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June 08 2012

Another wind turbine rouses campaigners on Yorkshire's coastal cliffs

Protests supported by David Hockney are revived, as proposals for a Flambrough tower replace those recently withdrawn near Bempton's famous seabird reserve

Local people's defeat of a controversial wind turbine proposal at Bempon, close to the famous seabird nesting cliffs on the Yorkshire coast, has been followed by only the briefest of respites.

The call to arms has gone out again almost immediately, to fight a similar application close to South Landing and Danes Dyke on that famous county landmark, Flamborough Head.

Taller by 25 feet than Flamborough lighthouse at 112 feet, the tower is the latest of an extraordinary run of applications in the East Riding which have aroused huge concern and been the subject of previous Guardian Northerner posts. Opponents include David Hockney whose work and crowd-pulling exhibitions at Saltaire and the Royal Academy have been a tonic for visitor numbers to the quiet beauties of the Wolds this year.

Bempton parish council and the town council in Bridlington, where Hockney lives much of the time, voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday 6 June to object to the latest planning application. Flamborough parish council meets on Monday and is expected to take a similar view. Holiday camp owners, buoyed up by the Government's recent U-turn on VAT and static caravans, are joining the campaign.

The tower would be built at Hartendale Farm, some 600 metres from Flamborough village and fewer than 250 metres from the noble cliffs. David Hinde of No to Wolds Windfarms says:

The site is surrounded by some of the most important wildlife sites in the whole of the UK as well as the Flamborough Headland Heritage Coast Landscape, designated by Natural England and with the highest protection rating possible

The turbine would be be highly visually intrusive from Bridlington bay, Bempton cliffs, many parts of Flamborough, the heritage features of the ancient Danes Dyke earthwork and coastal footpaths around South Landing as well as the country park heritage trail.

Campaigners are also determined to keep turbines out of a proposed 'Yorkshire nature triangle' which would link the famous Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve at Bempton cliffs to the Living Seas Centre which is being built at South Landing. The RSPB plans to expand its facilities and the project is reckoned to have great potential in terms of attracting more visitors and creating tourism jobs.

So far, East Riding of Yorkshire district council has received 36 objections to the new application. The Bempton turbine, proposed for Norway farm on Cliff Lane, was withdrawn after 169 objections and well-publicised protests from local people, visitors to the bird reserve and the Ministry of Defence which has radar facilities at nearby Staxton Wold.

The Hartendale farm application is Ref 12/01846/PLF and can be seen on the East Riding council's website or via County Hall, Beverley HU17 9BA Tel: 01482 393939. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

November 01 2010

Startling starlings

It's the time of year when these birds come together to produce one of nature's most impressive sights. Grahame Madge has some tips for capturing it on camera

Share your photos of starlings in flight on our Flickr group

Even as an ardent birdwatcher, I'll confess that a single starling is a rather drab sight. But you can capture stunning images of starlings if you see them in a new light. In summer, the drabness of their dark plumage melts away to reveal an iridescent show of greens and purples. In winter, the birds develop a completely different look as the plumage becomes spangled with white spots.

In my opinion, the best way to see starlings is just before dusk when flocks – known as murmurations – gather in autumn and winter skies for one of our most celebrated wildlife spectacles. Sometimes up to 1 million birds - from a radius of 20 miles - join vast flocks that twist and turn against the fading light, creating a pageant of ephemeral, ever-changing patterns - like smoke on a breeze.

Many of the birds will have travelled to the UK from Scandinavia, or even Russia, to join starlings that have nested in the UK. Starlings gather in huge flocks to spend the night in safety in reedbeds, or on buildings, such as Brighton pier. It's always been a slight mystery to me why these birds put on such a prominent display before roosting for the night. The primary aim of creating a large flock is to confuse predators, such as peregrine falcons or sparrowhawks: so, why do starlings advertise their presence so obviously?

The ecologist in me says they are probably encouraging others into the roost site, creating an ecological advantage for the starling's survival. However, my fun-loving side yearns to believe that starlings put on a Red Arrows show just because they can.

These spectacles happen at specific sites across the UK from October to early spring, allowing anyone with a camera, or even a mobile phone to capture an impression of this aerial ballet. However your image will strip away most of the sensations that you felt at the time; the chattering of a million calling birds; frost nipping at your nose and toes; or perhaps the scent of distant bonfires.

So how do you create an image that best captures the impressions of the event? Firstly, think about the location. Try to position yourself on the eastern side of the action. As the sun sets in the west, standing facing the sunset will allow you to include the sun, or sunlit clouds, as a backdrop for your composition. Even on a cloudy day, the light in this part of the sky will be brighter and will last for longer after sunset.

Think about how you frame your picture; including a distant church spire; a line of trees; or some other feature on the horizon will lend your picture a sense of scale and also a sense of location. You could also include other spectators for added human interest. Consider whether you want to capture a single image or create a sequence of pictures. Locking the camera on a tripod could enable you to take a set of pictures with the same framing. Including the same foreground while capturing the different patterns of the swirling flocks is one way of trying to describe the choreography of these.

Photographers with a little more technical know-how might want to create more impressionistic images. You have a choice where you can use a fast shutter speed to freeze each bird or use a slow one, allowing the movement of each bird to register as a streak across the frame.

However you choose to capture the event, be sure to take a few minutes to soak up the atmosphere of the event before the birds tumble from the sky and settle down for the night.

Where to see starlings

Gretna Green, Scotland

Leighton Moss RSPB reserve, Lancashire

Saltholme RSPB reserve, Middlesbrough

RSPB Snape Warren, Suffolk

Brighton pier, Sussex

Westhay Moor, Ham Wall (RSPB) or Shapwick Heath, in Somerset

RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk

Conwy RSPB reserve in north Wales

Blacktoft Sands, east Yorkshire

• Grahame Madge is a media officer at the RSPB © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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