SNH: new report will help inform renewables sector
Developers and planners in the renewables sector can now use a new report by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on wild birds in an area of international importance to help inform future schemes.
The SNH commissioned report 'Survey of the feeding areas, roosts and flight activity of qualifying species of the Caithness Lochs Special Protection Area' deals with Greenland white-fronted geese; greylag geese and whooper swans.
It is aimed at helping the industry determine future developments' possible effects on species from the Caithness Lochs SPA. The data will also help inform work by Highland Council and the Forestry Commission.
It comes amid an increase in applications for small and medium scale wind energy developments in Caithness.
Greylag geese, pink-footed geese and whooper swans were widely distributed over the survey area which included all suitable habitat within 25 kilometres of the SPA lochs. Greenland white-fronted geese were found only around Broubster Leans and Loch Calder in the west of the area and around the Loch of Mey in the north.
Greenland white-fronted geese were recorded roosting in the SPA lochs in all months except November and April 2012 with the highest number of 252 in December 2011. More than 1,000 greylag geese were recorded during each month with the peak of 5,339 attained in March 2012.
Numbers of pink-footed geese - which were also recorded - reached a peak of 11,569 in April 2012. Whooper swans were found every month with the highest recorded - 532 - in November 2011.
Dave Mackay, Northern Isles and North Highland operations manager, confirmed: "We are committed to working with developers and the industry and this report will be useful in providing information pertinent to preparing planning applications.
"We encourage all developers to use the information in this report to assist them in determining the level of bird survey they might require for their projects. In some cases, such as desk-based pre-application studies for small and medium scale wind energy proposals, it may even lead to savings for the developer.
"We investigated the potential of increased risks to these species from collision, disturbance and displacement and this information can be used by the renewables sector to assist them in making applications."
Photo by Ken Crossan from the Caithness Biodiversity Collection