The Round 2 wind farm Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) identified a significant baseline data gap for Round 2 wind farm areas on the distribution and main flight paths of waterbirds including migratory, feeding/roosting patterns and their behavioural response to wind farms. Following a review of the data collected it was clear that there were gaps in the understanding of the distribution of waterbirds within each of the three strategic offshore wind farm areas: Thames, East Irish Sea and Greater Wash. The data is required by developers in order for them undertake a valid Environmental Impact Assessment and are also required in order to identify boundaries for potential Special Protection Areas (SPA) under the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC).
In order to rectify the data gap it was decided to fulfill these inter-related needs as a single coherent aerial survey project with support from the offshore wind farm industry, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), English Nature (EN), Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Department of Trade and Industry.
In July 2004 a panel of experts from JNCC, EN, CCW, DEFRA and DTI met to identify the areas of priority and to draw up an aerial bird survey programme for 2004 and 2005 that covered the three strategic areas, plus adjoining areas identified as potentially important for birds. The conclusions reached at the meeting were circulated to industry and it was agreed to proceed with a joint approach.
A programme of aerial surveys have been undertaken by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s (WWT) Wetlands Advisory Service (WAS) from winter 2004/05 through to summer 2005. This has provided large-scale survey data covering the nearshore waters in Northwest England (from Anglesey to the Solway Firth), in the Greater Wash and in the Thames (from Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, to Sandwich Bay, Kent). These data will inform the environmental impact assessments of offshore wind farms (OWF) and aid potential marine Special Protected Area (SPA) identification (Johnstone et al 2002).