Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Sea birds run out of puff due to the storms

A Puffin
A number of seabirds, in particular Puffins, have been found washed up along the south coast, joining the odd dead turtle and dolphin, all having succumbed to the recent exceptional storms.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have received a record number of reports of Puffins, wearing uniquely-numbered metal rings, that have also been washed up dead on the coasts of France and Spain. 

In a normal winter, the BTO would expect two or three ringed Puffins to be found in France and Spain, but during the last few weeks, over 35 have been reported. The previous highest number of ringed birds found was back in 1979 when 17 dead Puffins were reported.

It is well known that British Puffins head out into the Atlantic for the winter months, riding out the worst that the weather can throw at them.  As the winter progresses, our Puffins make their way into the Bay of Biscay before heading back to their breeding colonies and the burrows that they used the previous summer. Birds found in this current wreck have come from colonies in west Wales, northern Scotland, Orkney and Shetland.

Mark Grantham, Ringing Officer at the BTO, commented “Up until the last couple of weeks it seemed that our Puffins might have survived the worst of the winter. However, from the reports of ringed birds that are being washed-up on the Biscay beaches it would seem that the recent storms were just too much for many of the birds.“

He added, “It is still early days and the number of ringed birds found is likely to rise further, but we must remember that if over 35 ringed birds have been found, many un-ringed birds must have been affected too.”

As if all of that is not enough to contend with, there are also reports of seabirds being drowned in gill nets in the Weymouth Bay area. At least 38 dead birds were discovered in just 4 hauled nets. Most of the casualties were auks and possibly the problem arose because both birds and nets are unusually concentrated in the relatively sheltered waters of the bay.

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