Thursday, 9 August 2007

Harriers threatened by airport development

Young Marsh Harriers, just fledged at an RSPB reserve in Kent, are under threat from a proposed local airport expansion.

The three young birds are about six weeks old, and are the first to have nested on the Society’s Dungeness reserve in south-east Kent, where staff are hoping a second nest will also be successful.

Tiny Lydd Airport, next to the reserve, has applied for a longer runway and new terminal, hoping to attract two million passengers a year by 2015. The RSPB is concerned that if this expansion is allowed, it could block improvements designed to increase bird numbers and help other wildlife in the area.

Bob Gomes, Reserve Manager, said: “More flights and larger aircraft would cause huge disturbance to birds already on the reserve, especially to flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover in winter. Airport expansion could not come at a worse time for Dungeness. It has long been an invaluable site for wintering, breeding and migrating birds and it would be a bitter blow if expansion hampered management on the reserve and action to combat climate change.”

The news comes just days after Heathrow Airport was forced to restrict its High Court injunction against a climate change camp near the London site next week. The RSPB believes airport expansion at places like Lydd should be curbed to cut the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.

Transport Officer Melanie Edmunds said: “The government should rethink its approach to airport expansion because its predict and provide policy is undermining attempts to tackle climate change. Ministers must accept that huge emissions cuts are essential and include an 80 per cent emissions reduction target in its forthcoming climate change bill.”

Photo: Male Marsh Harrier by David Tipling (RSPB Images)