Winter Woes

Dead shag on ground

Grim; Dead Shags picked up on the May (Mark Newell)

Dead shags

Recent mortality of Shags due to poor weather (Mark Newell)

Shag Youngster

Happier times; young Shags fledging last August

Friday 22nd January comments: The weather in recent weeks has been more winter-like especially considering the very mild November-December we had. However the strong winds have also been causing issues for the islands wildlife, especially the Shags.

The majority of our seabirds move off far and wide leaving only the Shags to winter around the island. A continuous bad spell of weather (especially heavy seas) often results in a higher than average mortality for Shags as they struggle to feed in bad seas with low fat reserves, low temperatures and long nights not helping.

In recent weeks it appears to have been the case as a number of birds have been discovered washed up dead along the east coast with at least 150 involved including up to 30 on the Isle of May. The last poor winter of 2012-13 brought in over 3,000 dead Shags along the Scottish east coast and we are hoping there is not a repeat on such a scale.

Just to bring you an idea of how bad the sea state had become the wave buoy marker off the island was indicating wave peaks of 6.8 metres in height in recent weeks; not good if you are a bird trying to feed.

Sightings and reports of dead shags are being compiled by CEH ecologist Sarah Burthe and if anyone finds any along the coast this weekend, please drop an e-mail with details of your sighting to: shags@ceh.ac.uk

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