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« Dating error | Main | Kelly on engineering reality »
Saturday
Mar292014

On proportion

Yesterday the BBC hit us with the shock news that raptor poisonings in the Scotland have doubled.

To six.

The wind industry in the USA is estimated to kill about 83,000 raptors a year. The number in the UK would be smaller, but assuming proportionality to the USA, the death count for Scotland must be at least in the high thousands.

 

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Reader Comments (63)

"I estimated 888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year (including 83,000 raptor fatalities) at 51,630 megawatt (MW) of installed wind-energy capacity in the United States in 2012."

Off the top of my head and speaking completely out of ignorance, I am very very very weary of these incredible fatality figures. It is right up there with worst of alarmist numbers about climate ... everything.

Mar 29, 2014 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

But they died in a good cause.

And were probably suicidal stooges planted by the evil fossil fuel companies to discredit the wind angels.

Mar 29, 2014 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

The RSPB said the figures were "very worrying" and showed that birds continued to be persecuted in the Scottish countryside, whether by deliberate or accidental means.

Mar 29, 2014 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

So what (to be deliberately obtuse) would the implications be for bio-diversity of the continued expansion of wind-farms?

Yes, I am being leading as I can't tell at this remove just how accurate the figures are....

I would hope that some would see my point however.

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

sHx

Apologies please for being pedantic but when you say "weary" do you mean "wary"?

I'm not a grandma nazi or anyfink but I can't look over that one...

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

@sHx

I thought the same.

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

It would be quite easy to gain some idea of the relative numbers of deaths from poisoning v. windmill deaths. The RSPB could search the ground beneath the windmills and count the number of dead raptors they find. They wouldn't even have to venture off their own land to get to the windmills thereby saving on CO2 emissions. A plan with no drawbacks!

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

'They wouldn't even have to venture off their own land to get to the windmills'

Steve, they very likely pay people to remove the bodies before they accidentally find them themselves. That way, they can say they have never seen a raptor dead at the blades of a turbine.

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

Going by my own experience of throwing eight unwanted sausage rolls onto the lawn overnight and finding not a trace of them in the morning, I do not think that wandering around the base of a turbine at 9.00 am is going to produce any worthwhile evidence of bird or bat deaths. Infrared detection aimed at the turbines to show sudden changes in direction of the signal caused by strikes is probably the only way to go beyond "estimates" No turbine company is going to want this or agree to it happening so guess work is about all we have until raptors are extinct. Then we will know.
(The Danes have done a study for sea eagles but I cannot find it at the moment)

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

In other news, the growth in the number of carrion-feeders in the UK, is so far unexplained. Research Grants are at this moment being sought, in order to disprove any link with Climate Change.

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

“Pre- and post-construction studies of conflicts between birds and wind turbines in coastal Norway” (Bird-Wind)
Progress Report 2009

Example of fractures on White Tailed Eagle multiple severe fractures to their skeletons cut in two pieces by the rotor blades on a wind turbine. The cutting line was from front of sternum towards the kidney region. There was no damage to the left wing. The right wing attached to the body had multiple fractures in both humerus and ra-dius/ulna, disintegrated knuckles on the same bird . Considerable external force applied to the body is the only explanation to the comprehensive damage.

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Somewhere in deepest Scotland, a canny gamekeeper with an eye to the future is teaching himself to use the boomerang. It's called "plausible deniability" ...

Mar 29, 2014 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve C

sHx is right to be wary, I too am wary and don't want to join the warmiists in hailing any old propaganda provided it supports the cause. I don't know of any reliable studies showing the total numbers of flying objects killed. Is there such a study?

Mar 29, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Meanwhile, back in the real world, homicides in Scotland seem to vary between about 80-140 per year. At about 90 for the last set of stats, this seems to be on the low side, and has been duly reported as such by the BBC.

That was humans.

However, a drop from 30 to 6 for birds is still given the hysterical treatment by the Beeb.

Because everyone knows that birds are more important than humans...

Mar 29, 2014 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Whoops forgot the link to the 2009 study

http://www.nina.no/archive/nina/PppBasePdf/rapport/2009/505.pdf

Mar 29, 2014 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Someone tell Alan Johnson former Labour Home Secretary and MP for Hull to expect the same for Wild Bird life in the Humber Estuary.

But they will have lots of German Wind Turbines another white Elephant to go with the Humber Bridge.

Mar 29, 2014 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

It is strange that the Environmetalists were very concerned about the (possible) "effect" of DDT on birds years ago, however the effect of wind turbines which could be much more damaging, appears to be a price they believe is worth paying to "save the planet"!

Mar 29, 2014 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

@jones

...So what (to be deliberately obtuse) would the implications be for bio-diversity of the continued expansion of wind-farms?

Yes, I am being leading as I can't tell at this remove just how accurate the figures are....

I would hope that some would see my point however.

Ok, I'll bite.

I have constructed a complex computer model of the danger to the avian population of Great Britain, using data culled from the Wiki and the Calc program. According to this, if birds continue to die at a similar rate from both poisoning and wind farms, we will have no birds at all in the UK in either 4.5m years (wind farms) or 1.3b years (poisoning).

Those figures do not look very impressive, so, following the usual climate change methodology, I will exaggerate them statistically by using ratios.It looks as if wind farms are around 300 times more dangerous than criminals stalking the Highlands!

However, the error bars need examining. I would not be surprised to find this data out by a factor of 2. If we now take the top of the wind farm figure and the bottom of the poisoning figure, we find that wind farms are over 1000x more dangerous than ANY other threat to wildlife (because I can't think of any other threats, so none can exist).

Stephan Lewandowski, eat your heart out..!!

Mar 29, 2014 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Jones, thanks for the correction. Would you believe if I told you I paused and reflected on the spelling of wary but somehow ended up with weary. Maybe because it rhymed well with 'very very very'.

I should state to my fellow English speakers that all my mistakes with the language are genuine. I'd never butcher the English language deliberately except for a specific purpose. It is like writing with an accent. Girls like it too. :)

Mar 29, 2014 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Geezer

Thank you most kindly. I will cogitate....

As an aside, you say...."It looks as if wind farms are around 300 times more dangerous than criminals stalking the Highlands!".

I assume you have biased your deliberations by excluding Glasgee from your analysis?.

Gratifying for you, I am also sure, to see a review of your erudite deliberations by your peers here prior to publication? That is, I approve of your study.

Thank you most kindly

A.Jones.

Mar 29, 2014 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterjones

As an idle observation, there seems to be infinitely more raptors around in Scotland today than when I was growing up in the 1850s ;-) Buzzards in particular are plentiful in Aberdeenshire and Perthshire. On one of many canoe trips on the River Tay I saw 6 Ospreys and know of many nesting sites.

Totally off topic, in recent weeks I've been obsessing over EU gas supplies, trying to make sense of western stance over Russia, Ukraine etc. Got a new post looking at prospects of LNG imports from the USA which seem to be on their way. My views on shale gas are becoming progressively less sceptical. I think it is safe to say that the USA is looking to create markets for its gas.

USA gas independence - looking for export markets

Mar 29, 2014 at 12:38 PM | Registered CommenterEuan Mearns

Buzzards increasing in Southern Scotland too, a pair started patrolling locally about 10 years ago, 2 years later the rabbit warren was deserted, the local shooters had been trying for years to get rid of them.

Mar 29, 2014 at 1:07 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

geronimo said:

sHx is right to be wary, I too am wary and don't want to join the warmiists in hailing any old propaganda provided it supports the cause. I don't know of any reliable studies showing the total numbers of flying objects killed. Is there such a study?

In this golden age of the precautionary principle windmill operators ought to be required to definitively prove they don't chop up wildlife.

Mar 29, 2014 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

They should put a grill round all the turbines just like I have around my fans here in sunny hot Thailand.

Mar 29, 2014 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Off topic of the post, but not some of the above comments:

"Weary" (pronounced "whee-ree") does not rhyme with "very" ("veh-ree"). (E. A. Poe demonstrated that "weary" rhymes with "dreary", long ago.)

Mar 29, 2014 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

So wind energy is good because it reduces the raptor population and prevents them from poisoning people with their bites. Wait, it is the raptors being poisoned?

Mar 29, 2014 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

"I don't know of any reliable studies showing the total numbers of flying objects killed"

There is a whole science subsection counting dead birds, estimating how many dead birds were removed from wind farms by scavengers so they weren't counted (because there are weeks or months between searches).


" For comparing impacts of bird and bat collisions with wind turbines, investigators estimate fatalities/megawatt (MW) of rated capacity/year, based on periodic carcass searches and trials used to estimate carcasses not found due to scavenger removal and searcher error.

However, scavenger trials typically place ≥10 carcasses at once within small areas already supplying scavengers with carcasses deposited by wind turbines, so scavengers may be unable to process and remove all placed carcasses. To avoid scavenger swamping, which might bias fatality estimates low, we placed only 1–5 bird carcasses at a time amongst 52 wind turbines in our 249.7-ha study area, each carcass monitored by a motion-activated camera.

Scavengers removed 50 of 63 carcasses, averaging 4.45 days to the first scavenging event.

By 15 days, which corresponded with most of our search intervals, scavengers removed 0% and 67% of large-bodied raptors placed in winter and summer, respectively, and 15% and 71% of small birds placed in winter and summer, respectively.

By 15 days, scavengers removed 42% of large raptors as compared to 15% removed in conventional trials, and scavengers removed 62% of small birds as compared to 52% removed in conventional trials.

Based on our methodology, we estimated mean annual fatalities caused by 21.9 MW of wind turbines in Vasco Caves Regional Preserve (within Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, California, USA) were 13 red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), 12 barn owls (Tyto alba), 18 burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia), 48 total raptors, and 99 total birds."

etc etc

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2193/2009-266/abstract

Mar 29, 2014 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Steve Jones said:

It would be quite easy to gain some idea of the relative numbers of deaths from poisoning v. windmill deaths. The RSPB could search the ground beneath the windmills and count the number of dead raptors they find. They wouldn't even have to venture off their own land to get to the windmills thereby saving on CO2 emissions. A plan with no drawbacks!

On the contrary, any intelligent Green would spot the problems instantly. First of all, health and safety considerations would prevent anybody from venturing anywhere near the blades of the wind turbine except when maintenance work on it was being carried out. Birds can move in 3-dimensions and therefore are at much less risk from the blades of wind turbines than humans are.

The second problem is the assumption that a dead bird lying on the ground near a wind turbine must have been killed by that turbine. How do you know that the bird had not drunk liquid from a fracking well somewhere a few days earlier? When it began to feel ill the bird probably decided to fly to a greener area as it could no longer face the perils of fracking. Consequently it headed to the nearest wind-farm where it spent its last hours.

That explains why dead birds are sometimes found near wind turbines. Only a denier would claim that a clean, green technology could possibly be dangerous to birds.

Mar 29, 2014 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

@ Euan Mearns
"...when I was growing up in the 1850s..."

Gosh, I'm impressed.

Mar 29, 2014 at 3:13 PM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

Detailed bird kill statistics from Wolf Island, Ontario are here:

http://windfarmrealities.org/wfr-docs/wi-bird-report-6.pdf

The observed rate of raptor kills is 0.12 raptors/MW/yr. Extrapolating to the Scottish installed turbine capacity of 5,843 MW would give us:

5843 x 0.12 = 701 raptors/yr

Using similar ratios, Scottish total bird kills would be 13,731 and bat kills roughly three times that number.

Mar 29, 2014 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

The Buzzard's a clever little bastard. You can track him for days and days until you really get to know him like a friend. He knows you're there, and you know he's there. It's a game of wits. You hate him, then you respect him, then you kill him.

Mar 29, 2014 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Here's a raptor I'm following!

Mar 29, 2014 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

sHx
Here's the link to the US Wildlife Society bulletin that quotes those figures you mention. I have not read it so cannot comment on its accuracy or validity. But at least there's an identified source for it.
I have also seen a summary of a presentation in Spain by their ornithology society in early 2012 about the bird deaths attributed to Spain's 30,000 odd turbines and they estimated 6-18 million bird and bat deaths. Seems like a huge number, but I can't find the info now how they estimated it.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wsb.260/abstract

Mar 29, 2014 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered Commentermikegeo

Let's not get distracted here by the relatively modest current number of bird murders by the avian cuisinarts.

Just imagine the carnage when the CAGW believers dreams come through! With thousands of additional lethal turbines littering the landscape and thousands more mincing seabirds off shore there will be feathers flying until the remnants of the last bird lie splattered on the ground.

The predictions of species extinction due to global warming, real or imagined, will have been proved accurate. The science is settled.

Mar 29, 2014 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

The US raptor population is approximately 3.7 million. If 83,000 raptors are being killed annually by wind turbines that is a 2% mortality.

If Great Britain's 130,000 raptors are also experiencing a 2% mortality that would be 1300 per year.

Mar 29, 2014 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Bloody finger trouble. That should read-

The US raptor population is approximately 3.7 million. If 83,000 raptors are being killed annually by wind turbines that is a 2% mortality.

If Great Britain's 130,000 raptors are also experiencing a 2% mortality that would be 2600 per year.

Mar 29, 2014 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

These sort of fictitious figures do nobody any good. If you want reality count the dead bodies and cut the stupid guesses.

Mar 29, 2014 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

I know parking is difficult in town but I didn't realise Great Britain has as many wind turbines as USA but thanks for the calculation ET. I mean calculations.

Mar 29, 2014 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Tehachapi Pass Wind Farms – Southern California, USA

Covering virtually every ridgeline in the mountain pass between the Mojave Desert and California’s central valley, the 5,000 wind turbines of Tehachapi are owned by a dozen separate companies. With consistent winds flowing between the Mojave Desert and the San Joaquin Valley,

I wonder if they have painted the blades black yet.

Mar 29, 2014 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

What is needed here is a model...indeed several.

Mar 29, 2014 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJay Currie

Scotland has 1293 wind turbines of the 3840 in the UK and Ireland.

Scotland's raptor mortality would therefore be 1293*2600/3840.

That is 875.

Stephen Richards

The numbers are not fictitious, though I did have to winnow half a dozen data tables to put them together. Feel free to do a check count or calculate your own figures.

BH estimates that " The number in the UK would be smaller, but assuming proportionality to the USA, the death count for Scotland must be at least in the high thousands."

By this calculation he is overestimating the mortality tenfold.

Mar 29, 2014 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

O.K., for the purposes of the discussion let's assume the raptor kills are 875 annually.

Therefore the BBC is ignoring 145 times more kills by turbines than poisonings.

That, I believe, was our eminent host's well made point.

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

There is a website called caithnesswindfarms. I dont know how reliable it is. It quotes various accident and incident figures for the wind industry, including birds.

http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/accidents.pdf

Some while back I tried to find goverment statistics for human injuries and fatalities in the renewables sector without success. I got the impression that the government rolls energy industry statistics all in together.

Worth a question in the House, perhaps?

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:23 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

When I grew up, trees were not valued much and the rivers were polluted and the air was foul.
I praise the environmentalists who cured all these ills.
I praise the environmentalists who have led the reintroduction of species and fostered the endangered ones.
The Greens are just as much their enemy as they are ours

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Mar 29, 2014 at 9:49 PM | EternalOptimist

A very valid point, well said. There are definitely two strains of environmentalist. The old-fashioned variety, with a genuine concern for the environment who would also think nothing of going without in order to set the example and the newer GM variety who views greenery as a business/political opportunity.

Mar 29, 2014 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

EternalOptimist

Very much seconded.

Such a totalitarian strain well and truly put me off the "green" party.

And I used to even door-knock for the Green party.

The rank hipocrisy just appalled me too. I think it was the "righteous" bent that finally did it.

Andy

Mar 29, 2014 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterjones

@mikegeo
When it was originally reported that Spanish study you mentioned set off my BS detector. http://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/bs-detector-wind-farm-bird-kills-in-spain/

The reason for the high numbers in Spain seemed to be due to extrapolating from very low rates of detection and supposing high (95%) rates of disappearance (i.e. assuming that scavengers removed the corpses).

The numbers the Spanish study came up with was 1000 bird deaths per year per turbine (~3 per day), whereas a very detailed Belgian study found ~20 per turbine per year in a 'high fly area' beside a breeding colony of terns.

Mar 30, 2014 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterVerity Jones

Joe Public (Mar 29, 2014 at 9:49 AM): surely you mean they are trying to prove a link to Climate Change, as increasing numbers of carrion-feeders surely has to be a Bad Thing (and, as any fule knoes, only Bad Things happen because of Climate Change)?

There was a primary school in the south of England that had a wind turbine installed, to much fanfare. Within a few weeks, the children were getting so upset by the numbers of dead birds scattered around the playground every day, the turbine was stopped (to little fanfare).

EM: “By this calculation he is overestimating the mortality tenfold.” You have to remember that he is an accountant by training.

Mar 30, 2014 at 12:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Harry Dale Huffman - if you're a true blue Kiwi, "weary" does rhyme with "very".

Mar 30, 2014 at 2:18 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

If fracking was killing raptors it would be banned, whether the number was 1 or 1,000,000.
That windmills get a pass is the problem, not the number.
We *know* windmills are killing flying animals and are cluttering up the landscape, and disturbing ground dwelling animals in their sound footprint.
If big green gave a rat's behind about birds, bats and vulnerable creatures they would be raising all sorts of heck about wind power.
That is the issue. The numbers of birds are a distraction. The issue is that big green has little if anything to do with the environment and everything to do with their wallets.

Mar 30, 2014 at 2:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

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