The first of many, hopefully!
After what seemed like an eternity trying to sort the necessary permission, at 4 am this morning Paul and I finally got started on a new project colour-ringing Golden Plovers in Shropshire and Mid-Wales, with the first 5 birds colour-marked. Between us, we have now ringed over 150 this winter, an amazing achievement given that the GB & Ireland ringing total for the past 10 years has averaged at less than 100!
Golden Plover is listed in the Section 42 list of “Species of Principle Importance for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in Wales” under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. A small and declining breeding population of Golden Plover
is present in the Elenydd SSSI west of Rhayader and is being gradually enclosed
with windfarm development on all sides. In addition, in October each year,
returning birds from more northerly populations head for the upland plateaux of
the wider Cambrian Mountains. Here they spend the day-time in rough pastures,
dispersing onto more improved farmland during the night-time to forage for
earthworms. Many of the traditional haunts have been identified as potential
wind-farm sites and indeed several already have operating wind-farms in situ.
Little is known about the potential effect on Golden Plovers of direct collision
with turbine blades or the effect of displacement from preferred roosting and
feeding sites through avoidance. All Environmental Impact Assessments, on
potential windfarm sites, require consultants to undertake surveys for a range
of species, with the Golden Plover high on the list because of its Section 42 listing. The number of Golden
Plovers using a site pre-construction should be available for all windfarms.
The number of birds using a site post construction should also be available
through post-construction monitoring agreements. These figures however will not
allow any assessment of whether any measured reduction in numbers is through
increased mortality through collision, or caused by site abandonment through
avoidance of operational turbines.
If we can colour-ring a significant number of birds
within the general area then valid statistical evaluations may be
available regarding return rates pre and post construction at wind-farm sites
and these could be compared to return rates at control sites. Golden Plovers
are relatively approachable in a vehicle and tend to walk around in relatively
short vegetation where colour-rings would be relatively readable with a
Colour-ringing may also yield data on where these birds
originate from and where they go to in colder weather when they abandon the
upland plateaux. If the small and declining breeding population is involved
then any mortality through turbine collisions is of increased significance. To-date, two foreign ringed birds have been caught, one originally
ringed in the Netherlands and the other in Belgium. These two movements suggest
the majority of birds may be of continental origin, which is not surprising
given the small size of the British population.
It is proposed that as many Golden Plovers as possible will
be caught and colour-ringed at a series of windfarm sites, both in planning and
operational, and also at a range of control sites where no development is
planned. Trapping and ringing will be supported by daytime observations to
count birds and read leg-rings. Hopefully this data will serve to highlight any potential problem areas or alternatively to alleviate concern.
Records of more distant movements will be heavily
reliant on the reports of casual observers so please keep your eyes peeled!