BBC News

Hundreds of seabirds washed ashore in South West

image captionAnimal charities are caring from some of the hundreds of guillemots, razorbills and puffins that have washed up in Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in the past week

Hundreds of seabirds - some dead and others covered in oil - have been washed ashore in south-west England.

The RSPB believes most of the deaths were a "sad but natural occurrence" after the recent stormy weather.

In Devon, about 40 puffins, guillemots and razorbills were found at Thurlstone, while others have been reported from Hampshire to Cornwall.

Some of the "pitiful" oiled birds are being cared for at the South Devon Seabird Trust in Teignmouth.

The trust's founder, Jean Bradford, told BBC News: "It's a catastrophe and I think with everything else that's going on with people, the birds and other animals have been overlooked a little bit."

Mrs Bradford said the oiled and storm-blown birds that had been rescued were in a "pitiful state".

"Even if these birds get to shore, very often it's the case that they're washed back out to sea by the enormous waves that are coming in.

"By the time they reach another beach, perhaps at low tide, many of them are too ill to be saved."

A number of birds were rescued from Chesil Beach in Dorset earlier in the week and taken to the RSPCA West Hatch animal centre in Taunton.

image copyrightPAUL EDMUNDSON
image captionThe south and south-west of England has been battered by several storms this year

Both the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Environment Agency said there had been no reports of major pollution incidents, leading the RSPB to conclude the storms that have battered the South West were responsible.

"On Thursday we had reports of 137 birds - some of them oiled - and although any number is regrettable, it's not completely unexpected," RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead said.

"We think what's happening is a sad, but naturally occurring event, off the back of really bad weather.

"The birds become exhausted, they're tossed up and down by giant waves and sometimes they get covered in oil."

The RSPB said anyone finding beached seabirds should not attempt to rescue them, but should contact the RSPCA.

Last year wildlife charities in south and south-west England dealt with thousands of seabirds affected by a spill of polyisobutene (PIB) - a chemical used as a lubricant in ships' engines.

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