WOS Conference 2008

The 2008 AGM and Conference was held at the Education Centre in Abergavenny on Saturday November 8th 2008 when around 70 people attended. The theme was ‘Birds and Power’ a topical subject given the increased interest shown in wind turbines and tidal power. The introductory talk on the theme of the conference was given by Dr David Gibbons, Head of RSPB Conservation Science. He set the scene for the remainder of the day by highlighting the conflict between the need for renewable energy to mitigate climate change and the effects these energy proposals will have on existing bird populations.

Peter Jones, Environmental Policy Officer, RSPB Cymru gave a detailed account of the issues facing the power supply authorities over the coming decades and the details of one project in particular, the Severn Barrage proposal. The effect the Barrage would have on the intertidal mudflats of the Estuary was highlighted as a major issue for the future of the 68,000 waterbirds that use the habitat for feeding in winter. Subsequently, the WOS submitted comments to the Welsh Assembly Government on the options being considered for the barrage.

Stuart Thompson, Head of Public Affairs, RSPB Cymru indicated with some excellent images the main species that would be affected. Dunlins top the list in terms of sheer numbers but Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Curlew, Redshank, Ringed Plover, European White-fronted Goose, Shoveler, Black-tailed Godwit, Mute Swan and Bewick Swan are all nationally important species that would be affected. Although the impact on these and other species is uncertain, the loss of feeding area will obviously put the birds under great environmental pressure.

The afternoon session got off to a good start with Dr Ilya Maclean, Research Ecologist, Wetland and Coast Ecology Unit British Trust for Ornithology who gave a fascinating talk on the studies showing the likely impact of offshore wind turbines on bird populations. The disturbance to birds caused by the turbines and the boats servicing them will have a detrimental effect on selective species such as Common Scoter.

Danielle Fry spoke on the effect on birds in the short rotation willow coppice habitat in Wales. The decline of farmland birds, the use of bird populations as a quality of life indicator and the anticipated increase in the planting of short rotation willow coppice led to Danielle’s study. With willow set to become a major landscape crop in Wales, it is essential that the ecological impacts are fully evaluated. One of the important features of early rotation willow coppice in Wales is the value of the arable weeds, particularly in the first winter, to finches and other small passerines.

After the tea break the Conference took on a lighter note with Peter Lansdowne’s fiendish quiz. Mark Holling gave an update on the work of the Rare Birds Breeding Panel and the event was rounded off with one of Dee Doody’s excellent videos of birds. Chairman Derek Moore wound up an excellent, informative and entertaining day with the raffle and a vote of thanks to all who had participated.