Norman Hyett admits he is a “birder”. He enjoys his vantage point of living on Winthrop Shore Drive and going for walks around Deer Island with his camera and his little granddaughter. But a recent walk wasn’t so pleasant. As they walked the path near the two windmills on the property they heard a “whack” and then a seagull, in three pieces, came falling down.
“I looked up and saw it coming down in pieces. There were 125 birds killed there in the last three years,” said Hyett, who is also a member of the Winthrop Conservation Commission. “Five were killed in one week.”
“Fred Laskey (MWRA Executive Director) is the one person who can stop this and he chooses not to,” Hyett said. They (the MWRA) prides itself on environmental responsibility yet this goes on.”
Laskey contends that 33 birds have been killed this year. Laskey said one unfortunate side effect of wind turbines across the nation is bird strikes. He added that bird strikes also occur in the millions with powerlines, windows, automobile and communication towers. He said the federal and state government have encouraged the use of wind turbines.
“This year it has mostly been seagulls and there have been several seagulls,” Laskey said. “We have worked hard to create breeding boxes for falcons on the island.”
Ria Convery, spokesperson for the MWRA, said there is a peregrine falcon nest between the two digesters on the island and it is somewhat close to one of the windmills. She said MWRA is working with Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife on attempting to move it. The MWRA does clean up the fallen birds. They are sent to MIT and studied, Hyett said.
Hyett said the windmills (turbines) produce less than one percent of the electricity used by the plant. Hyett wants to know why the turbines need to run when they are not needed. But Laskey said that one percent saves the MWRA $220,000 a year. Laskey said that the MWRA has invested $4 million in the two wind turbines.
Winthrop is a haven for birds. They zero in on the Belle Isle Marsh and Deer Island. There are peregrine falcons, osprey, piping plovers, terns, swallows, starlings, seagulls, heron, snowy owls, winter birds and many more. Deer Island has 60 acres of park land, including a 2.6 perimeter pathway and another two miles of trails on the hills of the island surrounding the treatment facility.
Hyett said the falcon is one of the fastest birds in the world, flying at 230 mph, compared to the wind turbine moving at 117 mph.
Hyett said he has contacted Barbara Bishop, who represents Speaker of the House and Winthrop resident Robert DeLeo. He wants to see the turbines shut down.
“That’s easier said than done,” Laskey said.
“It’s an assault to the environment and probably not the best idea to begin with,” Hyett said.