Eighty-six dead seabirds collected from Guernsey shore during survey

February 25th, 2014 by States of Guernsey Environment Department

The States of Guernsey Environment Department can confirm that 86 seabirds were recorded as found on beaches around Guernsey on Saturday 22 February 2014.

The collection was undertaken to assess the degree to which species that breed around the Channel Islands might have been impacted by the storms in the Atlantic over the last month.

Twenty-eight volunteers from La Société Guernesiaise, RSPB Guernsey, GSPCA, the States of Guernsey Environment Department and several members of the public took part in the collection on Saturday afternoon.

Ornithologists Jamie and Michelle Hooper, Paul and Catherine Veron and Chris Mourant identified and recorded details of the age and condition of the birds at the Cobo collection point.

Forty-nine dead guillemots were collected from the Guernsey shore and 17 dead razorbills.

These diving birds, along with 12 European shags and three puffins would have been most vulnerable to succumb from starvation or exhaustion due to the atrocious weather conditions whilst they were out at sea.

Other seabirds found during the survey included kittiwakes, a herring gull and a gannet.

A great northern diver was also found – this large bird breeds in Greenland, Iceland and North America but a few individuals overwinter here some years and it was the first opportunity for many people who visited the collection point to see this unusual bird.

Jamie Hooper of La Société Guernesiaise Ornithology Section said “almost all the birds we assessed showed clear signs of starvation.”

“Very few showed any sign of having a level of condition to indicate they could have survived the very poor weather.”

“Many of our birds are still out at sea and would be expected to return in the next two-three weeks.”

“We won’t know for a while how much impact the losses now being reported throughout the Atlantic coast of France through to the south of England will have on their numbers, or their ability to breed this year given their poor condition,” he said.

Donna Francis of RSPB Guernsey said “none of us had ever seen so many dead birds before – the sight of the three tiny puffins was particularly sad and brings home the need for all of us to do what we can to help the birds.”

“This is mainly the prevention of disturbance to birds while they’re breeding around the cliffs and offshore islets over the coming months. It’s important we all keep our distance and do not cause birds feeding and resting on beaches to take flight, unnecessarily using up valuable energy.”

“We ask people keep a minimum distance of  200 metres away from breeding areas such as Herm cliffs, The Humps and South coast cliffs if kayaking, coasteering or in boats.”

“We understand people enjoy a range of outdoor activities and only ask that the birds be left undisturbed at such a crucial time for their survival,” she said.

The States of Guernsey Environment Department would like to express its appreciation and thanks to all the volunteers that participated in the seabird count.”

“The data collected will be shared with States of Jersey, Durrell Trust and Alderney Wildlife Trust and collated with verified data from UK and France.

Anyone wanting to record a dead seabird found on beaches around Guernsey is being encouraged to submit the information to the Alderney Wildlife Trust webpage, which is collating the information for the Channel Islands.

The States of Guernsey Environment Departments asks people to only submit a record if they have bagged and binned or otherwise disposed of the seabird to ensure there is no double counting.


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