles behave in the presence of the wind turbines, and how habitats are used within their home range. Following the project, senior ecologists have confirmed the resident golden eagles are among the most successful breeders in Kintyre in recent years, and the presence of the wind turbines appears to have had no negative effect on these magnificent birds.
The same female golden eagle has occupied the Beinn an Tuirc site since monitoring began and she was joined in 2007 by her current mate. The pair have since fledged six chicks, substantially improving previous breeding performance. It was recently discovered that one of their offspring is now nesting close to ScottishPower Renewables’ Cruach Mhor windfarm in Cowal, and a second offspring has established a territory elsewhere in Kintyre.
A satellite tagging project supported by ScottishPower Renewables and Natural Research has revealed other offspring from the site ranging widely within Kintyre and further afield in their first few years, adding much to the understanding of golden eagle ecology in Scotland. Through the tagging project, ecologists discovered that one of these youngsters was killed by an illegal poison, highlighting the ongoing threat to Scotland’s golden eagle population from targeted persecution.
Peter Robson, Senior Ecologist at ScottishPower Renewables, said: “Two decades ago, when ScottishPower Renewables began planning Beinn an Tuirc windfarm, we knew the protection of local golden eagles would be a key priority for our ecology team.
“We’re proud to see the outstanding results of that project and to play our part in sustaining the Kintyre golden eagle population for years to come. After 20 years, our ecology team feel it’s time to move monitoring on to other projects but thanks to ongoing bird tracking, we’ll continue to see the growth of this particular golden eagle family.”
Dave Walker of Natural Research Projects undertook most of the eagle monitoring work at the site and worked alongside ScottishPower Renewables from the project’s early days. The project team created new and improved golden eagle foraging areas by removing areas of forestry plantation from within the eagles’ home range. The findings from thousands of hours of subsequent field observation have helped ScottishPower Renewables improve habitat management programmes across the UK.
Iain Mackenzie, an ecologist at Natural Research Projects, said: “This has been a fascinating project to work on over the last 20 years. We’ve learned much about how golden eagles interact with windfarms, and the project has highlighted how careful planning can allow renewable energy projects to co-exist positively with upland wildlife. Chicks fledged from near the Beinn an Tuirc windfarm are helping to ensure that these iconic birds continue to occupy the Scottish uplands.”
Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland, said: "This pioneering 20 year study, which has helped assess the impact on golden eagles at Beinn an Tuirc windfarm, and the mitigation measures put in place for these birds by Scottish Power Renewables have been very much welcomed by RSPB Scotland.
“This study is a good example of a windfarm operator taking its responsibilities to the surrounding wildlife seriously and we need to see more long term studies of this sort taking place at operational windfarms across Scotland. Windfarms are a vital part of tackling climate change but they must be carefully sited to ensure that they pose as minimal a risk to wildlife and important habitats as possible, and that they are monitored to ensure any unforeseen impacts are identified and resolved.”
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Notes to Editors
ScottishPower Renewables is part of Iberdrola, the world’s largest wind energy developer, with an operating portfolio of over 14,000 megawatts (MW). ScottishPower Renewables is responsible for progressing Iberdrola’s onshore wind and marine energy projects in the UK and offshore windfarms throughout the world
Securing our position at the forefront of the renewable energy industry, ScottishPower Renewables now has 30 operational windfarm sites producing over 1,600 MW, including West of Duddon Sands, our first offshore windfarm project. With a further 500 MW of onshore windfarm projects due to be constructed, we are set to maintain our position as the UK's leading wind developer.
With our 350 MW Wikinger Offshore Windfarm in the German Baltic Sea due to be constructed in 2017 and our East Anglia ONE windfarm, which has full planning consent and a contract that will allow us to develop up to 700 MW, we are set to position Iberdrola as the world's leading offshore wind developer.