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Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Volume 5 Number 7: EMEC Fall of Warness Tidal Test Site: Wildlife Observations Project Annual Report

Annual report of the wildlife observation programme underway at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney - Fall of Warness


4. Project Summary

4.1 Site Activity

A number of developers have completed various stages of device installation at the test site during the period 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014. Table 1 below summarises work in progress during this period.

EMEC Berth Developer Activity
1 Hammerfest Strom UK Device testing
2 Tidal Generation Ltd. Device testing
3 Kawasaki Heavy Industries No activity
4 Open Hydro Device testing
5 Bluewater No activity
6 Atlantis No activity
7 Voith Hydro Device nacelle installed Sept. 2013
8 Scotrenewables Device testing

Table 1: Developer site activity at the EMEC Fall of Warness test site 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2014

Installed devices may or may not be operational at any given time. Typical additional activity at the test site may include periodic complete removal/re-installation of devices for maintenance, maintenance visits by developers, deployment of Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers to measure tidal resource, and acoustic surveys.

4.2 Project Activity

Overall, this contract period has seen a very high completion rate of planned watches, with an average watch achievement rate of 95%.

The third quarter of the contract suffered a reduced rate of data collection due to the exceptionally heavy storms which were a persistent feature of the UK and Orkney weather pattern in winter 2013/14. The reduced daylight hours experienced in Orkney during the winter months afford less flexibility in the schedule. Nevertheless, watch achievement rates remained above 80% for all months, with the exception of May which was affected by observers' holidays (see Table 2 below).

Month Percentage (%) Actual/Potential Hours Comments
April 2013 100 80/80
May 2013 65 52/80 Annual holiday
June 2013 100 80/80
July 2013 100 80/80
August 2013 100 80/80
September 2013 100 80/80
October 2013 100 80/80
November 2013 90 72/80 Bad weather
December 2013 88 70/80 Bad weather
January 2014 98 78/80 Bad weather
February 2014 96 77/80 Bad weather
March 2014 100 80/80

Table 2: Achievement of watches expressed as a percentage and actual contractual hours per month.

A new observer joined the observation team in November 2013, to replace one who resigned. As with previous changes to the team, the lead wildlife observer trained the new observer in the methodology and characteristics of the observation area through a series of shadowed watches, culminating in a set of dual watches carried out on the 4 th and 5 th November 2013. There was a high level of correlation in the results of these dual watches as can be seen from Table 3 and Table 4 below. The apparent discrepancy in numbers recorded for shag and phalacrocorax species ( Table 4) is due to the time taken for detailed identification, and the variance observed when the total number of these species is taken together with the number of cormorant is only 5.

Number of Species Recorded
Lead New
GANNET 19 17
PHALACROCORAX 98 106
EIDER 3 1
Total 120 124

Table 3: Analysis of results of dual watch carried out on 04/11/2013

Number of Species Recorded
Lead New
PHALACROCORAX 51 157
SHAG 108 8
CORMORANT 1 0
SEAL 11 17
RED THROATED DIVER 7 7
BLACK GUILLIEMOT 34 22
EIDER 38 42
GREAT NORTHERN DIVER 1 1
RED BREASTED MERGANSER 5 7
GANNET 2 2
Total 258 263

Table 4: Analysis of results of dual watch carried out 05/11/2013

In order to ensure consistency in the data collected, the lead wildlife observer continues to supervise and collate the results from all observers in the team.

4.3 Wildlife Observations Summary

Detailed analysis of the data collected is out-with the scope of this project. The entire set of raw wildlife observation data collected for the period 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014 is available to download from the Marine Scotland Interactive website.

The monthly wildlife sighting counts are presented in Table 5 and Table 6 below. Note these sightings are total sightings per month, and have not been corrected for effort (number of hours observed per month). Seasonal graphs showing sighting counts per mean summer month and per mean winter month are also provided ( Figures 2 to 4).

A high proportion of seals sighted are recorded as 'unidentified'. This is mainly due to a combination of environmental conditions (light, glare, sea state, etc) and distance from the observation point making it difficult to identify seals to species level. Also, it is very difficult to distinguish young grey seals (up to around 3 months old) from adult harbour seals when in the water.

Monthly wildlife sighting counts with respect to monthly means (calculated from the entire EMEC Wildlife Observations Programmes Fall of Warness dataset) are presented graphically as Annex B.

Species Apr-13 May-13 Jun-13 Jul-13 Aug-13 Sep-13 Oct-13 Nov-13 Dec-13 Jan-14 Feb-14 Mar-14
Arctic tern 0 373 4508 880 36 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Auk 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Black guillemot 3564 1542 2103 2077 1015 29 35 66 64 235 1343 1990
Black throated Diver 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Common guillemot 82 69 319 114 1 8 16 0 3 33 128 57
Common scoter 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cormorant 11 16 46 11 42 8 28 24 24 32 13 45
Diver Sp. 4 0 3 0 0 0 0 15 22 6 26 11
Eider Duck 986 163 64 39 4 3 147 501 772 446 905 1012
Gannet 10 13 26 149 357 199 147 210 110 7 0 4
Goldeneye 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Goosander 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Great Northern Diver 0 0 27 0 0 0 1 7 12 8 13 8
Kittiwake 0 0 0 26 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Little Auk 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Long Tailed Duck 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 29 97 103 147 71
Phalacrocorax Sp. 914 241 279 339 474 1359 2285 4740 6124 1473 1526 926
Puffin 249 120 803 695 68 0 0 0 0 0 1 22
Razorbill 3 1 17 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 3
Red Breasted Merganser 37 0 0 6 0 6 51 52 40 29 34 25
Red Throated Diver 23 13 4 3 7 73 94 36 18 14 19 18
Sandwich Tern 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Shag 73 67 71 78 59 40 109 292 159 135 102 181
Slavonian Grebe 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Unidentified Bird 60 33 235 743 87 5 3 1 1 0 3 7
Total Birds 6017 2651 8505 5161 2150 1730 2916 5973 7446 2522 4264 4380

Table 5: Monthly sighting counts for bird species for period April 2013 to March 2014 at the EMEC Fall of Warness tidal test site.

Species Apr-13 May-13 Jun-13 Jul-13 Aug-13 Sep-13 Oct-13 Nov-13 Dec-13 Jan-14 Feb-14 Mar-14
Harbour seal 0 0 1 1 3 0 3 0 0 0 0 3
Grey seal 0 0 1 1 4 14 21 10 7 12 1 0
Unidentified seal 105 27 70 90 72 224 521 73 50 50 65 11
TOTAL SEALS 105 27 72 92 79 238 545 83 57 62 66 14
Harbour porpoise 5 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Minke whale 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
White beaked dolphin 0 0 0 55 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Risso's dolphin 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Orca 8 0 0 6 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Unidentified cetacean 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL CETACEANS 13 0 0 61 2 0 0 2 1 0 0 0
Basking shark 0 1 0 0 5 11 0 0 0 0 0 0
Otter (Euoropean) 6 1 2 0 1 1 1 1 2 1 0 0

Table 6: Monthly sighting counts for seals, cetaceans and other species for period April 2013 to March 2014 at the EMEC Fall of Warness tidal test site.

Figures 2 to 4 below summarise the species of birds, cetaceans and seals observed at the Fall of Warness tidal test site during summer (April to September) and winter (October to March) months. Values shown are mean summer month (red) and mean winter month (blue). Any inter-seasonal comparisons drawn from Figures 2 to 4 should be made with caution as the data represents only one year of observations.

Figure 2: Mean summer month (red) and mean winter month (blue) bird species sightings at the Fall of Warness for period April 2013 to March 2014.

Figure 2: Mean summer month (red) and mean winter month (blue) bird species sightings at the Fall of Warness for period April 2013 to March 2014.

Figure 3: Mean summer month (red) and mean winter month (blue) seal species sightings at the Fall of Warness for period April 2013 to March 2014.

Figure 3: Mean summer month (red) and mean winter month (blue) seal species sightings at the Fall of Warness for period April 2013 to March 2014.

Figure 4: Mean summer month (red) and mean winter month (blue) cetacean, basking shark and otter species sightings at the Fall of Warness for period April 2013 to March 2014

Figure 4: Mean summer month (red) and mean winter month (blue) cetacean, basking shark and otter species sightings at the Fall of Warness for period April 2013 to March 2014.

4.4 Issues & Concerns

Under a separate project funded by Marine Scotland and SNH, EMEC will undertake detailed analysis of the data gathered through this project. Within the data analysis project, EMEC has sought expert input from the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling ( CREEM) who have identified a limitation with the data in that there is insufficient data to construct 'detection functions' for the test sites.

To address this limitation, EMEC has developed a proposal for funding a boat-based calibration exercise to collect additional wildlife observation data at the test sites. This would provide information about the detectability rates for a range of distances from the observation points. The steering group for the data analysis project (which comprises Marine Scotland, SNH and EMEC) agree that the construction of site-specific detection functions, which will enable modelling of absolute changes in surface-visible wildlife presence, is an important output of the analysis project.

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