Bats & Wind Turbines Don't Mix

By Cory Sober
     With government and environmental groups pushing the "green" agenda, more and more alternative energy sources are being implemented throughout the world. Three widely used alternative energy methods are solar panels, wave energy and wind turbines. However, there are ongoing research studies and field trials trying to find the next great energy source to power our civilization.
     Wind power has proven to be incredibly popular, but as of late, it has come under scrutiny. Although wind turbines are great renewable energy producers, they are having a negative environmental impact. Many dead bats have been found in and around wind farms. Their alarming discovery has sparked new studies by veterinarians, wildlife and ecology specialists, and energy companies aimed at determining cause of death and the possibility of further harm caused the turbines.
     Wind turbines across the nation are closed down from time to time when they endanger the lives of bats. One such closure recently happened when the US Fish and Wildlife Service found a dead bat underneath a turbine. The Indiana Bat is a nearly extinct species and when they are found dead due to non-natural causes, the federal commission gets involved and puts an end to the problem.
     Bats are nocturnal creatures, coming out at night to feed. They fly and hunt by echo-location, which has a range of around sixty feet. When they encounter the fast moving blades of a wind turbine, they are unable to safely maneuver and are often times hit and killed.
    Even when bats aren't directly hit by wind turbine blades, they can still be killed. As wind turbine blades spin, they create a pressure differential. Bats are not able to survive this rapid pressure change, and if they fly through this, it causes their internal organs to explode. This phenomenon is known as Barotrauma and it has been a proven cause of death through autopsies of bats found near wind turbines.
     Although bat deaths have raised concerns over the safety of wind energy farms, there may be a way to prevent such occurrences. There are studies being conducted to determine if noise can be used to deter bats from entering wind farms. Thus far, most studies have shown that acoustic sounds can reduce bat fatalities by upwards of 70%. Hopefully wind farms will take action to prevent harm to wildlife that share the skies.

Cory Sober is the IT Director for UpWind Solutions, a full-service operations and maintenance provider for for utility-scale wind farms. He is part of a highly trained team focused on maximizing long-term productivity of wind turbines, and as a result, delivering a higher return on investment for wind energy projects and turbines.

Loon video

Beautiful little example of our camera at work during the day, playing in color.

Some Favorite Videos

Here is one of my personal favorite videos. Watch closely as the mama tries to shove her baby out of the nest and into the world!

Mexico to Paris in one hour

When you walk into your local birding store and browse the walls, shelves, and display racks, have you ever wondered where all that stuff comes from? Chances are, that before ending up in the store, it was in a warehouse in Mexico. Not the country, but the town, Mexico, Missouri, home of Gold Crest Distributing.

Last week I loaded my TV, DVD player, and a half dozen Hawk Eye Nature Cams, and headed for Mexico and Gold Crest Distributor's 10th annual warehouse sale and expo.

During the two-day sale, several hundred retailers from across the U.S. descended on Gold Crest's 75,000 sq. foot warehouse to buy birdhouses, feeders, baths, seed, and a seemingly endless supply of bird and garden knick-knacks. I was truly in awe, wandering up and down the endless rows of towering storage racks, crammed with every conceivable birding and gardening item.

Gold Crest is truly an American success story. The center is owned by Mel and Bev Toelher, who started out with an independent bird store in near-by Columbia. From this small store Mel and Bev gradually, over the years, created the nation's largest distributor of backyard nature and wild bird products. Don't know what it is about Mexico that makes it such a great town for distribution centers. It's way out in the country, a good 100 miles west of St. Louis, but it is also home to Brookstone Catalog's distribution center as well. Gold Crest's warehouse is huge, but I bet you could fit a dozen of them into Brookstones, which is right across the stree.

In case you aren't familiar with the chain of retail supply, it goes something like this; manufacturers, like Birdhouse Spy Cam, sell their products . . . Hawk Eye Nature Cam, to distributors such as Gold Crest. The distributor marks up the price a bit and sells it at a wholesale price to local retailers, who in turn mark it up before selling it to their customers. It really comes down to convenience for the retailer. Instead of placing orders with and paying each of the dozens of manufacturers whose products they carry, the retailer simply goes to the distributor's catalog or web site, selects the products needed, places one order and writes one check.

And boy, do the retailers place the orders. The Gold Crest distribution center literally hums with activity as orders are pulled, packaged and delivered into a large semi-truck FedEx parks outside the door.. The Gold Crest crew is so efficient, all orders placed before 3 p.m. ship that day, and if it is for more than $300, the shipping is free . . . a very big plus for retailers.

For all their efforts sending out fliers, mailing newsletters and catalogs, Mel and Bev can't educate their customers about every product they carry. So, each year they invite all the manufacturers they deal with to come to Mexico and show the retailers their products. This year about 100 were on hand to do just that. It's a lot of fun talking to other birding and wildlife enthusiasts for 10 hours a day.

Field Notes

What are you, or have you been watching? Unusual behavior? Something new you've learned? How do your kids and neighbors like it? Please share.

Wood Duck Observations

In a copy of a letter sent to Wood Duck Society President, Roger Strand, Al Rice of Neotsu, Oregon, recently shared his observations using the BHSC Night Owl Cam.

Exerpts of Al's letter:
"I have taken the liberty of including some preliminary thoughts and comments from a real novice in this confusing field (of animal behavior).

It is interesting to note that two pair of Wood ducks were often observed inspecting this site apparently together. Question: could it be that this shared nesting was pre-planned? Perhaps by siblings or by mother/daughter? Ant it might be of further interest that on at least one occasion, after a major altercation, that minutes after the second hen left the box, the first hen joined her on the water for an apparent normal and tranquil swim together.

In All the shared nesting I've observed there have been many such visits that, beginning with the egg laying, are very peaceful, becoming more tense at the number of eggs increases. It seems be become downright violent as incubation proceeds. This has led me to surmise that the second hens and their egg contributions are basically tolerated and even welcomed during the egg laying period, but that the host hen totally rejects the second hen (and more eggs) after incubation has begun, knowing that additional eggs after that time cannot hatch and will only add to the burden of the host hen.

After all the above, the attack on the second hens eggs was amazing! On the original tape it was obviously the "intruder's" eggs -- but after the host hen tried, but couldn't, break it she tucked it under her wing and it became one of the family. I wonder what would have happened if she had, indeed, broken it.

After a particularly violent fight at the beginning of one incubation, blood was found on three of the eggs, and also on the roof of the same nest box where the expelled hen rested upon leaving. That was the only instance where I have seen blood resulting from their actions, and again (I can only surmise) it might have been from sharp claws against the brood patch. I have never seen any eggs damaged in any of the altercations.

Except for perhaps the first three or four days, we don't recall ever recognizing the second hen being present as the incubation period progressed. We were really floored when she suddenly showed up about 15 minutes before the jump. And, it appears that she was almost welcomed (by gentle preening) on the part of the host hen. I can't help but think she was there checking on "her" contributions, as perhaps she also did from time to time (unobserved) during the incubation. We also noticed that when the host hen finally jumped, she milled around in the water for perhaps a full minute before calling the ducklings out. Was she looking for the second hen? My be is that she was.

Note: Although I have had relatively little experience at this, I have not as yet observed any prolonged "shared incubation" but rather, have observed "shared nesting" during the egg-laying period with the host hen only doing the actual incubation. I realize this might conflict with reports from some of your other observations, but his type of camera work is quite new and more experience might clarify this activity. And then again, "different strokes for different folks" might prove to be the order for this unique animal.

The final porting of the video shows the same jump from the outside, and seems to highlight the hesitancy of the host hen to leave the area. This jump of 15 ducklings took one minute and 20 seconds, which is somewhat longer than we have averaged for a jump of this size.

Al Rice,

Hummingbird Tall Tail

Last year there was a great article in National Geographic about hummingbirds. One comment from one of the researchers brought a smile. In describing what little rascals hummers are, she said ounce for ounce there probably isn't a more pugnacious critter in the world. She bet that 100% of their vocabulary is curse words. And now, scientists have found that all of those curse words aren't coming out of their dirty little mouths. Take a look at this news article from the BBC. Hummers Speak With Forked Tail?