The conservation director of the RSPB has warned that the “alarming” decline of bird species in the UK is continuing.
Martin Harper, commenting on the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey, said: “We know from the many people who take part in Big Garden Birdwatch every year that garden birds are incredibly precious to us and connect us to nature every day.
“But several of our familiar and best-loved species have been declining at alarming rates over the 34 years that the RSPB has been running the Birdwatch and this year's results show a continuing decline.”
It could be days before the true scale of the pollution spill affecting sea birds on the south coast of England is known, wildlife experts have said.
Conservationists believe many birds covered in a mystery sticky substance could have been blown out to sea by prevailing winds - leading to yet more fatalities as they are unable to feed and become cold and exhausted.
The RSPCA says 236 guillemots, 17 razor bills and a single herring gull are being treated at West Hatch. The society said the vast majority of the sea birds were rescued from Chesil Beach in Dorset but others have come from the Isle of Wight and Cornwall:
We just do not know what this substance is. It is white, odourless and globular, like a silicone sealer. The best way I can think to describe it is 'sticky Vaseline'. The numbers of the birds coming in have been growing and sadly there were quite a few dead birds this morning. We are still down at the beach though collecting and trying to save as many of them as we can. We are expecting this rescue mission to continue through the weekend.
It's a refined mineral oil, which is a colourless and odourless substance, and it's related to petroleum jelly. We don't know where it came from and we need to do a lot more testing on this substance to try and track it back to its source. There are people speculating it could be from a ship, that's possible but we just don't know yet. We need to look at what happened and if appropriate take legal action and also, frankly, shame the people.
More sea birds could die from a pollution spill that has contaminated England's south coast, wildlife experts say. A change in wind direction is now blowing many birds out to sea and could lead to more fatalities in the coming days as they become cold and exhausted.
Scientists from the Environment Agency identified the mystery substance as a refined mineral oil, but not from an animal or vegetable-based oil and ruled out palm oil.
An illegal dumping of cargo oil at sea could have caused the deaths of hundreds of sea birds along England's south coast, an expert said.
Thousands of birds have been washed to shore along coastline that stretches from West Sussex to Cornwall after being covered in a sticky, oily substance.
Wildlife experts and volunteers raced to the shoreline to save as many birds as possible, and hundreds - mostly guillemots - are now being treated at RSPCA centres.
Scientists from the Environment Agency identified the mystery substance as a refined mineral oil, but not from an animal or vegetable-based oil.
Some kind of accident such as a leaky gearbox or a broken pipe is the most likely cause of a mineral oil spill, but it is unusual that it would cause this much havoc.
So that makes one think it could be an illegal dump of cargo oil - oil that is being transported rather than used in the working of the ship.
This could happen if there was illegal washing out of tanks at sea. Some unscrupulous operators, and they are rare, flush the tanks out there because it is cheaper and easier than doing it in dock. It is illegal and quite harmful.
– Dr Simon Boxall, an oceanographer at the University of Southampton
Workers are racing against time to remove a glue-like material trapped to the feathers of hundreds of birds washed up on the south west coast. Hundreds of washed up birds have died, as a result of the mystery substance, according to the RSCPA.
An investigation is underway along 200 miles of coastline. ITV News Reporter Richard Lawrence reports from an RSPCA centre near Taunton: