Ostrander Point, wind and birds: is it different?

by Dianne Saxe on February 14, 2013

There definitely are places where renewable energy projects should not go. The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists wants me, and you, to know why they think Ostrander Point is one of them, and why wind turbines should not be built there, of all places. This is not about the nocebo effect, it’s about birds. As previously noted, they have the support of the Environmental Commissioner: turbines should not be built in Important Bird Areas. (Actually, we should do much more to prevent human disruption of Important Bird Areas…)

This is what they sent me:

OSTRANDER POINT CROWN LAND BLOCK INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINE PROJECT

“This project is the most egregious example of a renewable energy project that is simply located in the wrong place”.  Ted Cheskey, Nature Canada

Ostrander Point Crown Land is in the centre of the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area. This IBA has been designated a globally significant IBA under the congregatory (wildfowl) species category and nationally significant under the threatened species category.  During spring and fall, the geographical and habitat features of the peninsula that forms Prince Edward County act as a funnel for birds on migration.  During fall, as many as 2,000 hawks per day have been regularly recorded in the skies over the South Shore IBA.  Ostrander Point is adjacent to the Prince Edward National Wildlife Area and the Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area.

Species At Risk at Ostrander Point

14 priority species listed by Ontario Partners in Flight 2008 breed at Ostrander Point.

Northern Harrier, Whip-poor-will (End), Black-billed Cuckoo, Northern Flicker, Willow Flycatcher,  Eastern Kingbird,  Wood Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Field Sparrow. Savannah Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Meadowlark (Thr), and Baltimore Oriole.

19 Species At Risk found at Ostrander Point including Blanding’s Turtle (Threatened), Common Musk Turtle (Threatened), Milksnake (special concern), Monarch Butterfly (special concern), Whip-poor-will (Threatened), King Rail (Endangered), Least Bittern (Threatened), Black Tern (special concern), Short-eared Owl (special concern), Golden Eagle (Endangered), Bald Eagle (Endangered), Peregrine Falcon (Threatened), Red-headed Woodpecker (special concern), Loggerhead Shrike (Endangered), Golden-winged Warbler (special concern), Yellow-breasted Chat (special concern), Henslow’s Sparrow (Endangered), Rusty Blackbird (Provincial Status ratings)

Ostrander Point has been designated a Candidate Area of Natural and Scientific Interest by the MNR.

Cumulative effect: Gilead Power Project (9 turbines) and WPD-Canada White Pines Project (29) and Loyalist Wind Project (21) in the South Shore IBA; Dorland on Bath Rd; Amherst Island (37); Wolfe Is. Shoals (130).

The nearest wind facility – the TransAlta Wind project at Wolfe Island has released mortality statistics for July 2009-June 2010:

The 13.4 birds per turbine per year casualty rate is about 7 times the industry average in Canada according to CANWEA. 22 carcasses of 6 species of raptors were found, many times over MNR’s Guidelines of 2 raptors per project. Planned thresholds for mortality rates at the Wolfe Island project will be at the highest level ever recorded at any wind facility in North America.  Gilead’s proposed “adaptive management” thresholds are the same. The Kingston Field Naturalists ongoing raptor population studies’ preliminary results appear to show disturbance effects to Red-tailed Hawks and Short-eared Owls (Special Concern) on Wolfe Island after only one year’s operation.

US Fish & Wildlife Service estimates for 2009: “approximately 440,000 birds were already being killed per year”.  “The real answer is that we simply don’t yet have enough data to reliably estimate cumulative impacts, but once acquired they will likely far exceed current estimates. The growing and disproportionate ‘take’ of  species of conservation concern also appears to be an issue relative to the overall number of birds killed, and that is another cause for worry,” stated Dr. Albert Manville of the FWS’s Division of Migratory Bird Management

ENVIRONMENT  CANADA.  A Guidance Document: Wind Turbines and Birds.  V.8.2   p.21 Feb. 2007

Table 1. Site Sensitivity  Potential Sensitivity   Determining factor   Very high

11 criteria of a site where turbines should not be sited are met by Ostrander Point:

  • The presence of a bird species listed as “at risk” by the SARA, COSEWIC or provincial/territorial threat ranking, or the presence of the residence(s) of individuals of that species if listed under the SARA, or of its critical habitat. To be of concern, either the bird or its residence or critical habitat must be considered to be potentially affected by the project;
  • Site is in an Important Bird Area;
  • Site is adjacent to a National Wildlife Area;
  • Site of fall migration of large concentrations of raptors;
  • Site is on a known migration corridor;
  • Site contains shoreline on a peninsula;
  • Site will disrupt large contiguous wetland habitat;
  • Site located close to significant migration staging area for waterfowl;
  • Site contains species of high conservation concern, eg. Aerial flight displays, PIF/CWS priority species;
  • Site is recognized as provincially important alvar habitat type;
  • Site is adjacent to a heronry.

“This is one of the most important landfall sites in Ontario.  Unique about this particular site is that birds are ascending and descending during migration, whereas normally they migrate over the landscape in a broad front above the typical height of wind turbines.  Since birds on migration in this area can therefore be found at tower height, and are typically very tired and stressed when descending, they may be more at risk of collision with wind turbines.”

Denise Fell, Environmental Assessment Officer, Mar 4, 2008.

Government has a responsibility to take a precautionary approach to siting decisions for industrial turbines that will be in place for 25-50 years.  Siting decisions should be made with the advice of knowledgeable scientists from Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada and the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network.

BirdStudies Canada and the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network require 10 years of data collection following specific protocols, performed daily during 20-22 weeks during the year, spring and fall, before the data is considered reliable for that site.

 

Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory   Estimated Daily Totals 2003

Species Spring Fall Total
Ducks 304,594 189,870 494,464
Gulls, Shorebirds 10,608 4,739 15,347
Raptors, Owls 171 2,296 2,467
Passerines 43,097 74,026 117,123
TOTAL 358,470 270,931 629,401

These data are the result of observations through a 1 km wedge of shoreline and as a result are only a small estimation of the total birds passing through the PEC South Shore at migration time.  In fact, a recent study at a similar peninsula migratory habitat, Long Point on Lake Erie, tracked birds and bats moving 1-30 km over the stopover landscape for days to feed before continuing on the migration. Taylor, PD et al.  Landscape Movements of Migratory Birds and Bats Reveal an Expanded Scale of Stopover. 2011.  PLoS ONE 6(11)

Presented By:  Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory and Prince Edward County Field Naturalists

Contacts:  Cheryl Anderson (cherylanderson23@sympatico.ca) Myrna Wood (myrna@kos.net)

 

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