In the last two weeks members of the public, including the Beached Bird Survey teams and local bird groups have reported over 200 Puffins found dead or dying along the Yorkshire coast from Scarborough south to Withensea. Many more birds are likely to have perished at sea. Those that have been washed ashore are emaciated with little body fat these birds must have been exhausted or starved to death. It also means that and many birds will be in poor body condition at the start of the breeding season. Larger numbers of dead birds have been reported from the Scottish and Northumberland coasts. This is the worst Puffin wreck since the terrible easterly storms of 1947.Initially, there appeared to be a 50:50 split between immature and adult birds but in the latter days more adults were found. Although no systematic analysis was carried out some birds, including adults, were still undergoing heavy wing moult with some birds apparently flightless – Puffin are unique amongst our seabirds in undergoing a full moult of their flight feathers in March, ahead of the breeding season. This will have contributed to the heavy losses of Puffin when compared with other species. However, the most likely cause of starvation may have been Puffins natural tendency to feed with much shallower dives than the other auks thus making them potentially vulnerable when very heavy seas and turbulent surface waters make feeding more problematic.
Thankfully fewer dead birds were reported over the Easter weekend as the wind strength dropped although small numbers are still being washed ashore daily.
Whilst this is a natural event it highlights the pressures these birds are under and the importance of locating and safeguarding their main feeding areas – you have to ask the Government why none of the proposed Marine Conservation Zones from Yorkshire to Northumberland coast have been recommended for designation!
Thousands of cuttlefish have also been washed ashore, along with large numbers of shellfish, lobsters and crabs.
many thanks to Keith for this info....