Nesting season clearfell shock

 

Ben O’Rourke

On the main street in Harthill is a welcome sign with a picture of a man wearing a helmet, a nod to its history as a coal mining town.

About half a mile north there’s a line of wind turbines, which some see as a sign of cleaner, greener times. Shooter and falconer Steven Mollins isn’t one of them.

“They’re a bloody eyesore,” he says.

More turbines are planned for the town – this time on a lot owned by Forestry & Land Scotland that’s just a few hundred yards from Mollins’ house.

“You’ll see it through this window,” he seethes, echoing the growing global backlash to the machines.

Hot air: two of the turbines north of Harthill

 

Over the past couple of months, thousands of trees have been cleared from the land, alarming Mollins because it was nesting season at the time, including for local birds of prey.

“I was driving up the back and could hear the machine,” he says. “So I drove across and that’s when I noticed all the trees getting cut down and I’m saying to myself wait, there’s birds of prey nesting in there. How are they getting away with this?”

FLS says it’s allowed to clear the land for timber after an environmental survey found nothing would be seriously affected.

Mollins is concerned as wildlife in the area has been steadily declining.

“You get a lot of skylarks, get a lot of reed buntings, used to get curlews, lapwings… everything’s all gone. It’s all gone. I haven’t even seen a swallow up here this year. The place is… dead.”

Steven Mollins surveys the aftermath of the clearance operation

 

And more wind turbines means more danger for the local birds.

“I’ve often wondered since when did the industrial slaughter of wildlife become clean, green energy,” says George Herraghty, a landscape photographer who is a member of the John Muir Trust and Murray Mountaineering Club. He’s been studying the wind industry for years. “Watching these machines encroach on our landscape is heartbreaking.”

Beside blotting the landscape, they are responsible for killing between 16 and 18 million birds or bats each year, according to Spanish organisation SU Birdlife. Turbines in Europe are blamed for hundreds of bird or bat deaths. There are no numbers for turbines in Britain.

“The UK figures are kept very secret, very covered up,” Herraghty says, “and that’s part of the problem… we don’t know the figures for this country, they’re never divulged.”

Among the tricks the industry uses, Herraghty says, is only counting the dead birds every six weeks or so, during which time many of the carcases have been removed by foxes or other scavengers.

Bird of prey: a kestrel hovering above a field in Harthill

 

FLS has been criticised for felling millions of trees to put up wind turbines.

In Harthill, that’s not the case – but problems remain for wildlife. The tree-felling has reduced the forest cover for roe deer, which are now roaming further into town.

Mollins believes it is only a matter of time before they cause road accidents. “So they’re chasing the deer out. If one family [in a car] gets hit by a deer…” he says.

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