Assessing the number of birds killed in storms

Published 11/03/2014|05:42

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The recent series of storms, strong gales and floods that hammered Ireland had many negative impacts and outcomes. One outcome that may not be immediately apparent was the number of reports of dead or dying seabirds found on beaches. Reports came from counties Donegal, Galway, Cork and Wexford and Razorbills and Guillemots featured prominently among the casualties.

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Seabirds like Razorbills and Guillemots hunt fish underwater by sight. Birds dive from the surface and 'fly' underwater after prey. It is assumed that, in recent times, when the sea was so rough and disturbed, the weather so bad and the water so cloudy for so long that many birds failed to fish successfully and died from a combination of exhaustion and starvation.

One of the distressing results for people walking on beaches was finding a dying bird and wondering what to do with it. Many people who find themselves in that situation, and especially when accompanied by children, feel they cannot just walk by and do nothing. Fortunately there are a number of organisations and individuals who are prepared to volunteer their time, facilities and expertise to take in and look after injured wildlife.

These parties are known as 'wildlife rehabilitators' and a list of them may be found on the Irish Wildlife Matters website at www.irishwildlifematters.ie. That website also gives guidance and details on dealing with injured wildlife, lists veterinary surgeons by county who have a particular interest and/or expertise in treating wildlife and lists government conservation rangers who deal with matters regarding wildlife and the law.

In order to ascertain the full scale of recent weather events, BirdWatch Ireland is asking members of the public to report any dead or dying seabirds they found washed up along the coast so far this winter. Information would, of course, also be welcome about any birds that people may find over the coming weeks.

Information should be e-mailed to the BirdWatch Ireland seabird team at seatrack@birdwatchireland.ie. They want as much detail as possible about any stranding of dead or dying seabirds including the date, the location (with a grid reference, if possible), the species involved, the numbers involved and the presence of any metal or coloured rings on the birds legs with details of codes, if noted.

Grid references are needed as they pinpoint precise locations. These references for any location in Ireland can be read very quickly by going to the very simple to use facility at www.gridreference.ie.

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