Page last updated at 04:01 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 05:01 UK

Geese tracked to estimate wind farms' impact

Svalbard barnacle geese
The population of Svalbard barnacle geese stands at about 30,000

Barnacle geese have been tagged with satellite trackers amid concern planned offshore wind farms could affect their migration from Britain to the Arctic.

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) said it had tagged five male Svalbard barnacle geese, which overwinter in the Solway Firth, with GPS trackers.

It is concerned offshore wind farms in the Firth of Forth and off the UK coast could be an obstacle for the birds.

The tracking will gather information on migration routes and altitudes.

The geese - which have been tagged at Caerlaverock Wetland Centre on the Solway Firth - are due to migrate to the High Arctic Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard later this month.

If they are flying through there in the darkness or in sea fog conditions, my concern is there is potential of a collision
Dr Larry Griffin
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Dr Larry Griffin, WWT principal research officer, said he had tagged 25 geese in the past, tracking their spring migrations over four years.

He said the birds' main flight corridor took them into sites earmarked for new turbines, as part of the UK's planned massive expansion in offshore wind power.

He is hoping the latest tracking of five adult geese, set up this year using solar-powered GPS, will help fill in gaps in his data to find out the birds' flight altitude and whether they rest on the sea in the earmarked areas.

He also wants to discover how they cope with existing wind farms they encounter on the Norwegian coast.

"If they are flying through there in the darkness or in sea fog conditions, my concern is there is potential of a collision.

Turbines of the Burbo Bank off shore wind farm off Merseyside
More turbines like these will soon be seen around the UK coast

"It may well be that they spot these things easily and use them as a navigational marker, but it just concerns me a bit the time of day they are going through that area and that they have quite a narrow route," he said.

The WWT said data gathered from the barnacle geese could be used to influence where new turbines were placed, or whether lights need to be added to make them more obvious to the geese.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a £100bn programme to build more offshore wind farms.

In January, successful bids for nine new offshore wind farm zone licences within UK waters were announced.

Turbines in the nine zones could generate up to 32 gigawatts of power, a quarter of the UK's electricity needs.

The Svalbard barnacle goose saw numbers plummet to just 300 in the 1940s, but the population now stands at about 30,000.

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