The UK Beached Bird Survey (BBS) is part of an international survey to monitor oil pollution at sea. The annual survey in late February aims to cover as much of the UK’s non-rocky coastline as possible and to count the number of birds washed ashore and the proportion oiled. The results are used both nationally and internationally to promote measures to reduce oil pollution.
Nationally, on average, over 650 volunteers survey just short of 2200kms of the UK’s coastline. The report on the findings for 2014 revealed that 3717 seabirds were found dead but that excludes corpses recorded as ‘wings only’. These figures represent the third highest density of corpses per km. found since the current format surveys were commenced in 1991.
Whilst seabirds are clearly designed to cope with rough weather, the severity and frequency of 2014’s winter storms resulted in almost unrelentingly difficult conditions. Birds were having to fly in storms and then dive to try and catch fish in the turbulent seas. Many succumbed, overwhelmed due to starvation and exhaustion, and the dead and dying were washed ashore. Examination of many birds found them to be emaciated and with empty stomachs
This year, 2015, the monitoring weekend was the 21st and 22nd of February and members of the Assynt Field Club again participated. Eight of Assynt’s beaches were surveyed and only two dead seabirds were found, a Guillemot and a Shag, the wings of a Raven were also recorded from one beach. Thankfully neither seabird was oiled so they had most likely succumbed to the winter weather. It was also gratifying to note that none of the beaches surveyed showed signs of oiling.