Favorite spot for birds

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Bulldozers have already begun shifting top soil and shrubs at the site of Kenetech's new Tarifa development of 90 turbines which, like the existing wind farms, is situated inside the Alcornocales Natural Park and Special Protection Area. The site is just a couple of hundred metres from a favourite rock roost habitually occupied by griffon vultures and an endangered black vulture. Naturalists recently spotted a 200-strong flock of honey buzzards and kites flying low over the projected site, which is also very close to a rubbish dump where the vultures feed. The dump is now being closed -- with many hoping that this will eliminate the problem of avian mortality in the Tarifa wind farms.

Griffon vultures have been the main victims at Tarifa, although kestrels, an Egyptian vulture and eagle owls have also been killed, according to Spanish bird society,SEO. Initial concern was for the thousands of migratory raptors passing by or stopping off at Tarifa on their twice annual flights, although the larger number of victims would seem to belong to the local population of griffon vultures. SEO says, though, that until the winter migration begins it will be impossible to tell what percentage of migratory raptors flying in from northern Europe en route to Africa collide with the turbines. The birds stop over to feed and the heavier ones depend on thermals -- like gliders -- to gain altitude before crossing the Straits of Gibraltar. Thermals are not created over the sea and drowned birds are regularly caught in fishermen's nets having failed to make the 14 kilometre trip. SEO refuses to release current figures of bird collisions since it is conditioned by the terms of its impact study contract with the Andalusian Environmental Agency.

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