By DARA BUTTERFIELD
Scottish Power Renewables has launched a research project to protect black grouse on its wind farms across Scotland.
SPR is to collect data on how the ‘red list’ species interacts with the company’s wind farm at Cruach Mhor on the Cowal Peninsula, Argyll and Bute. This is to be the first trial site for the project as the area is known to have one of the highest black grouse populations across the whole Cowal area.
As part of its commitment to habitat restoration and environmental stewardship, the company is undertaking management work for the benefit of black grouse across a number of its sites in Scotland in an effort to help prevent the species’ rapid decline.
The company has a dedicated ecology team which oversees the habitat management and monitoring across all of its windfarms. At sites – which include Cruach Mhor in Argyllshire and Bute and Green Knowes in Perthshire – the team has overseen the creation of native woodland habitats, involving planting trees and the restoration of moorland areas.
Peter Robson, Senior Ecologist, Scottish Power Renewables, said: “We face a number of challenges when considering the viability of a windfarm. First and foremost for any application there are rigorous ecological assessments that we carry out.
“We are dedicated to habitat preservation and restoration, across many different ecological and topographical settings, and work closely with partners such as RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage to ensure that we are working to support the environment and eco-system at all sites.
“This project will allow us to understand more fully the impact of wind farms on Scotland’s black grouse population. We are keen to do everything in our power to protect this important and secretive species and this pioneering research will help inform those decisions.”
Ecologists and researchers are working on a plan which will enable them to ‘tag’ black grouse by fitting them with harnesses carrying data loggers. This information will allow ecologists to build a detailed picture of the birds’ movements and the impacts wind farms have on black ground in a collaborative study with Newcastle University and the World Pheasant Association (WPA).
The SPR windfarm at Cruach Mhor on the Cowal Peninsula, Argyll and Bute, will be the first trial site for this project.
Doug Shapley, Assistant Conservation Officer, RSPB Scotland, said: “Black grouse are a red-list species meaning they are of the highest conservation priority in the UK.
“Numbers have declined throughout Argyll and this is one of the few areas of Cowal where black grouse still occur, albeit at a lower population level. Habitat management is really important to helping these birds and we’re interested to see what the tagging might reveal about how they use the landscape at these sites.”
The red grouse – made famous as the emblem of a well-known Perth whisky firm – is Scotland’s national game bird. They are particularly associated with heather, while the not-so-famous black grouse prefers a mixture of heather, rough grass and woodland-edge.