Wednesday 25 February 2015

Spring coming

You may remember on my last blog voting had opened to gain the views on whether the Viking Wind Farm project should go ahead in its present form. The Vote in the Shetland Times closed Wednesday with 67% (5653) against and 33% (2740 for). This must mean something and i know many more people who would have voted NO if given a little longer. (as indicated on Facebook)

I said before that Shetland could be too windy for the wind farm, check this out to see what has been paid out when it has been too windy

It would be better just to throw bags of money into the air.

Now don't be surprised if the next step to kill Shetland is to go ahead with an offshore wind farm as well as the Viking project. A few days ago the Government gave the go ahead to build worlds biggest offshore wind farm in the world. This will be built off the coast of Yorkshire, at Dogger bank. This scheme involves 400 Turbines which will cover 435 sq miles of seabed. Currently the UK has 1,200 offshore Turbines.

Cast your mine back to May 2011 when proposals came forward to set up 5 massive off shore wind farms, these would completely circle Shetland. The largest area from Whalsay to Sumburgh would cover 1,074 sq miles alone.

See the government strategy on off shore wind farms at Blue Sea- Green energy produced by Marine Scotland. Interestingly enough, the authors claim that measures can be put in place to protect fishing, the environment and shipping, and we all know now what that means  ! The energy produced would be added to the onshore Viking Project and transferred by the interconnector (The missing power). It seems to suggest that the problems encountered by the fishing industry would be off set by increases to the Marine& Engineering job sector.

Spring has arrived with snowdrops out and Daffodil and crocus on the way. Ravens and Hoddie crows along with some gulls are displaying but at the same time the weather can turn very wintry as it did Tuesday with a covering of hail. The moors are very wet with lots of standing water which has attracted numbers of wader, duck, geese and swans.

Flocks of Curlew, Lapwing, Fieldfare, Greylag and Whooper Swans have been passing over our house this week. We also had a pair of Chaffinch, a Meadow Pipit and a nice flock of Twite coming to the edge of the garden. Glaucous gulls have increased to seven at the catch while I saw an Iceland Gull in a field at Quarff last Tuesday and was still present the following Wednesday.In fact it seems that at least 13 Iceland Gulls were present the other day as far north as Unst

Last weekend a swan collided with power lines at Vidlin which resulted in the loss of power to 600 homes for around an hour.

Goldeneye ducks are now displaying on a number of Lochs while at Sandsayre and Mail males are still present on the sea.

Its good to see birds of prey in Shetland as they are thin on the ground and are usually more visible during migration. This Sparrowhawk has been seen around Clickinim for a week or so, disliked by Raven, Hoddie and gulls

Monday 16 February 2015


Money rules ok!, Last Monday the decision to go ahead with the 103 wind turbines in the central mainland got the red light from the courts. You could tell that this would go ahead back in December when Legal arguments were heard in the Supreme Court.

People are saying that the decision has been made and that should be that and we should accept it. It seems to me reading peoples letters, facebook and hearing people in the town its far from over. In fact things seem to have got worse, feeling among families are going to extremes and now people are saying that they will take direct action to  stop any work.

This all started back in November 2003 with a proposal of 150 turbines and since numbers have been changed several times. People have been against any proposals for some time and 3,600 people signed a petition back in July 2009, the RSPB, SHN and Sepa all objected at the same time.

I am looking at this from a wildlife, environment and photographers point of view and these proposals for the wind farm will completely change the way we look at Shetland. The superb landscape most people have taken for granted will be lost forever. It has been said that you will not be able go anywhere in Shetland where the Turbines will not be able to be seen.

The Turbines are not going to be the average size of 70m high, these will be 103 turbines x 145 M high, among the tallest in the UK. The highest so far is one at 149 m in Oxfordshire  The construction costs was just under £700 million (2010) which will have gone up to around £800 m with the Interconnector  (320 km from the mainland)  costs (Vital to the whole operation) coming in at another £700 m. People are saying that they may need more power (More turbines) to make the interconnector viable.

Major damage will be made to moorland during construction of the road network, which will consist of 65 miles of road, 30 feet wide. In addition 3 quarries will be required, a large camp for the workers and various other buildings will be needed. One excavator was completely lost a few years ago when it disappeared into the bog, so it will be interesting to see what else happens.

Have you thought about all the extra emissions made by the extra diggers and heavy transporters that will block the main Shetland roads.  I have seen smaller blades being transported and they go really slow, we have no duel carriage ways and even at night the journey from the proposed drop zone at Sullom Voe will take many hours to transport one blade at a time.

The destruction of the peat bog cannot be underestimated. Over 90% of the UK peat bog has been lost in the last 50 years- this has become a threatened habitat although this is not mentioned by many.

Any construction in the areas identify for the wind farm WILL result in bird numbers of some rare birds to decrease. These birds include Whimbrel, Red Throated Diver, Merlin, Golden Plover, Skylark to name a few. The courts decided that although numbers of Whimbrel (95% of the UK population in Shetland) may be low the overall picture shows a wide spread world population that isn't in decline. Studies have shown that Curlew and Snipe populations crash during the construction phase and never recover

The RSPB has put forward some claims of numbers of birds that will die as a result of colliding with wind turbines, as far as i am concern any deaths should be avoided as most of these species are supposed to be protected.

What gets me is that our Conservation Laws mean nothing ! All wildlife protection means nothing, because  numbers of a certain species will be higher elsewhere and now this decision has been made everyone will  be able to jump on the bandwagon and use the same excuse.

To me the RSPB have taken a back seat, and could do a lot more to totally oppose the construction of this wind farm, things have changed since the 2009 objection as they now seem to support wind farms. Its seems the power of money is a bigger concern than the birds, Now they receive £1m from Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) so do you support this or the birds, you are paying your membership to protect ?

What does being green mean to you ? is it about protecting habitats and the birds. Or are the people at high level who are known to have interests in wind farms influencing you. Kate Humble and Mark Avery (past President) for instance. Check out this link for more

Going back to the fact they say its a Green Deal, well as most people know Peat absorbs climate damaging CO2 , to start destroying the area of deep peat will release masses of CO2 , so is this a good deal, me thinks not.

So all the work, some say 5 years of construction work will only result in a life span of 20 years from when the first blades turn. People are already saying that it will be too windy and that for weeks a year the turbines will be turned stop the motors burning out.

Please read up about the proposals, already other projects have now come to light on Unst, Yell and Cunningsburgh what next ? It could all be a big flop as the whole project is dependent on grants, which change all the time and then Shetland could have a massive debt. We need to make the people accountable for their actions, for a long time the money put aside for Shetland has been wasted, will this, if it goes ahead, be another case of bad management ?

More can be done with wave and tidal power which may provide a better long term solution, yet little is being done by the government to develop the projects.

The birds above Golden Plover, Arctic Skua, Red Throated Diver and Whimbrel as well as many more birds are under threat by these proposals.

The Shetland Times are running a Poll and to-date  a 67% NO Vote has been cast, just to show the level of support

The opinions above are purely mine

Sunday 1 February 2015


February is a good month for increases in the number of winter birds visiting Shetland. At the catch the last few days have seen the number of Glaucous gulls increase to 4 with the same number of Iceland gulls and the Kumlien's gull an occasional visitor.

Besides the gulls which i am sure most people are not interested in, don't know why because I find them very  exciting as rare gulls are not classed as every day birds. I do agree its a minefield trying to identify gulls and ageing them that's what puts people off.

Away from gulls for a change, February is also good for ducks, at this time of year they look smart in breeding plumage and they are also displaying. Around Shetland its easy to catch up with displaying Eider duck and good numbers of males gather to attract a female, a bit of fighting goes on and males are continually calling.

                                                                                              Glaucous Gull

Long Tailed Ducks look smart at this time and in most areas small groups can be seen one minute and gone the next as the dive for food. They sometimes feed close in shore and the south mainland provides a number of good photo opportunities.

Recently a few Gadwall have been seen around Lerwick while rare ducks such as American Wigeon and Green Winged Teal have been seen on the west side.

Its a time when Fulmars  return to their nest ledges and many are gliding past while travelling from Sandwick to Lerwick. Guillemots have also returned to stacks down at Sumburgh so hopefully it wont be long until Puffins return. Everyone will hope for another bumper breeding season to follow on from the last.

I have been conducting a beach survey down at Sandsayre since last July. Its been good news so far in that one one dead Fulmar has been picked up dead which means the auks & other seabirds must be finding enough food out at sea and they must be in good condition.

The survey is important in monitoring whether any oiled birds are washed up on beaches around Shetland, this is in conjunction with the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG) which has been carrying out these surveys since 1978.

Thanks for all the people that have booked on the Photography courses I will be running for the Shetland Adult Education, these will commence in Lerwick from the 2 March 2015, looking forward to seeing you all soon. Even one person travelling down from the north side of Unst for the beginners Digital Photography course.

From September in addition to running the beginners and intermediate digital photography courses I will also be delivering wildlife / nature courses to help people understand more about the natural world in the UK but especially Shetland. Keep an eye out for these which will be advertised here and elsewhere in Shetland from about July