LINE AVIFAUNAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT. November WildSkies Ecological Services (Pty) Ltd

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1 KRONOS-PERSEUS 765 kv OVERHEAD POWER LINE AVIFAUNAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT November 2013 Compiled by: Jessica Shaw & Jon Smallie WildSkies Ecological Services (Pty) Ltd Submitted to: Judith Alford Mokgope Consulting

2 EECUTIVE SUMMARY This report evaluates the likely impact of a proposed 765 kv overhead transmission line between the Kronos Substation (near Copperton) and the Perseus Substation (near Dealesville), a distance of approximately 388 kilometres. This area is a stronghold for several large terrestrial bird and raptor species, the most important of which are Ludwig s Bustards Neotis ludwigii, Kori Bustards Ardeotis kori, Blue Cranes Anthropoides paradiseus, Secretarybirds Sagittarius serpentarius, Northern Black Korhaans Eupodotis afraoides, White-backed Vultures Gyps africanus and Martial Eagles Polemaetus bellicosus. In addition to being classified as threatened regionally and in some cases globally, most of these species are facing significant threats to their survival from the existing transmission lines in the study area. Systematic mortality data collection on existing power lines in the Karoo has highlighted these issues, and it is against this background knowledge that this assessment has been conducted. Likely interactions between birds and the proposed power line include destruction of bird habitat, disturbance of birds during construction, electrical faulting caused by birds, nesting of birds on the towers, and collision of birds with the overhead cables. Of these, the last two are of most concern for the proposed project. Large eagles are likely to nest on the proposed power line if a suitable tower structure is used, which will place them at risk of collision with these lines (as had already been seen on existing 400 kv lines in the Karoo), and other interactions such as possible effects of electromagnetic fields on breeding success. If not managed according to Eskom policy and national and provincial legislation by Eskom there could be impacts on these nests and the breeding birds during the operation of the power line. Large eagles already nest in the area, and there is a risk that these birds could be disturbed during the construction of the new line if in close proximity. However, by far the most important expected interaction of the proposed line is that of bird collision. There is already considerable concern for the numbers of birds killed through collision on the existing lines in the area, particularly of Ludwig s and Kori Bustards. The addition of another line has serious implications for these bird species. It is therefore of critical importance that this risk is carefully managed if this line is to be built without significant additional impact on species already under pressure from power line impacts. Management of this risk will require the following measures: The option of recycling or upgrading existing 400 kv lines (running from Kronos-Hydra-Perseus) instead of building a new line should first be fully examined, and the findings of that exercise should be made available to all concerned. If the above thorough examination of the recycle/upgrade reveals that it is not viable, then the next best choice will be to ensure the least impactful route is chosen. None of the proposed alternatives run alongside existing high voltage lines. This is a significant disadvantage in terms of the findings of this report. We therefore recommend that this power line is routed alongside existing lines in the Kronos-Hydra-Perseus corridor. All pans must be avoided by the alignment by at least 500 metres. The alignment must avoid White-backed Vulture breeding colonies by 10km, and must avoid large stands of Acacia erioloba by as far as possible. This feature must be identified during the avifaunal walk through. Given our current inability to accurately predict which sections of line pose a high collision risk, a suitable antibird collision line marking device must to be fitted on earth wires from pylon to pylon for the entire length of the power line. It is extremely important that Eskom identify an effective and durable marking device and installation method by the time this line is constructed. This includes the need to have a suitable and approved nocturnal device for those sections of line close to water bodies likely to hold flamingos, or act as flight paths for these 2

3 birds. On previous projects of this nature, Eskom have argued that no approved nocturnal device exists at the time of construction with the result that no such devices were installed. This is not an acceptable excuse. It is Eskom s responsibility to ensure that such a device exists in time for construction of this line. It is essential that an avifaunal walk through is conducted during the development of the site specific Environmental Management Plan for the line, and is particularly important that Eskom allows sufficient time and budget for this study to be thorough. This is critical to identify and mitigate for large eagle nests on site, and to develop management recommendations to ensure that as far as possible these birds are not disturbed during the construction of the new line. The walk through will also identify sections of line that pose a high collision risk for birds which fly at night so that they can be marked with nocturnal devices, and particularly sensitive habitats requiring protection. It will be Eskom s responsibility to ensure that the line marking devices remain in working order or are replaced timeously throughout the lifespan of the power line. It will be essential that a sample of the line is monitored at least every three months during the first three years of its operation in order to detect any collision hot-spot areas, and evaluate the effectiveness of the mitigation measures. This monitoring should best be done by the Eskom-Endangered Wildlife Trust Strategic Partnership. Although this recommendation may appear stringent, in our opinion the fact that systematically collected data on the collision impact and effectiveness of mitigation measures of existing lines is not more widely available is unacceptable. There is no available data on collision rates of 765 kv lines in South Africa since no systematic monitoring has been conducted to date. This means we do not know how severe collision mortality might be on such a large structure and must estimate using collision rates from lower voltage lines. This situation can no longer be accepted when conducting EIAs for new lines. All construction, maintenance and decommissioning activities in any natural habitat along the route of the power line should be carried out in accordance with best environmental practice principles so as to minimise disturbance of any natural habitat. Particularly sensitive areas will also be identified during the avifaunal walk through process. All nests on this line (and others) should be managed according to Eskom Transmission nest management guidelines and relevant provincial and national legislation. We have not been advised of the potential tower type, but recommend the use of the cross rope suspension to minimise issues for large eagles. This configuration does not provide much nesting area, and will also reduce risk of faulting. Of these recommended management measures, the most important is that of evaluating the option of upgrading existing lines to achieve the necessary 765 kv. This evaluation is needed in order to determine whether the necessary network strengthening can be achieved without any additional length of transmission line being built, and also to strengthen and document the thinking behind this decision. 3

4 SPECIALIST DETAILS Professional registration and experience The Natural Scientific Professions Act of 2003 aims to Provide for the establishment of the South African Council of Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP) and for the registration of professional, candidate and certified natural scientists; and to provide for matters connected therewith. Only a registered person may practice in a consulting capacity Natural Scientific Professions Act of 2003 (20(1)-pg 14) Investigator: Jon Smallie (Pri.Sci.Nat) Qualification: BSc (Hons) Wildlife Science University of Natal MSc Env Sc University of Witwatersrand Affiliation: South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions Registration number: /06 Fields of Expertise: Ecological Science Registration: Professional Member Jon Smallie has been involved in bird interactions with energy infrastructure for 13 years. During this time he has completed impact assessments for at least 80 projects, many of which have been transmission power lines. Mr Smallie has spent a large part of his career working on bird interactions with overhead power lines in the Karoo. A total of several months have been spent periodically driving transmission power line servitudes identifying high collision risk areas. This has resulted in an understanding of where large terrestrial birds prefer to spend their time in the Karoo, and the dynamics of these birds interactions with power lines. This has equipped him well for conducting this assessment. A full Curriculum Vitae can be supplied on request. Additional investigator Jessica Shaw (BSc (Hons) Ecological Sciences University of Edinburgh, MSc Conservation Biology University of Cape Town) has spent the past five years studying bird interactions with power lines in South Africa, particularly collisions, and publishing several journal papers on the subject. Following on from her MSc looking at predicting and quantifying Blue Crane collisions in the Overberg, she has just completed her PhD (Shaw 2013) on this problem for Ludwig s Bustards in the Karoo. She therefore has extensive experience in bird mortality surveys on power lines, analysis of factors affecting collisions, population effects of such mortality, censusing of large terrestrial birds, testing of bird vision and line marking devices and understanding bird movements in the arid Karoo environment. A full Curriculum Vitae can be supplied on request. Declaration of independence The specialist investigators declare that: We act as independent specialists for this project. We consider ourselves bound by the rules and ethics of the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions. 4

5 We do not have any personal or financial interest in the project except for financial compensation for specialist investigations completed in a professional capacity as specified by the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, We will not be affected by the outcome of the environmental process, of which this report forms part of. We do not have any influence over the decisions made by the governing authorities. We do not object to or endorse the proposed developments, but aim to present facts and our best scientific and professional opinion with regard to the impacts of the development. We undertake to disclose to the relevant authorities any information that has or may have the potential to influence its decision or the objectivity of any report, plan, or document required in terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, Terms and Liabilities This report is based on a short term investigation using the available information and data related to the site to be affected. No long term investigation or monitoring was conducted. The Precautionary Principle has been applied throughout this investigation. Additional information may become known or available during a later stage of the process for which no allowance could have been made at the time of this report. The specialist investigator reserves the right to amend this report, recommendations and conclusions at any stage should additional information become available, particularly from Interested and Affected Parties. Information, recommendations and conclusions in this report cannot be applied to any other area without proper investigation. This report, in its entirety or any portion thereof, may not be altered in any manner or form or for any purpose without the specific and written consent of the specialist investigator as specified above. Acceptance of this report, in any physical or digital form, serves to confirm acknowledgment of these terms and liabilities. th Signed on the 28 November 2013 by Jon Smallie in his capacity as specialist investigator. 5

6 Contents 1. INTRODUCTION Background to the current study Terms of reference Description of proposed development Sources of information Assumptions and limitations DESCRIPTION OF BASELINE CONDITIONS Vegetation description Bird micro-habitats Bird species present in the study area Bird sightings in the study area Power line mortality surveys on Hydra-Kronos 400 kv Important Bird Areas (IBAs), Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcount Project (CAR) and Coordinated Water Bird Counts Project (CWAC) Other avifaunal hot spots in the study area EVALUATION OF IMPACTS General description of bird interactions with power lines Evaluation of expected impacts of the proposed power line on birds in study area Identification of preferred alternative MITIGATION RELEVANT LEGISLATION CONCLUSIONS REFERENCES...44 APPENDI 1. Criteria against which impacts are assessed (supplied by Mokgope)...48 APPENDI 2. Bird species recorded in the broader study area by the SABAP 1 and SABAP 2 projects (amended slightly with authors knowledge of the area)

7 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background to the current study This study forms part of an Environmental Impact Assessment for the construction and operation of a 765 kv transmission line from Kronos (near Copperton) to Perseus (near Dealesville). The transmission line will be approximately 388 kilometres in length, depending on the route taken. Mokgope Consulting (Mokgope) was appointed to conduct the EIA and subsequently appointed WildSkies Ecological Services (WildSkies) to conduct the specialist avifaunal study, since a project of this nature has the potential to impact on birds. This report was originally submitted in November During March 2015 an additional route alternative, 1A, was added to the project for assessment. This report has therefore been updated to include reference to this alternative, on instruction by Mokgope. This was the only change made to this report. Any avifaunal information that has become available since November 2013, or changes to the avifaunal habitats on site could not be considered. Typically a project of this type could impact on birds as follows: collision of birds with overhead cables and in particular earth wires, disturbance of birds during construction and maintenance, destruction or alteration of bird habitat during construction and maintenance, electrical faulting on the line caused by birds, and the potential for birds to nest on the proposed power line. By far the most significant issue for this proposed power line is that of collision of large terrestrial birds (particularly Ludwig s Bustards Neotis ludwigii, Blue Cranes Anthropoides paradiseus and Kori Bustards Ardeotis kori) with the overhead cables. These species are already severely impacted in the Karoo by existing transmission lines, and probably cannot afford to suffer significant further mortality (Shaw 2013). This will be elaborated on in this report. This site is dominated by open habitats with short grassy and shrubby vegetation. As such it attracts the large terrestrial bird species and raptors that typically interact with power lines such as this proposed line. Overall a total of 394 bird species have been recorded in the broader study area, of which 32 are Red-listed species (Barnes 2000). These species will be the focus of this study. 1.2 Terms of reference The terms of reference as given to WildSkies by Mokgope were as follows: Provide status of bird habitats in the area and any endangered species including their migration patterns; Identification of areas where bird interactions may play a major role; Identify conservation worthy areas and how the proposed development can avoid them; Classification of potential bird impacts, if any, on the proposed infrastructure and infrastructure impacts on bird species in the area; Provide recommendations on how to mitigate potential impacts on both birds and the proposed infrastructure Recommendation of the best alternative route and technology to be used. 7

8 1.3. Description of proposed development The proposed power line will be approximately 388 kilometres long (Figure 1). The line will consist of towers in the region of 48 metres tall and an average of 400 metres apart. The required servitude will be 80 metres wide. Three main alternative routes were initially proposed for assessment, with a 4 kilometre wide corridor available for assessment. In March 2015 a fourth alternative route was added, i.e. 1A (see Figure 1). In July 2015 three additional deviations were added as described below: 1A 1B 1C 1D The initial route was too congested. The new deviation avoids two major line crossings and is directed to the available bay at Perseus Substation. The deviation avoids houses, a ridge, a few irrigation center pivots, a major cell tower, an extra strain tower and is further away from the river. Initially this deviation was named Deviation 1A (in the old map) The reasons for the deviation were to avoid the Mokala National Park future expansion areas. Eskom further added a few smaller deviations to it to avoid major game farms, irrigation center pivots and salt mines/pans. To avoid a river crossing, pans, soil erosion, bad terrain and reduces the line distance. Although the tower structure has not yet been finalised, we recommend that the cross rope suspension tower be used for reasons explained elsewhere in this report. 8

9 Figure 1. Layout of the Kronos-Perseus 765 kv power line study area in relation to towns and roads (map supplied by Mokgope) Sources of information The following information sources were consulted: Bird distribution data from the South African Bird Atlas Projects 1 and 2 were obtained to ascertain which bird species occur in the study area (Harrison et al. 1997, SABAP ). The conservation status of all bird species occurring in the study area was determined using The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Barnes 2000) and the IUCN Red List for Birds (BirdLife International 2013). The power line bird mortality incident database (Central Incident Register) of the Eskom-Endangered Wildlife Trust Strategic Partnership (Eskom-EWT) was consulted to determine which of the species occurring in the study area are typically impacted upon by power lines (data from 1996 to 2012; Eskom-EWT 2012). A description of the vegetation types occurring in the study area was obtained from The Vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Mucina & Rutherford 2006). The Coordinated Avifaunal Road count project was consulted (Young et al. 2003). 9

10 The Important Bird Area programme of BirdLife South Africa was consulted (Barnes 1998, and recent updates of the Important Bird Areas Directory downloaded from BirdLife South Africa 2013). The Coordinated Waterbird Count (CWAC) project (Taylor et al. 1999) data was examined for information on water bird abundance in the area. Through a field investigation (conducted April 2013), information at the micro-habitat level was obtained first hand by driving the proposed route, as close to the alignment as roads would allow, and examining sections of particular concern. The authors have extensive field experience in the study area and significant expertise in the field of power line collisions affecting large South African birds. This includes a total of several months each in the field surveying high voltage power lines for bird impacts in the Karoo. Jessica Shaw has just completed a PhD on power line collisions in the Karoo (Shaw 2013), particularly in relation to Ludwig s Bustard. Data from Jessica Shaw s PhD thesis have been used; she surveyed a section of 400 kv line in the vicinity of this line (Hydra-Kronos) for two years, and has monitored bird numbers in the area, giving her good first-hand knowledge of the area. Information on the location of African White-backed Vulture breeding colonies was obtained from Campbell Murn (Hawk Conservancy Trust), and several other species experts including Mark Anderson, Angus Anthony and Tania Anderson. Note that this project has experienced several changes in the period between initial writing in 2013 and now. During this period no new or updated information sources were consulted and no further field work was conducted Assumptions and limitations There are now several transmission lines of this size running through the central Karoo and one wonders just how many such lines are needed, and whether more efficient use of the network cannot be made. However, for the purposes of this study we assume that this power line is actually needed, and that effective long-term network planning has been conducted. It is however a recommendation elsewhere in this report that the option of upgrading or recycling existing 400 kv lines is examined further. This study made the assumption that the sources of information discussed above are reliable, but the following factors may potentially detract from the accuracy of the predicted results. The SABAP 1 (Harrison et al. 1997) data is quite old now (covering the period ), and although the SABAP 2 data for the area is fairly comprehensive, especially to the east of the study area (SABAP ), bird distribution patterns fluctuate continuously according to availability of food and nesting substrate, and environmental conditions. Various other inaccuracies could exist in this atlas data; for a full discussion of these see Harrison et al. (1997). In addition, no long term, verified data of species distribution at a microhabitat level along the proposed power line route exists, except what was observed during the field visit and during field work related to Jessica Shaw s PhD (Shaw 2013). The EIA process for transmission lines of this type in South Africa relies heavily on existing information, and this avifaunal study is no different. Field work was conducted in order to examine specific areas and ground truth information, but by necessity much of the information used is obtained from various existing sources (see 1.4) in order to make an educated assessment. Invariably, the existing information on birds is obtained over a far longer period and far more representative 10

11 conditions than the short term EIA study. Field work cannot incorporate landowner visits and interviews for a project of this size, and invariably the time is split unevenly throughout the study area. 2. DESCRIPTION OF BASELINE CONDITIONS 2.1 Vegetation description It is widely accepted that vegetation structure is more important in determining bird habitat than the actual plant species composition (Harrison et al. 1997). The description of vegetation presented in this study therefore concentrates on factors relevant to the bird species present, and is not an exhaustive list of plant species present. The following description of the vegetation types occurring in the study area makes extensive use of information presented by Mucina and Rutherford (2006). The study area is fairly large, and lies in the Bushmanland, Upper Karoo, Eastern Kalahari Bushveld and Dry Highveld Grassland bioregions as shown in Figure 2. The grassy and shrubby vegetation in the study area is mainly low and open, with occasional rocky koppies, cultivated lands, rivers and pans, with more bushveld towards the east. This low vegetation is suited to species which favour open landscapes, such as bustards, korhaans, Secretarybirds Sagittarius serpentarius and a host of smaller species such as larks. Raptors also flourish in these areas provided that suitable perches exist. 11

12 Figure 2. Vegetation classification at the site of the proposed Kronos-Perseus 765 kv power line (Mucina & Rutherford 2006) 2.2. Bird micro-habitats Whilst much of the distribution and density of bird species in the study area can be explained in terms of the above broad vegetation description, there are differences that correspond to variations in habitat at the micro level. These bird micro-habitats are evident at a much smaller spatial scale than the broader vegetation types or biomes, and can generally only be identified through a combination of field investigation and experience. It is therefore important to visit the study area first hand. The following bird micro-habitats were identified during the field investigation and the authors previous experience in the area; examples can be seen in Figure 3. Plains Much of the study area is composed of extensive plains, covered with dwarf shrubland and/or grasses, and occasional small trees (increasingly towards the east). These are prime habitats for large terrestrial birds because they are relatively cumbersome when taking off, so need to be able to see for a distance in order to maintain vigilance from predators. Birds like bustards, cranes, storks and Secretarybirds spend much of their time on the ground in such areas foraging and 12

13 resting. Prey items such as insects and seeds are associated with this vegetation and visibility for foraging is good in the open habitat. A host of other species also favour these areas, including raptors and small passerines. After good rains, lower lying areas can become waterlogged, increasing their appeal to more water-dependent birds, as well as increasing insect abundances. Rivers and drainage lines Most rivers in southern Africa are in the east and extreme south in the higher rainfall areas, which correlates with the distribution of various bird species. There are some fairly major rivers in the study area including the Orange, Brak, Riet and Modder Rivers. In addition to forming important flight paths, these areas provide foraging and breeding habitat for several species, most important of which (for this project) is probably African Fish Eagle. Even when dry, river channels are important for birds because they have a different vegetation composition to the remainder of the plains, often including woody species such as Acacia karoo. Rocky koppies This area is dotted with small rocky koppies, which can be attractive to raptors which use the favourable air currents here for flying. They provide different plant vegetation to the surrounds thereby attracting a different suite of smaller groundbased bird species. Transformed land There are some patches of cultivated land in the broader study area. Crops such as wheat and lucerne are appealing to several large terrestrial bird species that are common on the plains (Hofmeyr 2012), probably because of the increased food availability at such sites. However, crops such as sunflowers and mielies are also common in this region, and are too dense to attract these birds. Dams Many thousands of earthen and other dams exist in the southern African landscape. Whilst dams have altered natural river flow patterns and affected many bird species detrimentally, a number of other species have benefited from their construction. Dams are probably an important factor in the range expansion of many water bird species that were formerly restricted to areas of higher rainfall including the African Fish Eagle, pelicans, darters and cormorants. Many species from these families occur in this study area. While a more common situation in the more central parts of the Karoo, dams are used in the study area as roost sites for flocks of Blue Cranes. This has serious implications for their risk of collision with power lines, as explained later in this report. 13

14 14

15 Figure 3. Examples of the broad landscape and micro-habitats available to birds in the study area 2.3. Bird species present in the study area The first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP 1 Harrison et al. 1997) and the second atlas project (SABAP 2 recorded a combined total of 394 bird species across the broad study area. This does not mean that all of these species do occur on the alignments of the proposed power line, but it does give an indication of what could occur in the area. The full species list is shown in Appendix 2. Table 1 is an extract of the species thought to be most important for this study, including Red-listed species and additional non Red-listed species which the authors believe are relevant to this study because of their propensity to interact with overhead transmission lines. A total of 97 species are 15

16 included in Table 1, with 1 listed as regionally Endangered, 13 listed as regionally Vulnerable, 18 as regionally Nearthreatened (Barnes 2000), and 2 protected under the Bonn Convention (see Section 6). For each species the preferred micro-habitat, likelihood of occurring on site and relative importance of site have been assessed. An indication of the ways in which the species could interact with the proposed power line has also been supplied. This is a large number of species to deal with, so in order to narrow the focus the really heavily impacted species for which this study area is important have been shaded in grey in Table 1. These species are discussed in more detail below, and cannot afford to face additional collision threats due to new power lines, making it essential that this impact is carefully managed for this project. In addition to these, other species worthy of mention include Lappet-faced Vultures, Black, White and Abdim s Storks, and medium-sized raptors which may perch or nest on pylons including kestrels, Blackchested Snake-Eagles, Black Harriers, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks, Steppe and Jackal Buzzards, Booted Eagles and Lanner Falcons. 16

17 Table 1. Summary of priority bird species associated with the proposed Kronos-Perseus 765 kv power line (most important species highlighted in grey) Likelihood of occurring on site Relative importance of site for national population of species Likely interactions with proposed power line Definite High C, HD, D Definite High C, HD, D Scientific name SABAP 1 SABAP 2 Regional conservation status Ardeotis kori VU Neotis ludwigii VU Buzzard, Jackal Buteo rufofuscus Any C, HD, D, N, P Buzzard, Steppe Buteo vulpinus Anthropoides paradiseus Definite C, HD, D, N, P VU C, HD, D Balearica regulorum VU C, HD, D Crow, Cape Corvus capensis Any, cultivated land, cultivated land Definite C, HD, D, N, P Crow, Pied Corvus albus Definite C, HD, D, N, P Common name Bustard, Kori Bustard, Ludwig's Crane, Blue Crane, Grey Crowned Preferred micro habitat in this study area and Acacia watercourses Anas sparsa Any near water C Sarkidiornis melanotos Any near water to medium C Duck, Fulvous Dendrocygna bicolor Any near water C Duck, Maccoa Oxyura maccoa Thalassornis leuconotus Dendrocygna viduata Any near water to medium C Any near water to medium C Any near water to medium C Duck, African Black Duck, Comb Duck, White-backed Duck, White-faced Anas undulata Any near water C Eagle, Booted Aquila pennatus C, HD, D, P Eagle, Martial Polemaetus bellicosus VU C, HD, D, N, P VU Duck, Yellow-billed Aquila rapax C, HD, D, N, P Eagle, Verreaux's Aquila verreauxii C, HD, D, N, P Eagle-Owl, Cape Bubo capensis Rocky terrain Unlikely Eagle-Owl, Spotted Bubo africanus Any C, HD, D, P Eagle, Tawny 17

18 Bubo lacteus Falcon, Amur Falco amurensis Falcon, Lanner Falco biarmicus NT NT Eagle-Owl, Verreaux's Any C, HD, D, P to medium C, D, P Any Definite C, HD, D, N, P Any C, HD, D, N, P C, D, P Falcon, Red-footed Falco peregrinus Polihierax semitorquatus Falco vespertinus C, D, P Falcon, Red-necked Falco chicquera C, D, P Fish-Eagle, African Haliaeetus vocifer Any close to water to medium C, HD, D, N, P Flamingo, Greater Phoenicopterus ruber NT Any water C, D Flamingo, Lesser Phoenicopterus minor NT Any water C, D Goose, Egyptian Alopochen aegyptiacus Plectropterus gambensis Melierax gabar Any close to water Definite to medium C, D, N, P Any close to water Definite C, D C, HD, D, N, P Melierax canorus Any Definite C, HD, D, N, P Podiceps nigricollis Any water C Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Pygmy Goose, Spur-winged Goshawk, Gabar Goshawk, Southern Pale Chanting Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Guineafowl, Helmeted Harrier, Black Podiceps cristatus Any water C Tachybaptus ruficollis Any water C Numida meleagris Any Definite C, HD, D, P Circus maurus Any C, HD, D, P C, HD, D, P C, HD, D, P Any C, HD, D, P Any close to water Definite C Any close to water C Harrier, Montagu's Circus pygargus Harrier, Pallid Circus macrourus Harrier-Hawk, African Polyboroides typus Heron, Black-headed Ardea melanocephala Ardea goliath Heron, Goliath NT NT Ardea cinerea Any close to water C Any close to water C Any close to water C, P Ibis, Glossy Ardea purpurea Threskiornis aethiopicus Plegadis falcinellus Any close to water C, P Ibis, Hadeda Bostrychia hagedash Any C, P Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Ibis, African Sacred 18

19 Kestrel, Greater Falco rupicoloides Kestrel, Lesser Falco naumanni Kestrel, Rock Falco rupicolus Kite, Black Kite, Blackshouldered Kite, Yellow-billed Milvus migrans Elanus caeruleus Korhaan, Blue Definite C, HD, D, N, P Definite C, HD, D, P Definite C, HD, D, P Any P Any P Milvus aegyptius Any P Eupodotis caerulescens C, HD, D Eupodotis vigorsii Definite C, HD, D Definite C, HD, D C, HD, D NT HD, D Korhaan, Karoo Korhaan, Northern Black Korhaan, Red-crested Lophotis ruficrista Lark, Melodious Mirafra cheniana Afrotis afraoides VU NT Calendulauda burra VU Unlikely Lark, Sclater's Spizocorys sclateri NT HD, D Lark, Short-clawed Marsh-Harrier, African Marsh-Harrier, Western Osprey, Osprey Certhilauda chuana NT HD, D Circus ranivorus VU Any close to water C, D Circus aeruginosus Any close to water Unlikely Pandion haliaetus Any close to water C, P Tyto alba Any C, D, P Asio capensis Buphagus erythrorhynchus Rostratula benghalensis Pelecanus rufescens Any close to water C NT Woodland HD, D NT Any close to water C VU Any close to water C Charadrius pallidus NT Pans C, D Netta erythrophthalma Any close to water C Corvus albicollis Sagittarius serpentarius Any Unlikely Definite to high C, HD, D Tadorna cana Any close to water C Lark, Red Owl, Barn Owl, Marsh Oxpecker, Red-billed Painted-snipe, Greater Pelican, Pink-backed Plover, Chestnutbanded Pochard, Southern Raven, White-necked Secretarybird Shelduck, South African NT 19

20 Shoveler, Cape Snake-Eagle, Blackchested Snake-Eagle, Brown Anas smithii Any close to water C Circaetus pectoralis C, HD, D, P Circaetus cinereus C, HD, D, P Sparrowhawk, Black Accipiter melanoleucus Woodland Unlikely Platalea alba C Ciconia abdimii Bonn to medium C, P Ciconia nigra Leptoptilos crumeniferus Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis NT Any water, cultivated land Any close to water to medium C, P NT Open habitat C EN Any close to water Unlikely Ciconia ciconia Bonn to medium C, P Mycteria ibis NT to medium C, P Spoonbill, African Stork, Abdim's Stork, Black Stork, Marabou Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, White Stork, Yellow-billed, cultivated land Any close to water Anas capensis Any water C Teal, Hottentot Anas hottentota Any water C Teal, Red-billed Anas erythrorhyncha Sterna caspia Burhinus capensis Teal, Cape Tern, Caspian Thick-knee, Spotted Vulture, Cape Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Whitebacked Weaver, Sociable NT Any water C Large wetlands C Definite High C, HD, D Gyps coprotheres VU C, HD, D, P Torgos tracheliotus VU to medium C, HD, D, P Gyps africanus VU Definite to high C, HD, D, N, P Philetairus socius Any Definite HD, D, P, N VU = Vulnerable; NT = Near-threatened; Bonn = Protected Internationally under the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species. C = Collision with overhead cables; HD = Habitat destruction; D = Disturbance of birds during construction; N = Nesting on towers; P = Perching on power line towers (this has relevance for the impacts discussed elsewhere in this report). 20

21 Ludwig s and Kori Bustards These physically large species are highly vulnerable to collision with overhead power lines, and are also likely to be affected by disturbance and habitat destruction. Ludwig s Bustard is a wide-ranging bird endemic to the south-western region of Africa (Hockey et al. 2005). This species was listed as globally Endangered in 2010 because of potentially unsustainable collision mortality, exacerbated by the current lack of proven mitigation and the rapidly expanding power grid (Jenkins et al. 2011, BirdLife International 2013). Ludwig s Bustards are both partially nomadic and migratory (Allan 1994, Shaw 2013), with a large proportion of the population moving west in the winter months to the Succulent Karoo. In the arid and semiarid Karoo environment, bustards are also thought to move in response to rainfall, so the presence and abundance of bustards in any one area are not predictable. Therefore, collisions are also largely unpredictable, and vary greatly between seasons and years (Shaw 2013). While there is no evidence yet of population-level declines resulting from collision mortality, detailed range-wide power line surveys estimate that tens of thousands of bustards (from a total South African population of approximately 114,000 birds) die annually on the existing power grid in this country, which is of grave concern given that they are likely to be long-lived and slow to reproduce. It seems likely that there will be a threshold power line load at which population declines will become apparent, but it is not possible to accurately predict what this will be, and such effects will probably only be noticed when it is too late to do anything about it (Shaw 2013). Therefore, extreme caution is necessary in the planning of any new power lines in the range of this species. Kori Bustards are classified as regionally Vulnerable (Barnes 2000), with an estimated population of 2,000 5,000 birds in South Africa (Hockey et al. 2005). There are also worries for the population consequences of power line mortality for this species, given that some 14% of the population are estimated to die annually on Karoo transmission lines alone (Shaw 2013). Kori Bustards in the Karoo are thought to be locally nomadic (Hockey et al. 2005) and thus likely suffer greater collision rates than more sedentary populations in other areas (e.g. the Kalahari; Senyatso 2011). If this is the case, the Karoo could be acting as a population sink for Kori Bustards, at a time when Kori numbers are thought to be decreasing throughout southern Africa (Barnes 2000, Senyatso et al. 2012). Blue, Northern Black and Karoo Korhaans Neither Northern Black nor Karoo Korhaans are Red-listed, but endemic Blue Korhaans are listed as globally and regionally Near-threatened, largely resulting from habitat loss (Barnes 2000). These birds are all locally common in this region (Hockey et al. 2005) and as sedentary species they seem to be less susceptible to collision than the larger, more mobile bustards. However, they are still frequently recorded as collision victims in the Karoo, which is their stronghold (Shaw 2013). There is also some evidence that Karoo Korhaans are not as abundant as previously thought (Shaw 2013), so additional mortality caused by this proposed power line is of concern. Secretarybirds This species is classified as regionally Near-threatened (Barnes 2000), but has recently been uplisted to globally Vulnerable on the basis of population declines (BirdLife International 2013). While there is no current population estimate in South Africa, there has been a reduction of sightings in the areas it previously occupied (SABAP 2 c.f. SABAP 1 data). This is probably mainly due to habitat loss, but power line collisions may also be a significant factor. The physical attributes of 21

22 Secretarybirds mean that they are highly vulnerable to collision, and data from Karoo transmission lines (Shaw 2013) and the Central Incident Register (Eskom-EWT 2012) indicate that these birds do indeed collide across their range. However, as the population is sparsely distributed it is probably underrepresented in available collision data, and further research woul d be necessary to better understand potential population impacts of this source of unnatural mortality. Unfortunately, the species movement is not well understood so BirdLife South Africa have recently placed satellite transmitters on Secretarybirds in order to track their movements, but this data is not useful for the current study. Lesser and Greater Flamingos These species are both classified as regionally Near-threatened by Barnes (2000), with Lesser Flamingos also classified as globally Near-threatened (BirdLife International 2013). They move extensively in response to rainfall, often suddenly arriving at pans which hold water after a rainfall event, so can be expected to arrive at any such open water source in the study area. This unpredictable movement and habit of flying at night and in flocks makes them a challenging species to manage in relation to power lines. An important semi-permanent site for Lesser Flamingo in the study area is Kamfers Dam (Important Bird Area SA032), just north of Kimberley, which can support > birds and is one of only six breeding sites for the species globally (BirdLife South Africa 2013). This site is fortunately far enough from the proposed route to avoid any direct risk, although this number of birds in the general area does increase the chances of them moving across the th proposed line. The two species are highly vulnerable to collision, with Greater and Lesser Flamingos listed as the 5 and 6 th most commonly reported species killed by power lines in South Africa (Eskom-EWT 2012). Their vulnerability to collision is believed to be at least partially due to their tendency to fly at night, when visibility of overhead cables would be low. This factor makes it difficult to mitigate for collisions, since line marking devices designed for diurnal fliers are not effective at night. Although nocturnal marking devices exist they are not currently approved for use on transmission lines. This aspect will need to be addressed by the time of construction of this power line. Martial, Tawny and Verreaux s Eagles Martial and Tawny Eagles are classified as regionally Vulnerable, with Martials also globally Near-threatened (Barnes 2000, BirdLife International 2013). Verreaux s Eagle is currently non Red-listed. This area has a relatively high density of breeding pairs and is therefore an important area for these species. They are well known to have adapted to using Eskom transmission line towers for perching, roosting and nesting. Although this appears at face value to be a positive impact (allowing the birds to expand their range into areas previously unsuitable for breeding due to a lack of trees) residing on a power line also increases the risk of collision that the birds face, particularly for young birds recently fledged (who can also become entangled and die in the tower lattice; J. Shaw pers. obs.). We recommend the proposed power line be constructed on a cross rope suspension tower which is unsuitable for nesting, but this new power line may pose a new collision risk within existing territories and a possible disturbance of breeding if construction of the new line takes place during breeding season. White-backed Vultures This species is classified as regionally Vulnerable but globally Endangered, with some 15,000 pairs estimated in southern Africa and 300 in the Northern Cape (Barnes 2000, Hockey et al. 2005, BirdLife International 2013). Despite being locally common in parts of South Africa, the population is thought to be in decline because of anthropogenic threats such as 22

23 habitat loss, poisoning, and collision with or electrocution on power infrastructure (Barnes 2000). White-backed Vultures nest in large trees (often Acacia erioloba), but can also use electricity pylons, making them vulnerable to collision and electrocution (Barnes 2000). There are a number of colonies in the greater Kimberley area (of particular relevance to the proposed alignments in the Ritchie area), and an estimated 2% of this population is killed annually in power line collisions (Murn et al. 2002, Hockey et al. 2005). They can be expected to use appropriate self-supporting towers of the proposed power line if it is placed within their range (as was observed during the fieldwork, with 18 birds seen on a 132 kv tower on Alternative 3; J. Shaw pers. obs., Figure 5), which will therefore place them at risk. The electromagnetic field effects on birds breeding on transmission lines are also not yet understood but may include effects on breeding success. The approximate position of the known breeding colonies of this species is shown in Figure 4 below. In addition to plotting the co-ordinates of these colonies, a group of species experts (Mark Anderson, Angus Anthony, Campbell Murn) was asked for advice on how far they believed the new power line should be built from a breeding colony of this species. These experts felt that we have insufficient understanding of the species to answer this question adequately, but answers ranged from 1 to 30km. One expert, Mark Anderson, recommended that this EIA include an updated aerial census of the breeding colonies in the area. In order to be cautious in this regard, this author has suggested a buffer of 10km needs to be allowed between the line and any colonies, and that all stands (clumps) of Acacia erioloba in this broader area should be treated as potential breeding habitat for this species, and ideally avoided by the power line. Figure 4 shows that several of these 10km buffer areas are currently bisected by Alternatives 2 and 3, and to a lesser extent by Alternative 1. The new Deviation 1C avoids these areas by a greater distance to the south. This situation is discussed more in Section 4, but will need to be considered carefully in the planning of this proposed power line. 23

24 Figure 4. White-backed Vulture breeding colonies and 10km buffers in relation to the proposed corridors. Blue Cranes The Blue Crane is both regionally and globally Vulnerable (Barnes 2000, BirdLife International 2013). Near-endemic to South Africa, the population had decreased from at least 100,000 birds to some 20,765 birds by 1993 (Hockey et al. 2005). Approximately half of the current population is believed to be resident in the Overberg region of the Western Cape, with the remaining population more or less split between the Karoo and the eastern grasslands. While this study area is not prime habitat for this species, it is a bird which is highly vulnerable to collision so it is important to consider in the context of the proposed line. The Blue Crane is a flocking species, particularly in the non-breeding season (winter) and birds roost in the shallows of dams at night, sometimes in large numbers (up to 3,000 at one site; Hockey et al. 2005), often arriving after dark and leaving at first light. These are the periods when visibility is lowest, which contributes to the risk of colliding with obstacles. The Blue Crane is by far the species reported killed most frequently on Eskom power lines (Eskom-EWT 2012), with some 12% of the Overberg population estimated to die in collisions annually (Shaw et al. 2010). 24

25 Lesser Kestrels This species is classed as regionally Vulnerable (Barnes 2000), and has a global population of 50,000 60,000 birds. The species is a summer visitor to South Africa, arriving in October and departing in March (Hockey et al. 2005). It is highly gregarious and roosts communally in large numbers in big trees in small towns throughout the Karoo and grassland areas. Towns relevant to this study with known roosts include Dealesville, Hopetown, Petrusburg, Kimberley and Ritchie ( While there are no collision records of this species to our knowledge, other kestrel species have been recorded (Shaw 2013) and it is likely that these birds will perch on the proposed power line and could collide with cables if frequently entering and departing a roost site. Although the birds are probably quite tolerant of disturbance at their roosts due to traffic and other typical small town activities, it would be better if the proposed power line did not pa ss close to any roosts. Larks The western part of the power line passes through Bushmanland which is renowned for its high diversity and abundance of larks, many of which are endemic to southern Africa (Hockey et al. 2005). Of particular relevance to this study are four regionally Red-listed species; the Red, Melodious, Short-clawed and Sclater s Larks (Barnes 2000) which have restricted ranges and have been recorded in the study area (Harrison et al. 1997, SABAP ). While these birds are unlikely to interact with power lines, disturbance during construction or maintenance could be an issue Bird sightings in the study area Priority species seen during field work were recorded and can be seen in Figure 5. Care should be taken not to place too much emphasis on the exact locations of the sightings, as birds in this environment are highly mobile, and react to the localised rainfall which can occur in this region. In addition, the field work was not representative of variation in conditions on site, and time was not apportioned evenly across the study area. Note that at the time of field work Deviations 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D were not available for assessment, and so field work was not conducted there. These routes are therefore not shown in Figure 5. 25

26 Figure 5. Priority bird species recorded during field work in the study area (KK=Karoo Korhaan, SEC=Secretarybird, NBK=Northern Black Korhaan, GK=Greater Kestrel, Lanner=Lanner Falcon, BHH=Black-headed Heron, WBV=White-backed Vulture). Note that Deviations 1A to 1D were not investigated during field work. More broadly, good numbers of the species identified in Figure 5, as well as Ludwig s Bustards, Blue Cranes, Blue Korhaans and Verreaux s Eagles were seen in the Upper Karoo and Dry Highveld Grassland bioregions during a large terrestrial bird road census which was conducted four times across the Karoo from May 2010-April 2011 (Shaw 2013). In addition, several satellite tagged Ludwig s Bustards often spend their summer months at a site 16 kilometres to the south of Petrusburg. While this is some distance from the proposed alignments, it highlights the importance of the area for these bustards. All of this data provides confirmation of the presence of several key species in the vicinity of the proposed power line Power line mortality surveys on Hydra-Kronos 400 kv Of specific interest to this study are mortality data from an unmarked section of existing 400 kv line in the area; 55 kilometres of Hydra-Kronos which lies 14 kilometres to the south-east of Alternative 1. This was surveyed quarterly for two full years (April 2010-April 2012) for power line mortalities as part of a wider study on the impact of power line collisions on Ludwig s Bustard (Shaw 2013). Results from this study indicated that at least nine species are impacted by transmission power lines in this area (Table 2), six of which are priority species (Table 1). As expected, bustards were most affected, with high numbers of Ludwig s and Kori Bustards killed. 26