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Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Volume 5 Number 8: EMEC Billia Croo Wave Test Site: Wildlife Observations Project Annual Report

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


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 01 April 2013 to 31 March 2014. Table 1 below summarises work in progress during this period.

Table 1: Developer site activity at the EMEC Billia Croo test site 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2014

EMEC Berth Developer Activity
1 E.ON No activity
2 Scottish Power Renewables Device testing
3 Vacant No activity
4 Seatricity Installation activity
5 Wello Oy Installation activity
Shallow water Aquamarine Power Ltd Device testing

Installed devices may or may not be operational at any given time. 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 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 92%.

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 75% for all months (see Table 2 below).

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

Month Percentage (%) Actual/Potential Hours Comments
April 2013 100 80/80
May 2013 100 80/80
June 2013 95 76/80 Bad weather
July 2013 100 80/80
August 2013 100 80/80
September 2013 100 80/80
October 2013 100 80/80
November 2013 80 64/80 Bad weather
December 2013 75 60/80 Bad weather
January 2014 85 68/80 Bad weather
February 2014 75 60/80 Bad weather
March 2014 98 78/80 Bad weather

A new set of "Big Eyes" binoculars, with exactly the same specification as the previous set, were installed at the end of March 2014. This was required as the current set were showing significant signs of wear. The possibility of sourcing a unit with a better inclination angle measurement system and a built-in range finding system was explored, but there is currently nothing available that would meet this requirement.

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 will be available to download from the Marine Scotland Interactive website.

The monthly wildlife sighting counts are presented in Table 3 and Table 4 below. Note these sightings are total sightings per month, and have not been corrected for effort (number of hours observed per month). The high number of unidentified seals sighted in August 2013 is due to increased seal sightings further offshore during that month. Seasonal graphs showing sighting counts per mean summer month and per mean winter month are also provided (Figures 2 to 4).

Monthly wildlife sighting counts with respect to monthly means (calculated from the entire EMEC Wildlife Observations Programme Billia Croo dataset) are presented graphically in Annex B.

Table 3: Monthly sighting counts for bird species for period April 2013 to March 2014 at the EMEC Billia Croo wave 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
Arctic skua 0 1 6 26 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Arctic tern 0 4 64 75 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Black guillemot 374 136 145 157 66 10 94 11 5 49 138 270
Black headed gull 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Black scoter 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Black throated diver 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Common gull 0 0 0 0 1 0 8 42 0 0 0 10
Common guillemot 378 337 314 1478 8 21 70 31 37 88 135 176
Common scoter 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 9 0 0 0 0
Cormorant 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Diver Sp. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Eider Duck 142 18 9 37 63 48 42 99 86 144 185 86
Fulmer 2049 821 1224 1954 1562 1970 271 469 715 2108 535 1759
Gannet 258 358 101 72 390 283 249 103 26 22 20 14
Glaucous gull 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
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
Greater black-backed gull 24 10 16 5 12 5 30 80 102 68 78 39
Great northern diver 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 10 20 15
Great skua 13 144 151 90 103 41 14 0 0 0 0 0
Grey phalarope 0 0 0 0 0 3 3 0 0 0 0 0
Geylag goose 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Herring gull 40 2 5 14 9 3 92 35 61 25 35 32
Icelandic gull 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 1 0 2 0
Kittiwake 14 83 322 70 0 0 14 20 3 4 1 18
Leach's petrel 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lesser black-backed gull 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Little Auk 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 1 0 4 4 2
Long tailed duck 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 1 2 2 0 4
Mallard 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Manx shearwater 0 9 6 33 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mew gull 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Northern shoveler 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Phalacrocorax Sp. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Puffin 45 91 191 438 15 0 0 0 0 0 2 13
Razorbill 23 70 34 98 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 15
Red breasted merganser 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Red throated diver 3 4 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 0 0
Sabine's gull 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sandwich tern 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scaup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Shag 747 492 534 658 865 1021 1069 695 306 434 401 457
Shelduck 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Slavonian grebe 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Storm petrel 0 1 6 3 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
Surf scoter 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Teal 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Unidentified auk 122 264 242 795 57 9 32 17 13 32 94 119
Unidentified duck 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Unidentified goose 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Unidentified gull 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
Unidentified tern 34 103 169 197 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Unidentified bird 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Velvet scoter 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 0 0 0 0 0
Wigeon 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total Birds 4267 2949 3544 6200 3155 3422 2003 1620 1357 2992 1658 3029

Table 4: Monthly sighting counts for seals, cetaceans and other species for period April 2013 to March 2014 at the EMEC Billia Croo 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 1 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0
Grey seal 5 5 20 189 22 18 40 10 9 2 2 8
Unidentified seal 2 1 0 0 33 6 19 2 7 4 2 1
TOTAL SEALS 8 6 20 193 55 24 59 12 17 7 4 9
Harbour porpoise 12 10 6 28 22 7 12 5 3 3 4 4
Humpback whale 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Minke whale 0 5 7 2 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 1
Bottlenose dolphin 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
White beaked dolphin 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
White-sided dolphin 6 2 0 0 2 0 7 0 0 0 0 0
Risso's dolphin 4 4 6 7 0 10 6 0 3 8 4 0
Short-beaked common dolphin 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Long-finned pilot whale 0 0 27 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Pilot whale 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Orca 0 12 11 0 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Unidentified cetacean 8 9 0 0 22 3 2 1 0 4 1 4
TOTAL CETACEANS 34 42 57 37 65 24 29 6 6 15 9 9
Basking shark 0 4 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Otter (Euoropean) 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Figures 2 to 4 below summarise the species of birds, cetaceans and seals observed at the Billia Croo 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 Billia Croo for period April 2013 to March 2014.

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

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

Figure 3: Mean summer month (red) and mean winter month (blue) seal species sightings at the Billia Croo 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 Billia Croo 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 Billia Croo 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 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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