Over the last week, we’ve received reports of hundreds of seabirds, mostly puffins, as well as smaller numbers of guillemots and razorbills, washing up on beaches along Scotland’s east coast and on down to Northumberland.
These seabird ‘wrecks’ are thought to be the worst in several decades and may be the result of the ongoing harsh weather we’ve been experiencing. The exact causes are still unknown.
Despite their small stature, puffins are hardy birds and it is particularly concerning to see them washed up showing signs of starvation and exhaustion.
After fledging from our seacliffs in late summer, these birds travel long distances and spend the winter months at sea, before returning to our shores for the breeding season in late spring.
There are concerns that the scale of this wreck may have an impact on the upcoming seabird breeding season as many species are already facing steep declines. Conservationists will be monitoring populations closely throughout the summer season.
We are working with the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) to monitor the situation and learn as much as possible about the cause of the wrecks. Recovery of the birds along our beaches for post-mortem examination is currently underway. You can help by reporting any sightings to us or the CEH.
Renowned seabird expert Mike Harris is on the scene and wrote an informative blog update yesterday. Keep an eye on this blog for further updates.
Wrecks have been reported at the following locations:
Beadnell Beach, Northumberland
New blog from Conservation Manager Stuart Benn.
There’s really nothing else quite like it.
Every 20 years or so, all of Britain and Ireland’s birds are counted and mapped, and the results put out in a Bird Atlas. This info, when added to other more regular counts, is absolutely vital to organisations like the RSPB - it is one of the key building blocks for much of our conservation work but these counts are an almost inconceivably massive undertaking. Think how long it would take you to count the birds in your local park and then scale it up. All those fields, islands, moors, towns, cliffs, hills and coasts need to be visited and not just where there is a good road network - it’s the whole lot. One person couldn’t do it alone, a hundred people couldn’t do it but combine the efforts of thousands of volunteers and all those individual counts add up and that is exactly how this huge task is broken down into little bits and achieved.
On Saturday, I was delighted to give a talk at an event celebrating the latest Bird Atlas run by the organisers of the count, the Scottish Ornithologists Club, the British Trust for Ornithology and BirdWatch Ireland. The book itself isn’t due to come out until this autumn but we were treated to a sneak preview of some of the maps and each one tells its own story - the big increases of nuthatches and buzzards, the large declines of cuckoos and curlews. Unfortunately, those on the way down outnumber those on the way up and this story is the same for much of our once familiar wildlife from hedgehogs to butterflies. We need to start reversing these losses but the first step is knowing the scale of the problem and that’s why these counts and the volunteers who do them are so vital.
So, my talk at the Conference was to give a flavour of how rewarding and fun it was to be one of those 17270 volunteers giving up some of their spare time to do the counts. Being a lover of the Scottish hills, a fair amount of my effort was spent getting into and then surveying some pretty wild places with Breac, our Border collie. Equally dramatic were the couple of weeks we spent helping out the Irish in Donegal away in the far north-west – striding along the top of those huge coastal cliffs with the surf pounding below and the ravens and choughs wheeling above was unforgettable.
North Donegal coast
But, just as enjoyable was getting to really know our local area near Inverness as we went out exploring, looking for new species. It sounds daft but we found brilliant places for walks and wildlife within minutes of our house that had remained undiscovered and unknown to us for the previous 17 years.
I know that when I get to see all of the maps I’ll be able to pinpoint some of my own records and there is certainly a lot of satisfaction to be gained from that. But that’s not the main point. The big picture is that it’s a massive joint effort and it’s everyone’s individual records added together that count. And I guess that’s what volunteering is really all about – lots of contributions adding up and making a big difference, together.
Exciting news! We have been shortlisted by the European Outdoor Conservation Association for a potential award of nearly 20,000 Euros. Our project will re-connect Abernethy to its neighbouring Caledonian forest, Glenmore, through the planting of 30,000 native trees, re-establishing a huge wildlife corridor. The stunning Caledonian forest once covered large parts of Scotland, but today just 1% remains. The RSPB’s Abernethy National Nature Reserve includes the UK’s largest remnant of Caledonian forest, home to 4,500 species, 20% of which are nationally rare. This project will be a vital step towards our 200 year vision to expand the forest to almost twice its size. Please vote for “Restoring Scotland’s Caledonian Forest” http://www.outdoorconservation.eu/project-voting-category.cfm?catid=5.