Friday 5th February comments: We take a short break from our seabird series as we bring you a seabird and weather update and a request for help.
Over the last week, the east coast and the Isle of May has been battered by easterly storms bringing low temperatures, sleet and snow to some areas and heavy seas (huge swell). Whilst we as humans struggle with the temperatures you have to wonder how our seabirds are coping?
Back in March 2013, almost three weeks of onshore easterly winds seriously affected seabirds with many birds perishing of apparent starvation as they struggled to feed in such turbulent conditions. These ‘wrecks’ are not uncommon but in 2013 it involved a plethora of species as birds were returning to breeding grounds at the same time and were caught up in the hard hitting weather. In other words it was extremely bad timing; vast numbers of birds returning to breeding grounds just when a continued easterly storm raged resulting in high mortality.
A similar event occurred in 2018 but wasn’t on the scale of 2013 but still good numbers of birds perished in very challenging conditions but some of these deaths would have involved birds washing ashore that are part of the ‘usual winter mortality’).
So its happening again. Onshore winds are now producing swell heights off the Isle of May in excess of 5m (just for the scale, pleasure boats can’t sail to the island if the height reaches 2m or more). So its tough times for our seabirds. The forecast is suggesting onshore easterly winds for another seven days and without doubt, birds will be struggling. So if you are out and about on the coast, braving a walk along a beach and find any dead bird, please report any ringed birds to the following addresses as it will all help us piece together the scale of the problem (if a problem exists – seabirds are hardy after all).
If you find a ringed dead bird report sighting to the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) at: https://app.bto.org/euring/lang/pages/rings.jsp
If it is a ringed Shag, then please e-mail the details to: Shags@ceh.ac.uk
Lets hope this weather front passes quickly and the seabirds can get back on with life.