22 April 2013

Tough times for sea birds

As you heard in a previous post, we have been receiving large numbers of reports of dead or dying Barn Owls. What we didn't mention is that we are also receiving reports of large numbers of dead seabirds on the east coast of Scotland and northern England but also as far south as East Anglia.

The majority of these birds have been found in the Firth of Forth, Scotland, and this seabird wreck has occurred at a time when these birds should be getting into prime condition for the breeding season, or even nesting now. High winds and 'uncomfortable' sea conditions are thought to be the prime cause, making finding food difficult.

Colour ringed Shag - Sarah Featherstone

The majority of reports of ringed birds have been Shag but have also included a wide variety of species, including Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Cormorant and even Little Auk. The graphs below show the 10 year average of reports (blue) against the number of reports so far this year.

You can clearly see the huge difference between early and late March. The number in early April is slightly less than late March and early indications show that late April will have many fewer reports of dead shags, as long as the trend continues.

 We receive very few recoveries of dead Puffins generally during the winter period but this year in late March we can see evidence of the wreck.

Strangely, Guillemots have fared very well, considering the previous two species, with a lower than average report rate. Although there have been large numbers of Guillemots washed up in Cornwall and Devon from a synthetic chemical called polyisobutene. Surprisingly only nine dead and two live Guillemots (which are yet to show in the graph above) have been found ringed out of a minimum estimate of 1500 dead birds.

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