The KFN Workshop

On March 8, 2011 the Kingston Field Naturalists sponsored a one-day workshop on bird migrations and the effects of wind turbines.  Kingston is in Ontario, Canada, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and at the head of the Thousand Islands.  Further, it is located roughly halfway between Algonquin Park and Adirondack Park.   To say the Kingston area is important for wildlife, especially birds, is to merely state the obvious.

After the Wolfe Island project was put into operation, the KFN became more and more concerned about the effect the project was having on birds.  With the Ostrander Point and Amherst Island and Cape Vincent projects also well advanced that concern was deepened, and thus this workshop was sponsored.

Below are my notes on the speakers.  The main event is at the bottom, where John Bennett, the executive director of the Canadian Sierra Club, presented why he supports wind turbines and the resulting “discussion” made the Kingston newspaper.

Ron Weir, KFN, submitted notes that were read.  He couldn’t be there as he still has a day job.  His main point was that 10’s of millions of birds either migrate through or nest in the general Kingston area.  Some 280 species have been seen there, with 170 of them nesting.  They travel over the eastern end of Lake Ontario in a broad front, shifting to lower elevations as they approach the shore and lights.

David Okines, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, reviewed the program they’ve established, which counts birds every day during the spring and fall migration periods.  They count something like 750,000 birds passing through a 1km-wide window at the Point.  Some migrating species are willing to fly over the water (swallows, warblers), others are not.  In either event obstructions along the shoreline are a problem.  The migrating season is quite long, with different species going through at different times. Roughly 60% of young birds die during the migrations.

Valerie Wyatt, Stantec, reviewed how the bird studies at Wolfe Island were conducted.  She let us know early on she was there to discuss just the methodology and was not willing to comment on any interpretation.  While we all could quibble about details of how the studies were done, Stantec seems to be gathering the numbers in a reasonable way.  Where I have difficulty is in how they are interpreted.

Kurt Hennige, KFN, presented some of the results of the short-eared owl surveys being done on Amherst and Wolfe.  The overall populations are consistent, but the owls have moved away from the turbine-dense northwestern corner of Wolfe to other areas, and there are now very few raptors of any type in that area.

Barrie Gilbert, KFN, had a short discussion of how he might use his ongoing cleanups of Wolfe Island’s Big Sandy Beach to judge how many birds were being killed by the proposed (but for now moratorium’d) Wolfe Island Shoals project.

Ted Cheskey, Nature Canada, talked about the Important Bird Area program.  It is globally managed, with every involved country having an environmental group that rates the different areas to see which ones are appropriate to be included as IBA’s.  In the US the Audubon Society manages it, while Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada manage it for Canada.

Cheryl Anderson and Myrna Wood, Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, presented details of the likely impacts of the Ostrander Point project.  Bad news all around, now compounded by the White Pines Project.

Finally, we get to John Bennett, Sierra Club Canada.  Some history is needed.  About a month ago the council of Wainfleet, Ontario was debating a moratorium on wind turbines.  Such a moratorium would be mostly symbolic, as Ontario has removed the local governments’ control of wind projects.  Bennett believes a moratorium is unwarranted [backup link] and orchestrated a mail campaign to convince the council to vote against the moratorium.  He lost, 5-0.  Bennett made the mistake of writing that the opposition was political in nature, as opposed to lots of people waking up to just how destructive wind turbines are, and was invited by the KFN to the workshop to state his case.

Bennett’s presentation could have been written by CanWEA, or maybe the previous Minister of Energy in Ontario, George Smitherman.  Same old wishful thinking.  Too bad he hadn’t attended the workshop up to this point – he might have sharpened his rhetoric before getting in front of a very hostile crowd that knows first-hand the damage that appeasers like Bennett do, by giving the politicians cover.  The local newspaper had a story about the afternoon [backup link ], but the reporter didn’t capture the full extent of the anger in the crowd.  Bennett learned about it soon enough.

All-in-all, it was a valuable workshop.  I was glad that I managed to attend.

Update, March 20, 2011.  A letter to the editor [backup link], “More Study Needed on Bird Migration” from a participant appeared the Kingston Whig-Standard with another description of the workshop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *