Wolfe Island Bird Report #5

Stantec has just released report #5, which covers the first half of 2011 on Wolfe Island.  This was generally an uneventful report, with many of the patterns established in the first 4 reports continuing.  At least I don’t have as many criticisms of Stantec as I did in my critique of their report #4.  For instance, the power production on the days they did the survey wasn’t always minimal.  Still, these reports continue to document just how much Wolfe Island has been impacted.  Obviously bird populations vary widely from year to year for a number of reasons, and Stantec takes advantage of variation to present every possible reason why the populations are down, except of course to blame their turbines.  Here’s the summary.

  • Birds: 31 carcasses found, adjusted to 131, down from the report of a year ago.
  • Raptors: 7 carcasses found, adjusted to 16, up a bit.
  • Bats: 7 carcasses found, adjusted to 41, down from last year.
  • Winter raptor density: improved from last year, at 0.54/km.
  • Notifications: 6, half for raptors, half for Bobolinks.

If you’ve been following these reports, you might note that the mortality rates are generally down from the same period last year.  From 1H2010 we had:

  • Birds: 57 adjusted to 540.
  • Raptors 10 adjusted to 11.
  • Bats: 34 adjusted to 449.

Not only were the number of carcasses found down, the adjusting multipliers were also down, seemingly because the snow pack was deeper and they couldn’t search often or as thoroughly as they did in the previous year.  As I’ve mentioned earlier, when the adjustments are larger than the actual findings you have to wonder just how accurate these numbers are.  Stantec’s manner of calculating them seems reasonable to me, and with no better numbers available these are as good as they are going to get, so I’ll assume they are valid.

It isn’t clear why the numbers are down so much from 1H2010.  My first thought was that the densities were lower, due to mortality and avoidance.  Also, the winter was harder and the spring was wetter than the year before.  Unfortunately Stantec isn’t required to report the overall density of birds on the Island.   Perhaps the best surrogate is Table 3.21 on pdf page 104, which gives a comparison of breeding densities for grassland species taken in May.  Adding all the rows up  gives 54.66 pairs/10 hectares in 2010 vs. 52.26 in 2011, essentially the same level.  The number of raptors was also up from 2010.  Maybe the birds are adjusting, with the surviving individuals and species winning out.  I also wondered if it was a calmer period but in fact it was windier, with a capacity factor of 25.9% in 1H2010 and 29.9% in 1H2011.

I’m not the only one to have noticed this drop.  From Environment Canada:  EC is puzzled by the substantial decrease in mortality levels to both birds and bats during this reporting period (Jan to June) compared to the same reporting period one year ago.  The results indicate that one-fifth the number of bat carcases and half the number of bird carcasses were found in 2011 compared to the same period in 2010.  The reasons for the large decrease from the mortality levels of the three previous reporting periods are unknown but merit further monitoring.

This is not to say that the numbers of raptors or the numbers of grassland breeders are back to where they were before the project was constructed.  For the grassland breeders, the pre-construction densities were 86.73 and 76.66, while post-construction they were the 54.66 and 52.26 noted above.  The densities of breeding Bobolinks, which are threatened in Ontario, fell to about half of what they were pre-construction.

The Ontario MNR was more concerned about the Bobolinks.  …MNR continues to have concerns with the ongoing mortality of Bobolink on site. MNR representatives will be continuing discussions with you regarding the implications of species at risk mortalities which have occurred and appropriate authorization required under the Endangered Species Act.  We further recommend that monitoring and notifications continue as per the plan.  Additionally, we also recommend initiating discussions with appropriate agencies or species experts regarding species at risk on site, to avoid further impacts to those species.  “Have concerns”?  The MOE just last week said that having concerns wasn’t sufficient to slow down the build out of wind turbines in the province.  “Initiating discussions”?  Oh, please.

The density of wintering raptors was higher this year than last, but lower than pre-construction levels.  To give you a sense of how Stantec operates, here’s a quote from page E.4 of the executive summary.  Differences in raptor density observed within the study area between 2006/2007, 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 seasons are reflective of observations throughout the Kingston area and across southern Ontario. Differences observed between the pre- and post-construction monitoring are attributed to natural variability and not avoidance of the wind plant.

Note the passive “are attributed”?  Not mentioned is by whom.  This is wordsmithing at its finest.  Perhaps the best indication of how Wolfe’s densities may or may not be consistent with the general area’s densities is to look at the actual numbers, comparing the Kingston Christmas raptor count with the Wolfe Island raptor count.  The units of measure are different, but when placed on the same graph normalized to the pre-construction points, it looks like this:

Both lines start at the same place (pre-construction), but notice where the red WI’s line goes compared with the black Kingston line.  Stantec says that the red line “generally corresponds” to the black line.  I’ll let you conclude for yourself if you think that is true or not.

The raptor mortality rate has been consistently above the 0.09/MW mitigation threshold.  Last year it was announced that the mitigation would consist of having Stantec do some research.  The results of that research were provided in this report.  To summarize it, here is a quote from the executive summary:

Raptor behavioural studies examining potential risk factors of raptor collisions during different weather conditions and in various habitat elements were conducted over four survey periods in 2010 and 2011. It was assumed that the amount of flying time spent at WTG blade swept height (i.e. 35 to 125m above the ground) was correlated with risk of mortality. As such, the proportion of time spent at blade sweep height was used as an index of potential risk. The result of the study found that raptors tended to spend more time in the blade swept area and therefore, may be at higher risk during the following conditions:

  •  Increased risk during high wind conditions;
  • Decreased risk during low temperatures (i.e. below 10ºC);
  • Decreased risk during light to heavy rain.

The raptor studies completed to date have provided insight into potential risk factors to raptor mortality. These raptor behavioural studies fulfill the requirements of the adaptive management provision, as outlined in the Follow-up Plan.

And that’s it.  I’m just sure the raptors feel safer already.   Merrian-Webster defines mitigation as to cause to become less harsh or hostile.  Shutting down a turbine or two or ten would be mitigation – perhaps the only legitimate mitigation.  Using the results of this study to site and shutdown turbines would be a justification for doing it.  Until then (and I’m not holding my breath) doing more studies is just running out the clock on the 3-year study period.  Let’s face it – the government and industry are simply not interested in protecting the birds nor their habitat.  Not when there’s money to be made.


Transalta/Stantec Report #5

EC’s letter

MNR’s letter

Report #5 Backup copy

2 thoughts on “Wolfe Island Bird Report #5”

  1. As a wildlife ecologist I find these “results” suspect and the interpretations unreliable. Where are the error bars and stats for the data?
    Other hypotheses to explain declines would be: a) so many birds have been killed that there are fewer to be be killed, i.e, decline in population b) displaced to other areas (to die?). Both raptors and bats are long-lived and relatively low rates of mortality can take such species toward extinction. They may not be able to replace such constant losses. Imagine the effect if vandal shooting of raptors was year-round, day and night.
    Multiple sampling of short-eared owls on Wolfe by independent ornithologist report significant declines in numbers only in the turbine sampling area.
    Mitigation could involve purchase or leasing of equivalent land area on Wolfe Is. equal to the habitat destroyed by roads, tractors compaction of soil, vegetation destruction, etc.
    The company promised “mitigation” but my inquiries about their science on it went unanswered – “we know how to do this” .. sure!
    MNR’s share of the provincial budget has dropped from 3% to 0.7% in the last decade or so I’m informed. Canadian provinces and feds are not protecting our wildlife in the face of corporate and developmental juggernauts.

  2. “Let’s face it – the government and industry are simply not interested in protecting the birds nor their habitat. Not when there’s money to be made.”
    A most curious and revealing statement Wayne…
    Of the four parties actually involved here; the government, the people (the first is SUPPOSED to represent the second), industry and of course the birds, only ONE, industry, appear to be getting money –and lots of it at the obvious expense of the economy, environment and especially THE PEOPLE!
    The birds sure as hell aren’t and the government has seen fit to sanction the unmitigated theft of the people’s money under the blatantly obvious illusion that Industrial Wind Turbines are in some measurable way a worthwhile and benign environmental pursuit.
    Our own blissful ignorance is fast becoming our undoing!
    Wikipedia tells us the first wind powered electrical generators were constructed in the late 1800’s. By the early 1900’s wind powered electrical generators started to gain popularity starting in Denmark then spreading very quickly through the world. By the late 1930’s There were literally hundreds of thousands of these things powering private homes, farms, cottages, etc pretty much everywhere, manufactured by a multitude of companies some going out of business as late as the 1980’s. What killed this truly green form of energy was the advent of centralized generation and power distribution grids. Then, some individual(s) somewhere assumed (incorrectly) that bigger was better and that if one really big wind turbine could produce multi-megawatts of power, then by putting thousands together in massive wind farms, there would be “free” power for all as these wind farms could now be tied directly onto this new distribution grid. They had no choice really as, unlike small, private windmills, the massive amount of power these new monstrosities could produce from time to time could not be stored in small battery banks. OOPS! The centralized generators could now become “free” powered wind farms! What a great idea especially from those who clearly had NO concept of how electricity grids work! Those early wind farms now stand derelict and abandoned. Gee, I wonder why? Sadly, absolutely NOTHING was learned from this massive failed energy experiment!
    Although it was the advent of the grid and it’s affordable, stable and reliable power that spelled the death knell for those thousands, perhaps even millions of small, private wind powered generators and provided the power required to pull the US and the rest of the industrialized world into the modern ages. The very aspect of electricity distribution grids makes them most unsuitable for the modern idea of wind power. The grid MUST remain stable and reliable at all times and at all costs! To connect massive, intermittent and unreliable generation to it in the form of industrial wind or PV solar, completely undermines this stability and reliability. The only way to maintain stability is to either “shadow” wind’s intermittency with conventional generation, if this is even possible, or to simply ignore these fickle contributions and “absorb” the output over as large a grid as possible so as to mitigate wind power’s dangerous and disruptive effects. This is currently done here in Ontario and on just about every other wind jeopardized grid on the planet! As aforementioned, small, private wind generators can store their output in affordable (ish) battery banks for use when needed. However, electricity, specifically intermittent, variable sources like PV solar and wind, CANNOT be stored on an industrial scale. In fact, the greater amount of wind or PV solar generated power a grid has the more unstable it becomes. To keep the subsidy gravy train flowing, the insatiable have now proposed a solution to winds unruliness –Smart grids: These yet non-existent multi-trillion dollar environment obliterating industrial constructs will actually REVERSE the way the grid currently operates: Instead if matching reliable, predictable and most importantly CONTROLLABLE supply to varying daily demand, this new smart grid will attempt to vary demand to match unreliable, unpredictable and uncontrollable supply??!!! Every energy using item in your home or business no mater how small or important, like your oven, fridge or freezer for example, will be controlled ostensibly in real time by the grid! “Well Honey, looks like dinner is going to be late. The grid shut off the oven again!” Or: “Boss, we can’t complete this urgent order for our biggest client because we don’t have the power to operate our equipment!”
    Does this sound like a world any of you want to live in?
    Would you live in such a world if it was ABSOLUTELY improving negative human impacts on the environment?
    I might, however…
    Can anyone demonstrate empirically how literally carpeting the planet with industrial wind turbines and PV solar panels, then interconnecting all these generating assets and users with a smart grid, will help rather then obliterate the very environment we propose to protect? I’m very serious here! The absolutely dismal amounts of energy these constructs produce means we must cover vast expanses of the planet with them just to provide a mere modicum of the energy humanity is currently using. Actually REPLACING ANY conventional generation has never been achieved anywhere on the planet as I type these words!
    Unfortunately, “green” has become two detrimental things: 1) Operators of this obviously failed technology have become rich on the massive subsidies needed to make it remotely viable and aren’t likely to give this up willingly, quietly or truthfully! 2) The masses have chosen to remain ignorant and continue to re-elect green spewing politicians. The result is not only more of the same but also a dramatic increase in the outrageousness of the effort! The newly elected left-leaning government of Denmark plans on being fossil fuel free by 2050 intending to go it alone if need be. This in spite of the abject failure of her 100 year long effort in that regard. To date, Denmark uses MORE fossil fuels to generate electricity then at any time in her history. She was unable to shutter ANY coal and has added more natural gas to her generation mix such that it alone exceeds her total maximum wind generation. I wish her luck!
    We must become reacquainted with the true meaning of green before it is too late.
    As for me I am working toward the construction of a small VAWT (5-10kw) that I can affix to my garage to charge a battery bank to power my house. Of course I will still need a small fossil powered generator (which I already have) and to convert my hot water tank and stove to propane ($$$). Then, I will flip the switch disconnecting me from the grid, remove the wires between there and my first pole and tell Hydro One to please cancel my account! I paid $0.2023 per kwh for electricity delivered to my house last month all charges included. (No Smart Grid). I’m guessing with a 20 year amortization on capital and fuel costs, I would save about $0.03 per kwh to generate my own electricity. For all of you with natural gas at your homes, you can buy a nat gas powered generator and generate you own electricity NOW for about $0.13/kwh all in.
    The purely ideological green energy policies much of the OECD have embraced will drive society, at least those that can, back to the way we generated our power in days of yore before there existed power distribution grids as outlined at the start of this diatribe.
    We will have come full circle!
    Ironically, we will then have truly green power!
    Sean Holt.

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