Concern for golden eagles

Golden Eagle - this iconic Scottish bird relies on extensive areas of open ground such as are found in the Western Isles (Picture courtesy of Desmond Dugan/RSPB)
Golden Eagle - this iconic Scottish bird relies on extensive areas of open ground such as are found in the Western Isles (Picture courtesy of Desmond Dugan/RSPB)
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RSPB Scotland is seriously concerned about the impact a recently consented scheme by Scottish Ministers to extend a wind farm will have on golden eagles and white-tailed eagles.

The scheme, to develop six new wind turbines, is to be built in addition to the already consented 33-turbine Muaitheabhal Windfarm on the Eisgein Estate on the Isle of Lewis.

Each new wind turbine would measure 150m to the tip of the blade and have a blade diameter of up to 120m making them some of the largest onshore turbines in the UK.

The conservation charity is particularly concerned that not enough attention is being paid to the cumulative effect of consented and proposed schemes.

Martin Scott, RSPB conservation officer for the Western Isles, said: “The area where the turbines will be built supports one of the highest densities of golden eagles in the world and it is increasingly important for white-tailed eagles.

“We need renewable energy developments, including wind farms, to tackle climate change but any developer would be hard pushed to find a worse place in Britain to develop a scheme of this sort.

“We are very disappointed that our recommendations seem to have been ignored and that the development has been driven through without robust data being collected.”

Mr Scott explained: “This area supports around a dozen breeding pairs of golden eagles and we believe that chicks fledged here effectively prop up the Scottish population. This is why we treat any threat to them so seriously.

“The area also forms the nucleus of the recent expansion of white-tailed eagles in the Western Isles, following similar increases on Mull and Skye; and satellite-tagged white-tailed eagles from other Scottish sites have been shown to be drawn into the area to forage over prolonged periods.

“We believe that the gradual, incremental, development of windfarms in these areas risk a serious long-term impact on the populations of our largest and most magnificent birds of prey. It is very important that the cumulative impact is taken account of when these schemes are being proposed.

“Whilst we are obviously very disappointed that this scheme has been given the go-ahead, it is vital that a detailed and robust monitoring programme is put in place to ensure that we can improve our knowledge of the way in which eagles react to wind farms.”