Wolfe Island Bird Report #4

Stantec has just released report #4, covering the 2nd half of 2010 on Wolfe Island.  To read the executive summary you’d think the birds and bats were doing just fine.  But, similar to reports #2 and #3, when you start digging into the numbers you find the slaughter continues, and in the case of bats even accelerates.  Stantec, being on the payroll of the project developer, is doing its best to put the best face it can on the numbers, but unfortunately that seems to include gaming them when necessary.  I’ll get into specifics later, of course, but for now here’s my summary.

  • Birds: 54 carcasses found, adjusted to 703, an all-time high.
  • Raptors: 8 carcasses found, adjusted to 8.
  • Bats: 111 carcasses found, adjusted to 1878, an all-time high.
  • Winter raptor density: improved from a very poor 2009’s rate of 0.2/km to 0.7/km.
  • Notifications:  8, mostly for bats, none for raptors.

Links to everything

Details on Bird Fatalities

703 birds were killed in this 2H2010 period, compared to 602 in 2H2009 – a number that made the papers.  Stantec claims that rate is 3.60 birds/MW (~703/198) but then they directly compare this 6-month rate to Arnett’s Table 1, which contains annual rates.  For the year 2010 an estimated total of 1207 birds were killed, a rate of 6.28 birds/MW.  This makes Wolfe Island the second-most prolific killer of birds in Arnett’s list.  Stantec rightly claims that this rate is below the 11.7 rate at which mitigation starts, but if you look at Arnett’s Table 1 you can see how that rate was set by MNR – they simply took the largest number and set that as the limit.  As I mentioned in my Prelude to #3, this number has nothing to so with sustainability.

Details on Raptor Fatalities

8 raptors were killed in this 2H2010 period, and Stantec claims that translates to a rate of 0.04 birds/MW, and again compare that number to Arnett’s Table 1.  The mitigation threshold for raptors was set at 0.09 birds/MW, in a manner similar to the threshold for birds – they simply took the largest number in Arnett’s table.  For the entire 2010 a total of 21 raptors were killed, a rate of 0.096, which is above the threshold.  I can only surmise that the calculators at MNR don’t work very well.  There was a mention of mitigation after report #3, when Stantec and MNR could no longer deny the obvious, but the mitigation consisted of continuing to study the problem.  There’s no mention of continuing mitigation with this report.  Is this rate sustainable?  Nobody knows.

Details on Bat Fatalities

1878 bats were killed in this 2H2010 period.  This compares to 1270 killed during 2H2009 – a number that made a number of newspapers.  I can only hope this even larger number makes more newspapers.  For the year 2010 an estimated total of 2327 bats were killed, an annual rate of 11.75 bats/MW.  That is below, just barely, the mitigation threshold of 12.5.  And how was 12.5 arrived at?  It was simply the average mortality rate at nearby Maple Ridge, NY.  Is this rate sustainable?  Nobody knows.  A more recent MNR threshold was set at 10 bats/turbine which equates to 4.3 bats/MW at Wolfe Island, but Wolfe Island gets grandfathered to the higher number.  Still, Transalta is volunteering to consider raising the cut-in speed during prime bat season to cut mortality.  I certainly hope it is effective.  I cannot imagine that Wolfe Island could sustain a loss of 2300+ bats per year.

Wintering Raptor Density

As I’ve mentioned in my earlier reports, I consider the maintenance of the habitat more important than the mortality.  Wolfe Island is known for its wintering raptors and monitoring their overall numbers is one part of Stantec’s responsibilities.  Stantec tries to paint a rosy picture, saying the number of raptors was up from 2009, from a 0.2/km rate to 0.7 in 2010, and almost back to the pre-project 2006 number of 0.8.  But before you accept these numbers there’s some details you ought to know about.

There have been 3 winter raptor surveys (2006, 2009 and 2010) and for the second halves of each of those years the surveys consist of 4 periods of about 3 hours each where spotters are driven around, looking for raptors.

You’ve Got to Look at This Chart

In the chart the top section gives the results of the 12 3-hour sessions where the wintering raptor data was gathered.  By the way, the short-eared owl data was gathered on the same days.  You can see how 2006 was fairly similar to 2010, after recovering from a bad 2009.  I included the surface winds from the Kingston airport, about 7 km away, in MPH (Weather Underground was easier to use than Environment Canada).  While surface winds aren’t necessarily closely related to electric generation there is some correlation.  Why did I include this?  You’ll see…

The bottom part of the chart shows the half-year summaries for the 3 years.  In addition to averaging the previous 3 measures, I’ve added the WIWP MWH’s produced during each 2-month period, some Kingston Christmas Count (KCC) information and the notification numbers.

Stantec mentions the KCC numbers to try to relate WI’s decreases to decreases in the area’s overall raptor population.  In their report #2, as an example, they tried to compare the 75% reduction (0.8 to 0.2) in WI’s raptor population to Kingston’s 15% reduction (1.67 to 1.49).  In this report #4, they also related WI’s return to a “normal” 0.7 rate with Kingston’s return to 2.42.  Now, the units are different (km’s driven vs person-hours) but a ratio of the two gives a pretty good way to discern the reality.  The end of 2010 was very good for raptors around Kingston as evidenced by the 2.42 number.  Did WI participate in these good times?  Not quite, as it didn’t quite get back to the 2006 base numbers.  So even though Kingston’s numbers increased by 45% (1.67 to 2.42), WI’s decreased by 13% (0.8 to 0.7).

Now, why did I include the wind and generation numbers?  Here I will simply present the data and let you come to whatever conclusion you may.  Nov-Dec of 2010 were two good months for the WIWP, averaging almost 34% capacity factor (66.9/198).  During the 12 hours when the surveys were taking place the average generation was 30.4 MW.  I’ve created 2 clickable pictures showing the generation during each month and the days when the surveys took place.

I took the 12 hourly generation numbers from when the surveys were being performed and ran a t-test to see how likely they were a random variation of the overall 2-month’s generation numbers.  The results, p = 0.004, said there was less than a 1% chance.  In 2009, by contrast, the same process yielded a p of 0.68.

13 thoughts on “Wolfe Island Bird Report #4”

  1. Up our way in the Madawaska Valley I have not seen one single bat in our neck of the woods this year! In years past the early evenings were full of bats flying amongst the trees devouring insects. Not this year. Could it be that the bats that migrate here in the late spring have to make their way through the “Thrashing Machines” on Wolfe Island?……………..
    This is a case of out and out “MURDER” by our very own Government with no oversight by any Provincial agency like the MNR or MOE!
    Time to kick these bums out of office and take back OUR Province!

  2. Are you saying that they purposefully chose low generation days to do their bird counts, which would supposedly translate into higher bird count per km driven??? How do we know that non turning or low turning turbines translates into more bird sightings? I’m very confused and again appalled that this kind of bird kill is still going on.

    I am still waiting for the report for our area which was completed last October (which excludes some of the largest count days for Hawk migration in November). When we asked why, NRCan asked the company to explain. Their letter just skirted around the issue saying their work was reliable blah! blah! blah!

    I only experienced one turkey vulture kettle this year in late spring with only a handful of birds.

  3. I’m not sure it is intentional. Human nature, being what it is, would favor a nice calm day to do a survey rather than a nasty windy one. My problem isn’t with the calm days per se – it’s with the fact that 2009 wasn’t done in the same conditions as 2010 – so was 2009 artificially low or was 2010 artificially high, or does the wind generation even matter? In my reading of these reports I find lots of idiosyncrasies like that, and when I get the time I’ll be posting a discussion of them.

  4. White-nose disease may be killing more and more bats but the addition of turbines is obviously taking a toll which is NOT helping the species…rather it is heaping insults on injury.

    Prince Windfarm too could do with a dose of public scrutiny instead of just the hiring of a “clean-up” person; one of McGuinty’s green jobs no doubt.

    Open access to all raw data from post-construction monitoring of industrial wind turbine developments should be a condition of approval.

  5. What about the wounded birds and bats flying off to die outside the study area? The White-nose disease may not have been a problem within a healthy population of bats with healthy lungs. There will be bats that lungs are not damaged significantly enough to cause instant death but death by infection as will there be birds clipped enough to injure them, but not enough to kill them within the study area. Where are the wounded but not killed estimates?

  6. After reading everything you wrote i would have to say it is you that is fudging numbers to obtain the results you want.

  7. Chris, I’m dumfounded at your lack of reading skill. Everything I wrote came out of Stantec’s report. They are employed by Transalta. If there’s a bias, it is in Transalta’s favor. If you think I’m fudging, please provide just one example of that. Otherwise I’d like a retraction from you.

  8. In my letter to the Kingston Whig Standard dated August 6 I pointed out that – like many other writers – you have a financial stake – through your property on Amhurst Island – in preventing the spread of wind farms. So, to suggest that Stantec: “being on the payroll of the project developer, is doing its best to put the best face it can on the numbers,” is disingenuous – to say the least.
    I asked for data comparing kill rates with those on our roads and the high rise building that now line the Kingston waterfront. None has been forthcoming.
    And, I pointed out that wind farms are being constructed in Ontario to get away from burning coal – and some of the 170 million tons of contaminated ash that will be dumped annually in North America. (What was the bird kill in the 2008 TVA disaster?)
    I questionned how many birds and bats die from the pollution carried in the air from coal-fired power stations. (Or, from pesticides spread on fields.) Again, though my letter has been attacked, no comparative data is presented.

  9. Roger, there’s several problems with your assumptions.

    First, according to wind energy proponents, property values are NOT affected by wind projects. Therefore, according to “your side” I DO NOT have a financial interest here. You have 2 choices: either the wind industry is lying about property values, or you are mistaken. Which is it?

    Second, what in the world do kill rates from roads and high rises have to do with wind turbines? Unless you are willing to trade high rises and roads for wind turbines. Are you suggesting that? I’m not interested in spending my time doing that research, as it has no bearing on the current issue.

    Third, what in the world do wind turbines have to do with coal? Are wind turbines lessening the use of coal? Or simply used as a catalyst to replace it with gas? In which case, why not just go straight to the gas and be done with it? You’ve bought into the McGuinty-Duguid kool-aid, without critically examining their premises or their actions.

    Fourth, you must think I support coal mining. I’ve flown over WVA and KY at low altitude. I’ve driven most of Appalachia’s main roads and run most of its runnable rivers. I know first-hand what the destruction looks like. If I could get us off of coal, I would in a heartbeat. Wind turbines have nothing to do with getting us off of coal, except as a feel-good while we transition to gas.

    Fifth, nobody, including me, has ever said wind turbines are the major human-related cause of bird deaths. The problem, which you seem to keep ignoring, is that several species that are already under pressure may go extinct if we keep adding to the pressure. That’s bad enough to start with, but what makes this much worse it is for no discernible benefit.

  10. HI there, I was wondering if you plan to do any more updates on bird and bat deaths on Wolfe Island. I see that Transalta has posted their latest report #6 which kind of broke my brain. Are you able to follow up/interpret the report to see what the numbers are compared to previous reports? Thanks!

  11. I’m interested in knowing if any U.S. endangered or threatened species were killed at Wolfe Island. Since approval was just given to build turbines on Amherst Island, it is quite likely that the same species that were killed at Wolfe will be killed at Amherst. I’m researching the possibility of filing an intent to sue letter over the Endangered Species Act. Please email me at your earliest convenience. Thank you so much for documenting the wind turbine issues. We are fighting to keep them off our ridges in PA.

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