By PAUL SCHLIESMANN, THE WHIG-STANDARD
A conservation organization reviewing the number of birds and bats killed by the wind turbines on Wolfe Island is calling the numbers “extremely high.”
A consultant’s report estimates that 1,270 bats and 602 birds were killed by the island’s 86 turbines from July 1 to Dec. 31 of last year, the project’s first months of operation.
“I really believe there never should have been an industrial-type wind farm built on Wolfe Island,” said Ted Cheskey, manager of bird conservation for Nature Canada.
The island is situated in what’s known as an Important Bird Area, “globally significant,” he said, for the numbers and types of birds that migrate through the area.
A second, offshore project of up to 60 turbines has received early-stage provincial approval for the waters of Lake Ontario to the west of Wolfe Island.
“It could be very significant in a bad way,” said Cheskey of the offshore project. “Monitoring birds offshore is going to be very difficult. The potential for heavy impact is there.
“We’re setting ourselves up for a big ecological mess.”
Studies at other wind farms have turned up kill rates of one to two birds per turbine annually.
The Wolfe Island rate was seven birds per turbine over the six months.
Among land birds, 28 tree swallows were found killed, eight bobolinks and seven purple martens.
Red-tailed hawks fared the worst among birds of prey with three being found dead.
Researchers found six turkey vulture carcasses.
Cheskey said he’s seen an Internet video of a vulture being killed.
“It’s hard to watch. An unsuspecting, large, beautiful bird is killed in front of your eyes,” he said.
“The blade spins around and it comes up from below or down from above. These birds are soaring birds so you can imagine any soaring bird drifting in these slow circles would be at pretty high risk. I’m surprised there aren’t more deaths.”
Cheskey said it’s important to collect more data to include the spring migration figures.
Those results could prove to be even more deadly, he said, because bird numbers tend to be more concentrated as they fly north and weather conditions make flying more difficult and hazardous.
No one from TransAlta, owners of the Wolfe Island wind farm, could be reached for comment Friday.
The company has scheduled a meeting for next week with members of the citizens’ group WIRE — Wolfe Island Residents for the Environment — to discuss the bird and bat kill numbers.