After a misty, cold start it turned into a warm, clear day. There were great views of 15 Black Kite
and 3 Short-toed Eagle
battling against a strong headwind just SW of Casares at 1030hrs and a further 17 Black Kite low over Gaucin at 1430hrs. It's not all spring-like as there is still a female Black Redstart in the gardens between Calle Convento and Calle del Pino.
An article relating to seabird research in the UK....
Nature Studies: We’re denying help to our seabird communities when they most need it
The timing couldn’t be worse. Thousands of birds have died in the storms.
Some truths are strongly counter-intuitive. For example, you simply
would not think, would you, that seabirds can be killed by the sea?
Creatures which have spent millions of years evolving in a particular
environment, you might assume, would long ago have learned to deal with
any difficulties which that environment might throw up. And you would be
right. On the whole.
But there can be circumstances for which evolution has not quite
prepared some living things, and the recent exceptional spate of
Atlantic storms has been one of them. Not only did it bring flooding and
destruction to parts of the human environment in Britain, especially in
the West Country; it is becoming clear that British seabirds, in the
Western Approaches particularly, have suffered a parallel natural
Tens of thousands of birds – particularly auks such as
puffins, guillemots (pictured) and razorbills – have died as a result of
the seemingly endless gales of the last two months. Their remains are
now being washed up on the coasts of Wales, Cornwall and the Channel
Islands, and even more so on the Atlantic coast of France – that is, the
beaches of the Bay of Biscay, which is where large numbers of British
puffins and their auk cousins spend the winter.
It is one of the
largest “wrecks” of seabirds ever witnessed and bears comparison with
the huge bird mortalities caused by the oil spills from tanker disasters
of recent years, such as the Amoco Cadiz in 1978 and the Erika in 1999,
both off the coast of Brittany, as well as the 1993 spill of the tanker
Braer off Shetland and the 1996 spill of the Sea Empress off south
And counter-intuitive though it may be, it is indeed the
sea that’s killing them. The birds are dying because this winter, they
have had to expend too much energy fighting big waves and big winds over
a long period at a time, when food is harder than ever to find, since
fish shoals are broken up in the storms. Latest estimates from the
Wildlife Trusts partnership suggest a confirmed death toll of around
25,000, which is expected to rise steadily as more corpses are washed
This natural disaster only serves to underline how
vulnerable our seabirds are to other threats, such as the oil spills,
and increasingly to two more dangers – climate change, and overfishing.
Seabird colonies in northern Britain, in areas such as Orkney and
Shetland, are doing increasingly badly – in some, only a fifth of the
breeding birds are raising chicks – and this has happened because their
food, largely small fish called sandeels, has disappeared. It may be
because of too much trawling, or it may be because in rising water
temperatures the sandeels have moved north – but they’re no longer
available, and fears are growing that all British seabird colonies may
Yet just at this very moment, the single most
sophisticated tool for monitoring seabird populations in Britain is
being thrown on the scrapheap by a new Welsh quango. Natural Resources
Wales, set up last year to incorporate the old Countryside Council for
Wales with the Welsh sections of the Environment Agency and the Forestry
Commission, is abolishing the funding for the long-term monitoring of
the large guillemot colony on Skomer island – it has more than 20,000
pairs – off the coast of Pembrokeshire.
Carried out by the
University of Sheffield under Professor Tim Birkhead, this has been
going on for 40 years and is so detailed that it can detect real (as
opposed to apparent) influences on the colony’s population very quickly.
There is nothing else quite like it in Britain – yet it’s being
scrapped “so that we can provide best value for money”. It strikes me as
crazy. The funding is peanuts in corporate terms – £12,000 a year.
Hedge funders spend more on a single bottle of wine.
programme generates absolutely critical data,” said Dr Lizzie
Wilberforce, conservation manager of the Wildlife Trust of South and
West Wales. “The funding is being withdrawn just when we need it most.
The timing couldn’t be worse – we really need to understand how our
birds are reacting to these threats if we are to be equipped to help
As you look at the images of dead seabirds, then, remember
the name: Natural Resources Wales. It’s a moderately obscure new
quango, and the chairman, Professor Peter Matthews, and the chief
executive, Dr Emyr Roberts, have had hardly any national publicity. But
they’re going to get some now, for one of the most irredeemably stupid
decisions that a body supposed to have the protection of the natural
world at its heart could possibly take.