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Greenshank is a very scarce breeder in Britain, and nearly all nest in Sutherland's Flow Country. Photo: Richard Brooks (
Greenshank is a very scarce breeder in Britain, and nearly all nest in Sutherland's Flow Country. Photo: Richard Brooks ( image

RSPB Scotland warns against impacts of proposed Flow Country wind farm

Posted on: 13 Jun 2015

The RSPB has issued a warning about a controversial renewable energy proposal in the Flow Country, as a government inquiry draws to a close.

RSPB Scotland has expressed grave concerns over the fate of rare and scarce breeding birds if a contentious wind farm, planned for the heart of the Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland, gets the green light. A public local inquiry has been held this week to scrutinise an application by energy giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), which wants to build a 39-turbine wind farm at Strathy South. The sessions held have mainly focused on the potential impact of the development on birds, and were due to draw to a close yesterday evening (Friday 12).

RSPB Scotland's Conservation Planner for North Scotland, Peter Gordon, has highlighted the possible fate of a range of species, including Greenshank and Red-throated Diver, which breed at Strathy South. He said: "These two species are characteristic of the wildest parts of the highlands and islands and don't breed anywhere else in Britain. This wind farm would be built in an area that is very important for both species.

"One of the most wonderful wildlife experiences you can have in the Flow Country is to witness the aerial breeding display of Greenshanks as they circle and call above their territories. It is magical and sums up the spirit of these remote places, but their displays could take them straight into the spaces where the turbine blades would be spinning.

"Just as compelling is the sound of Red-throated Divers; they make an eerie wailing call while on their breeding lochs. These birds are extremely sensitive to disturbance and a wind farm at Strathy South could compromise an important area used by these birds."

Earlier sessions of the public inquiry, held in April, considered the impacts of the development on important peatland habitats. The final decision on whether or not the wind farm can be built will now be taken by Scottish ministers, after receiving a report on the public inquiry proceedings.

In its detailed submission to the inquiry RSPB Scotland has also expressed its concern about the impact of Strathy South on Hen Harriers, which are already under pressure in the UK from illegal persecution, and the extremely rare Wood Sandpiper which breeds in just a handful of places in Scotland.

Mr Gordon added: "RSPB Scotland is very supportive of renewable energy including wind farms, but developments must be sited to avoid damaging our most important places for wildlife. Unfortunately this application is one of the worst onshore wind energy proposals we have seen anywhere in the UK. Despite their best efforts, SSE have been unable to demonstrate that their wind farm won't harm these important species in this incredibly sensitive location. We remain resolutely opposed to this application and continue to urge SSE to concentrate on delivering much needed wind power from their many less damaging sites."

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