This 12 turbine scheme was consented in 2010 and is due to start construction this autumn. The developers West Coast Energy are preparing a Habitat Management Plan for the project which aims to improve the quality of habitats on site, particularly for breeding birds, and thus generate biodiversity benefits for the local area.
I was asked to contribute by providing an NVC survey of the site to inform the design of the Habitat Management Plan, ensuring it is targeted to the most promising areas.
This wasn’t as straightforward as you might think, as the topography of the site proved confusing, with numerous small ridges criscrossing all over the place. The first thing that comes to mind is a giant crinkle crisp (or maybe giants really do exist and ploughed the site way back when with giant farm machinery?). Every ridge seemed to have a different permutation of acid, semi-improved or improved grassland, and every hollow had a different soggy vegetation community, ranging from typical species-poor rush-pasture to blanket bog and swamp and everything in between! Add in different management on land managed by different people and you get a seriously complicated situation when it comes to vegetation types. Especially when you know NRW (formerly CCW) will be scrutinising your work. I spent a whole two weeks on site working up to 12 hours a day to get it all surveyed to the right level of detail.
During those two weeks, I experienced torrential rain, fog, freezing cold (in July!), windburn, sunburn, boiling heat, accidentally weeing in sight of a colleague watching for birds (sorry!), a random unannounced visit from the client/contractor team, being chased by hunting dogs, nearly losing my wellies in a swamp, falling over in a bog, being eaten alive by insects, exhaustion, I could go on. But it’s all worth it to be eyeballed by a surprised and curious lizard, to find a little flush with loads of butterwort in flower, or when I hear the curlews calling overhead. Being an ecologist can be hard work at times, but on a dry day it’s the best job in the world.
It’s all written up now and I look forward to finding out how the Habitat Management Plan will work to help biodiversity at the site.