The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) believes the impact of the
country’s growing number of wind farms on protected wildlife may have been
massively under-reported.

It has called for monitoring around turbine sites to be tightened up to
provide more accurate information about the part they play.

The gamekeeping body believes its members have been unfairly blamed for an
increase in the disappearance of birds of prey and other protected birds.

Gamekeepers on grouse moors were implicated this year when a report
concluded up to 41 out of 131 satellite tagged eagles in Scotland may have
disappeared over the past 12 years.

Scottish Natural Heritage reported the majority vanished on land used for
shooting and ruled out any connection to wind turbines.

The SGA noted its dissatisfaction with those findings but chose not to
speak out, focusing instead on condemning wildlife crime.

Now, with more and more highland wind farms in existence and with many of
those overlapping with grouse moors, the body said it is duty bound to
intervene in the argument.

Its call comes after a report by BTO, RSPB, Birdlife International, IUCN,
Cambridge University, University College London, Imperial College London,
University of Stellenbosch and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee
showed raptors such as sea eagles and golden eagles to be at the highest
risk to turbine mortality of all bird species.

The SGA says gamekeepers have witnessed raptor mortality at wind farm sites
and have located stricken birds in vegetation near turbines.

Chairman Alex Hogg said the body has no issues with renewables, with many
estates now augmenting sport shooting with wind farms or hydro schemes, but
said members feel post-construction monitoring codes must be revisited so
causes of bird mortality are clearer.

“A code for ongoing monitoring of wind farms, for wildlife impacts would be
helpful,” Mr Hogg said.

“Checks exist but are inconsistent and organised by operators themselves,
often using maintenance crew. There is no statutory duty to report bird
collisions in Scotland.

“We said at the time we were not convinced by the wind farm element of the
satellite tagged eagle report but we didn’t want to detract from our
condemnation of illegal behaviour.

“We have, ourselves, expelled six members in five years for wildlife crime
convictions. However, we disagreed, and still do, with the report’s
assumption there would be little motive for wind companies not to report
downed birds.

“Our members have witnessed dead raptors under turbines and up to 200 yards
from turbine masts – way beyond the 50m radius operators are recommended to
search and report.

“Most have felt duty bound not to speak because turbines march onto land
they manage.”

Mr Hogg added: “As a representative body, we see it as our duty to defend
our members’ right not to be assumed as guilty until proven innocent for
the disappearance of every bird that flies over a moor in Scotland, when
other factors may or may not be at play. By agreeing codes for monitoring,
there would be greater transparency.”

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