06 March 2014

The wreck continues...

The storms battering western Europe may have abated somewhat, but the number of birds washing up on beaches across Spain, France, Ireland and Britain have not. There is usually a delay in the number of birds washing up after such events, but we are still hearing about large numbers of auks, Puffins and Shags on beaches.

We previously posted about the number of Puffins being found in France, but in he last week birds have been turning up along the west coast of Ireland and Britain. Statements such as "I found this ringed bird among 148 dead puffins on 900 meters of beach" are sadly common place.

Winter-plumaged Puffin
Gunwalloe Fishing Cove, Cornwall (Mark Grantham)
The number of ringed birds reported now stands at:
  • 124 Puffin
  • 104 Guillemot
  • 98 Razorbill
  • 75 Shag
  • 7 Gannet
  • 4 Black Guillemot
For the time of year, these are record numbers of both Guillemot and Puffin. Looking back at January/February recoveries of these birds, we can see just how unprecedented this current event is.

Number of Jan/Feb ring recoveries of Puffin
Number of Jan/Feb ring recoveries of Razorbill
Number of Jan/Feb ring recoveries of Guillemot

This will be a small fraction of the total amount of birds that have died (now well over 28,000 birds) but these ringed birds do tell us something about the birds affected. Many of the Puffins are from sites including Sule Skerry (40km west of Orkney), the Shiant Islands (Outer Hebridies), the Treshnish Islands (near the Isle of Mull), Great Saltee (off Co Wexford) and Skomer Island (Pembrokeshire).

Razorbill M91165 was ringed as a chick on Sanda Island in 1997.
It was one of 40 birds found at Watergate Bay, Cornwall,
on Valentine’s Day. © Newquay Beach Care


  1. That is terrible, such a loss of life of such wonderful birds. What happened in 1983, seems similar numbers?

  2. This was actually a massive seabird wreck in the North Sea in February 1983 when 34,000 birds were washed up. A summary of this incident was published in Bird Study: