LiveMore than 300 birds washed up along Jurassic coastline

First published in News
Last updated
Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

This live event has finished

Summary

  • *More than 200 birds already washed up
  • *Environment Agency are analysing the substance using chemical breakdown and forensic technology to find out what it is killing the birds, it is thought to be oil based
  • *The birds started being washed up on Wednesday and the situation has been getting worse
  • *Members of the public are urged to stay away and leave the experts to deal with injured birds
  • *Anyone who spots an injured bird or animal should report it to the RSPCA by calling 0300 1234 999

9:16pm

The rescue operation will continue at Portland tomorrow. Keep logged on to dorsetecho.co.uk and Twitter @dorsetecho for all of the latest updates.

9:01pm

Experts are still trying to pin down what the mixture of refined oils exactly is but the rescue operation is expected to resume in the morning.

8:59pm

Environment minister Richard Benyon added: ''I have spoken with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and every effort is being made to identify the cause of this problem.
''I'd like to thank everyone involved in helping the seabirds affected and it's thanks to their efforts that many have been cleaned up and now have a chance of survival.''

8:58pm

The Enironment Agency says that the substance is a ''refined mineral-based oil mixture''.

But there is no suggestion yet where it has come from.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: ''The results show that it is a refined mineral-based oil mixture, but not from an animal or vegetable-based oil, which rules out palm oil.''

5:44pm

Check the Dorset Echo website in the morning for the latest on the incident.

5:31pm

Our photographer has been on Chesil Cove most of the day. This poor bird is the victim of the mystery slick

Dorset Echo:

4:55pm

Dorset Wildlife Trust have announced the latest number of birds affected - 200 dead and 162 alive and rescued.

4:50pm

Send us your pictures and videos of the birds - email newsdesk@dorsetecho.co.uk tweet @dorsetecho or search Dorset Echo on Facebook.

3:48pm

The birds are being reported all along the Jurassic Coast.
 

3:37pm

The Pavilion are accepting towels to be taken to RSPCA West Hatch in Taunton where the birds are being treated.
 
The message from the experts is still for members of the public not to get involved in the rescue and to keep pets away from the birds.
 
To report an animal or bird in distress, call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.
 

3:06pm

2:49pm

Lots of people are taking to Twitter to praise the co-ordinated efforts of the RSPCA, RSPB, Dorset Wildlife Trust and others as they work to rescue hundreds of seabirds on the Dorset coast.

Use the hashtag #seabirdrescue or #birdrescue to have your say, or post your comments below.

2:47pm

2:37pm

Here's a video of a poor bird struggling by Martin Cade at the Portland Bird Observatory

2:36pm

ANOTHER 25 birds have been found dead on Dorset's coast this morning as a rescue operation continues.

Five more have been rescued and taken to the RSPCA centre in West Hatch where margarine and washing up liquid are being used to clean the birds.

Martin Cade from the Portland Bird Observatory got this video of one of the birds.

The count now stands at around 200 birds dead and alive that have been found along the coastline from Kimmeridge Bay to Lyme Regis, but the figure is expected to rise even more over the weekend.

Environment Agency scientists in Nottingham are analysing the substance using chemical breakdown and forensic technology to find out what it is.

In the meantime, the public are being warned to stay away and leave the rescue operation to the experts.

West Dorset RSPCA branch president Geoff Matthews said he expects to see even more guillemots and razorbills come ashore over the weekend and that it is 'crucial' that the substance is identified and the source found.

He said: "There are now a number of agencies involved, and people are working to find out what it is.
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"In the past when things like this have happened only ten per cent of birds affected actually make it to shore, so considering the numbers that have already been rescued, a verty large number of birds will be involved in this.

"I urge members of the public to leave this operation to the experts. A number of beaches where birds have been spotted are quite inaccessible, and they are already distressed."

Anyone who spots an injured bird or animal should report it to the RSPCA by calling 0300 1234 999.

The rescue operation was launched after more than 100 seabirds appeared on Dorset beaches covered in a mystery substance.

Wildlife officers and wardens from the RSPCA, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Portland Bird Observatory took the birds - a group of guillemots and razorbills - into care, which were found from Portland to Lyme Regis.

Concerned members of the public raised the alarm and the worst affected birds were taken to the RSPCA centre at West Hatch in Somerset where two had to be put down.

Members of the public are being warned not to handle the birds until the substance is identified.

A spokesman for Dorset County Council said: “While the substance is being identified, agencies are urging people to avoid coming into contact with the birds and to keep pets away from the shoreline.”

Martin Cade, of the Portland Bird Observatory, said: “A lot of them are absolutely plastered in the stuff, it's like a sticky, glue-like substance.

“Some of them were well enough to waddle away when we approached, but others were sitting looking very sorry for themselves, so we collected them up and handed them over to the RSPCA.”

Most of the birds were found around Portland and Chesil Beach, with others spotted along the coast as far as Lyme Regis.

A spokeswoman for Dorset Wildlife Trust warned the public to leave the rescue operation to the experts.

She said: “We are doing what we can, but we don't know what this substance is, so it is best left to the experts who are wearing gloves.

“It is a very worrying and distressing thing to happen. This type of bird, known as auks, is struggling with their population anyway, so we don't need this kind of problem.”

Margarine is being used to absorb the substance, which is reported to have caused lesions where it has come into contact with the birds' skin.

The birds dive for food, which Martin believes may be how the group came across the substance.

He said: “You see them out on the water fishing or swimming about, and they must have got into a slick of something, perhaps from a ship.

“It must have covered quite an area.”

He added: “They can't fly because they are covered in it, so they all come ashore to sit on the beaches.”

Wildlife assistant Paul Kennedy, who works at the West Hatch centre, said: “We had about 35 brought in on Wednesday and then about 80 more on Thursday.

“One or two sadly had to be put to sleep, because they had severe injuries, probably from bashing against rocks as they came ashore.”

He added: “We have been using margarine as a solvent, which seems to be working, and then washing them as normal.

“They look like they have had a pretty rough time, and where it has come into contact with their skin, it seems to have pulled off the surface layer.

“Hopefully we will not see the problems we have had in the past where it has affected their internal organs.”

2:35pm

Here's RSPCA Inspector John Pollard with dead birds

Dorset Echo:

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