Chris Sperring explores declining seabird numbers and asks if it represents a crisis or just a blip.
Visit any windy, spray laden seabird colony in the spring and early summer and every sense is fired by the sound, sight and smell of thousands upon thousand of birds flying to and fro with fish to feed their young that are perched precariously on every ledge.
Or that is how it should be. In many seabird colonies it is now much quieter and many traditional nesting ledges are empty. Seabird ecologists are increasingly concerned about how many species are fledging young, and in some areas none are successful in raising chicks at all.
These worrying signs are increased by looking at the number of birds that are washed up dead on beaches during the winter months. Once the seabirds have left the cliffs in the summer they spend the rest of the year out at sea. But many are now succumbing to starvation and end up washed ashore. There are definitely signs that the North Sea is changing and that seabirds are finding it harder to cope.