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Fall in bird numbers is ‘alarming’

A starling in Blackheath in south-east London. Credit: Johnny Green/PA Archive/Press Association Images

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.”

Best-loved bird species continue to decline

A pair of juvenile Royal Starlings at Chester Zoo Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Some of the UK’s most threatened and best-loved bird species are continuing to decline, according to results from the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey, released today.

Starlings hit an all-time low in the RSPB's survey last year and their numbers sunk by a further 16% in gardens this year.

Numbers of house sparrows dropped by 17% in gardens compared to 2012, while bullfinches and dunnocks fell by 20% and 13% respectively.

A starling in a garden in Bottesford, Nottinghamshire. Credit: Tim Goode/PA Wire/Press Association Images


RSPCA treats guillemots covered in sticky substance

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.

A guillemot is rinsed thoroughly after being washed in washing up liquid and margerine. Credit: PA

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.

A Guillemot at an RSPCA centre near Taunton is covered with margarine to help break down the sticky substance found on the birds. Credit: PA
Electrolyte fluid is used to rehydrate a guillemot. Credit: PA

'White, odourless and globular' substance stuck to birds

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.

– John Pollockwho, RSPCA deputy Chief inspector

More tests to track down source of oil spill

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.

– Tony Whitehead, RSPB

More sea birds 'could die' from pollution spill

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.

One of approximately 100 seabirds which were washed up on the south coast covered in a sticky white substance Credit: PA Wire

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.


Seabirds die in oily pollution, warns expert

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

'Glue-like' substance removed from seabirds

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:

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