Westerly winds could wash more oiled birds to shore
A change in wind direction could have killed thousands more birds after scores were found washed ashore along the Westcountry coast covered in an oily substance.
Experts believe many birds could have been blown out to sea with winds coming from the north in an off-shore direction on Saturday, leading to yet more fatalities as they become cold and exhausted.
But winds coming now from the south and west could bring even more dead birds ashore in the days ahead.
Hundreds of seabirds have died and thousands more have been washed up between West Sussex and Cornwall after being covered in the mystery sticky substance, identified as a refined mineral oil.
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Emma Rance, marine conservation officer for the Dorset Wildlife Trust, said that Saturday’s northerly wind had limited the num-bers of birds being washed ashore.
In recent days wildlife experts and volunteers have raced to the shoreline to save as many birds as possible.
More than 250 birds, mostly guillemots and about 17 razorbills, are now being treated at the RSPCA West Hatch centre near TauntonPeter Venn, manager of the centre, said: “It is still early days and hard to say how the birds will survive in the long-term.
“We don’t know what this substance is or what it might be doing to the birds, but we can say the margarine does seem to remove it and we are doing all we possibly can to give them the best chance we can of survival.”
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, Devon and Cornwall.
West Hatch staff first tried to clean the birds with normal soapy water, which was not successful in removing the sticky substance.
Wildlife assistants then had more success removing it after they cleaned them with Stork margarine.
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.
One expert said the oil could have been discharged into the sea accidentally or deliberately from a ship.
Experts say that if those
responsible for the spill are identified they could be prosecuted.