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Symposium on bird protection on overhead lines

On 20 and 21 April 2016, the APG symposium on Bird Protection on Overhead Lines was held in Seewinkel, Burgenland. Here, in addition to enthralling lectures that provided insight into protection measures and species conservation projects on overhead power lines, the excursions to the marked line routes and the courting rituals of Great Bustards particularly captivated the conference participants. 

Line marking has been a priority activity for APG since 1989 in its efforts to minimise the collision risk for birds. At the symposium, the attendees were brought up to speed on the state of the art of protective measures on overhead lines, with presentation of the latest research findings on line marking and its effectiveness. 

Renowned ornithologists such as Gábor Wichman (BirdLife Austria) explained the various risks to birds from overhead lines and reported on different protective measures that have been put in place and tested over the years. In the course of an excursion, Dr Rainer Raab illustrated that line markings on APG lines significantly reduced the mortality rate of the West-Pannonian Great Bustard population. 

Martin Pollheimer from coopNATURA showed how a radar device can be used to determine flight intensity and altitudes, which provides essential support especially when risks are being assessed in connection with the planning of overhead lines. 

Dr Richard Zink from the Research Institute for Wildlife Ecology of the Vienna University of Veterinary Medicine and Andreas Kleewein from BirdLife Carinthia presented two special species conservation projects. One of these involves mounting aluminium nesting aids at dizzying heights for the Saker Falcon in Eastern Austria, while the second is a somewhat smaller nesting box design made of larchwood for the Hoopoe in Carinthia’s Gailtal valley. 

Experts like Dr Dieter Haas from Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) and Dr Remo Probst from BirdLife Austria rounded out the programme by discussing electrocution on medium-voltage power lines and explained how simple measures such as bird protection caps can reduce the risk of electrocution to virtually zero. Margit Zohmann from the Vienna University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences also examined the problems of lifts, pipes and fences for grouse. Dr Georg Frank, Secretary-General of DANUBEPARKS, the network of protected areas along the Danube River, was optimistic about the near future and reported on a planned project that was kicked off in 2017 in collaboration with the line operators – mainly APG – and works to minimise bird collisions along the Danube. 

As described by APG in the introduction and demonstrated by the broad range of presentations, APG makes manifold efforts to engage in professional exchange and sustainable cooperative efforts, chiefly with the goal of minimising intervention in natural habitats and in the living environment of humans through innovative and environmentally compatible approaches. The example of the relocation of a stork’s nest near Baldramsdorf, Carinthia, underscored APG’s commitment and pragmatic approach to finding solutions. 

The symposium was held at St. Martins Therme & Lodge in Seewinkel, Burgenland, and organised by VERBUND Umwelttechnik (VUM), with Britt Egger taking the lead. Sven Aberle was in charge of proceedings, and Dr Christian Bellina (VUM) was the moderator. 

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