Hundreds of twitchers travelled the length of the country to see the “bird of the century” – only for it to fly into a wind turbine and die. Bird-spotters were ecstatic about the first UK sighting of the rare white-throated needletail since 1991.
But their excitement soon turned to horror when it hit the 120ft structure’s rotating blades. James Hanlon and three pals drove 17 hours through the night to see the black and white swift on the Isle of Harris, one of Scotland’s Western Isles.
He said: “I was watching it through my binoculars from about 200 metres away. “One minute it was flying in spectacular fashion. I followed it and then watched as it flew into one of the blades of the wind turbine and vanished. “My heart jumped into my mouth. We dashed over to see if it had been killed and sadly found its body on the ground. It was heartbreaking.”
James, from Cambridge, said about 200 wildlife lovers gathered on Wednesday to see the needletail having heard about it through a website for spotters. He added: “We had a wonderful feeling of elation watching it – this bird has to rate in the top five of any UK twitcher’s dream list. To see it die was absolutely shocking.
“There were hundreds on their way to see it. Some even chartered planes to take them to Stornoway so they could get here as soon as possible. They will have been devastated.” The bird’s body has since been handed over to local conservationists.
James, 38, was joined by fellow twitcher Mark Batten, 49, who said wind turbines were a serious danger for birds. He added: “This wasn’t even a turbine on a huge wind farm, it was a solitary turbine to provide power to a small community.
“There is huge concern in Scotland about plans for big wind farms and the danger they would pose to big birds of prey like golden eagles and sea eagles. “This goes to show they do pose a huge threat.”
Website Rarebirdalert.co.uk recorded the death today and said it was “widely dubbed the bird of the century”. In April, RSPB Scotland condemned the Government after it approved Viking Energy’s plans for a wind farm with 103 turbines on Shetland.
Spokesman Aedan Smith said at the time it was: “disappointing they have decided to risk the Shetland environment, as well as birds like whimbrel, with such a large scale proposal”.
This article was written by Euan Stretch for the Mirror News.