Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Quiet Morning, Suffering Seabirds

After an hour or two at Pilling there are a few birds to report today. 

My casual birding pales into insignificance when I relate bad news about the effect upon seabirds of the endless Atlantic storms of recent months - vital reading for all bird lovers. Worse still an established and proven method for monitoring the same seabird populations in Britain is being thrown on the scrapheap by a new Welsh quango. Read on. 

First my Pilling news from the maize floods, Fluke Hall Lane and surrounding fields, a good two and a half hours stomp around on a bright but very cool morning. The wood held my first Goldcrest of the springtime, a pair of Long-tailed Tits, several Goldfinch and a pair of Mistle Thrush. 

Less good news was sight of a bird predator, a Stoat running across the road at the edge of the wood. I’ve seen Stoats in the same spot for many years, the animals having traditional places where they live and breed, just like many animals and birds. I had my small lens today, so took a picture of the long dead fox left in the same spot where it was most likely poisoned or shot. 

Common Stoat

Red Fox

Two Buzzards were about and over the trees again, the third time in a week of noting them here. A walk to the wet fields and sea wall revealed more than a hundred Redshank, 38 Dunlin, 15 Curlew, 12 Oystercatcher, 30+ Shelduck, 22 Pied Wagtails, 4 Little Egret, 15+ Skylark, 10 Twite, 8 Meadow Pipit, 1 Reed Bunting and 450+ Pink-footed Geese. 

Similar daily goose counts are the best I can muster at the moment as the geese fly north to Iceland in good numbers and leave Lancashire until September. A feature of the morning was the huge numbers, perhaps several thousands of Starlings heading north across the bay. We often forget that Starlings too return North and East about now. 

Pink-footed Goose

Starling

Now for the news I mentioned at the start of this post. 

Tens of thousands of birds particularly auks such as Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills have died as a result of the raging and endless gales of the winter. The remains of these birds are now being washed up on the coasts of Wales, Cornwall and the Channel Islands, even more so on the Atlantic coast of France and the beaches of the Bay of Biscay where large numbers of British Puffins and their auk cousins spend the winter. 

Atlantic Puffins - Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Latest estimates from Wildlife Trusts partnership suggest a confirmed death toll of around 25,000 birds, which is expected to rise steadily as more corpses are washed ashore. This natural disaster makes us realise how vulnerable our seabirds are to other threats, such as the oil spills and other dangers such as climate change and overfishing. 

Seabird colonies in Scotland are faring especially badly. In some only a fifth of breeding birds are raising chicks, mainly because their food, largely sand eels, has disappeared. Perhaps because of too much trawling or rising water temperatures the sand eels have moved north making them less available to British seabirds. 

Common Guillemot -  Photo credit: Foter / CC BY

As this potential disaster waits to unfold a new Welsh quango is abolishing the measly funding of £12,000 a year for the long-term monitoring of a large Guillemot colony of more than 20,000 birds on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire. The quango Natural Resources Wales was set up last year to incorporate the old Countryside Council for Wales with the Welsh sections of the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission. 

Please read this story in more detail at The Independent, and particularly if you live in Wales write to your Member of Parliament expressing your shock and displeasure at what you read.

I am grateful to Professor Tim Birkhead for bringing this to our attention.

More from Another Bird Blog soon. Stay tuned.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

26 comments:

Errol Newman said...

Devoid of Goldcrests here this winter; perhaps towards the end of the month? Finches and non-passerines are most in evidence at the mo.

Unknown said...

I hope someone is doing a necropsy to discover what they were eating or actual cause of death.

David Gascoigne said...

Wow, this is a dismal tale, Phil, but it's good that you bring it to the attention of not only local naturalists, but people like me, who despite not being resident in Wales can nevertheless express outrage and concern. One can only hope that just as populations of birds have been decimated by natural causes they will in due course rebound. I have no doubt that the harsh winter here has had deleterious impacts on many species. I am quite sure that local populations of Carolina Wrens, for example, will have been wiped out.

David Gascoigne said...

If ever you make it to southern Ontario, be sure to let me know!!

Findlay Wilde said...

I really enjoyed your pictures but the words are worrying. I wonder what has to happen before more people realise that we have to change things now. From Findlay

Chris Rohrer said...

Grrrrr.....I hate to read about things like this. It's all very frustrating. Not the natural disasters. That is expected.....but illegal killings, funding etc that is all very sad. It's good to hear the truth, but it's a bit overwhelming at times.

EG CameraGirl said...

Very sad news. I especially hate it when so many people think Natural disasters are not (at least in part) the results of human actions.

Neil said...

That is not good news.

Gunilla Bäck said...

That is sad news indeed. The stoat might be bad news for the birds, but it's a beautiful animal.

Carole M. said...

I'm sure this' the first time I've seen or heard of a stoat; nice colours, shame about the birds. Lions are nice colours too, shame about the deer. Gosh could go on along that same path even entering into the human-world couldn't we? The Puffins brightened my day, it would be grand to see these in real life. The Guillemot look like they'd be way out there in the distance and I'd have to climb high; not so keen on that. Me and rock-climbing don't match. Anothre interesting post Phil even though you thought you were light on birds this round.

The happy wanderer. said...

It's a depressing morning. Our Prime Minister says we have enough National Parks and has applied to have some of the Tasmanian Wilderness area removed from the protection that affords, and now I read your post, and can imagine that once the east coast of the U.S. thaws they may well have similar bad news. I do hope something can be done re the monitoring program funding.

eileeninmd said...

The Stoat is a cute critter, your photo is adorable.

I had heard about the deaths of the seabirds from the awful storms.. It is very sad to see so many Puffins and others have died.

On to something brighter, your flight shots are awesome. Happy Birding!

Gordon said...

Thanks for bringing it to every ones attention Phil,we expected big losses from the storms, and although a great disaster, we tend to except it. It is maddening though when we loose wildlife through man made problems, which is definitly on the increase.
Great Pic of the Stoat.
All the best Gordon.

Karen said...

It's not just humans that suffer during natural disasters, very sad. That Stoat sure is cute looking!

Russell Jenkins said...

I wonder if the natural disasters don't really have natural causes, Phil? We are losing too much in vast numbers every year. Extinctions won't happen one at a time. It'll just take a couple of bad seasons to turn things on their heads. The numbers of birds in Niigata have been significantly lower the last two winters. Hundreds of geese and ducks have been reduced to just dozens. I wonder if there will be good seasons ahead? Nice photos of the starlings in flight. -A are sight.

Stuart Price said...

Sad news about the seabirds Phil...............

Mary Cromer said...

I feel sick at the thought of what has happened there with the seabird colonies, those wonderful, delightful Puffins and so many others...very sad indeed. This Winter and all that it has offered, has just been awful everywhere...bummed! We do not know the impact yet, will be sorted out in due time, but our Eastern Bluebirds, may have died in masses due to food shortages, and also the Great Blue Herons and such, as their waterways have been frozen. What a sad shame, and I am thinking we/mankind has made some HUGE bad moves and they will never be recovered...really Sad for the future of all. Sorry to be a downer Phil, this really is pitiful news for all. Now then I think the critter is quite adorable even if it is a bird eater ;)

Jen said...

The thought of all those seabirds disappearing is heartbreaking. I hope they can make a comeback.

Gordon said...

Thanks Phil, beautiful morning here, just a cold North wind keeping the temps down.
All the best Gordon.

Terri @ Backward B Ranch said...

Oh what sad news- I haven't thought about the effect of this crazy weather on our beautiful birds!

Sandy Kessler said...

adore puffins and stoats for oh so many reasons habitats etc

carol l mckenna said...

Wonderful variety of great bird photos for CC ~ Happy Weekend to you ~ xxx

artmusedog@gmail.com
www.acreativeharbor.com

Wally Jones said...

Goldcrest, Mistle Thrush, Twite - would dearly love to see any of these!

Despite the cold morning, sounds like you did well on species as well as numbers of water birds.

It's quite disheartening to hear of massive losses such as what you have described. We hope that nature will respond accordingly to eventually replenish those populations.

As to human-related short-sightedness....there may not be that much hope to correct this affliction.

Wish you were here, Phil. Need help counting birds!

Rajesh said...

Great shots of birds. I like those shots of birds flying.

Ingun Kleppan said...

Lovely photos!

From Photo by Ingun

Adam Jones said...

Very sad news about our sea birds. I was aware of the birds being washed up in the Bay of Biscay, but the news gets worse every day. Such a shame.

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