Some 220 Manx shearwaters were rescued in West Wales by RSPCA Cymru last week, following stormy weather conditions – and the public are being urged to be on the look-out for more.
The new figure follows an initial rescue operation on Newgale beach, where some 144 of the seabirds were saved following a mass landing.
Rescue efforts continued – with a further 50 seabirds rescued from Pembrokeshire’s Druidstone beach, in addition to many more on Tenby’s beaches, and some found in jeopardy in-land.
Sadly, the rescues are necessitated by the struggles Manx shearwaters often face on land. They are very able in flight, or on water – but their shape means walking on land presents challenges, and they can become stranded.
The 220 Manx shearwaters were taken into RSPCA care, with the majority going to specialist wildlife facilities for rehabilitation at the RSPCA’s West Hatch Wildlife Centre in Somerset.
Fortunately, following rehabilitation, the seabirds have started to be returned safe and well to the wild – from where they can continue their migration flight to South America.
Sadly, the condition on some of the seabirds meant they had to be put to sleep on welfare grounds; but the clear majority will be returned safely to the wild in the near future – demonstrating the “vital nature” of the RSPCA’s recent rescue operation.
RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said: “This was a major rescue operation, with many RSPCA officers working in challenging conditions to rescue so many troubled Manx shearwaters.
“Some 220 of the birds were rescued in total in West Wales – with over 140 found at Newgale, and many others rescued from Druidstone beach, and beaches in Tenby.
“Thankfully, the rescue has proven a success – with the birds, after rehabilitation, starting to be returned to the wild – ahead of migration to South America.
“All birds released will have rings attached, so vital information can be gained on a bird should they be found again in the future.
“Sadly, some of the Manx shearwater transferred to our specialist facilities didn’t make it. However, a big majority of them are expected to be released, safe and well, which just highlights the vital nature of the RSPCA’s work here, along with the many volunteers and others agencies who kindly supported our efforts.”
Large populations of Manx shearwaters are based in West Wales and, at this time of year, regularly face problems in stormy or windy weather. Many of the birds get blown off course, while beginning their migration journey to South America.
RSPCA Cymru is reminding members of the public how they can help these birds, and what to do if they see one in need of help.
Inspector Hogben added: “Sadly, Manx shearwaters’ body shape does lead them to have difficulties on land – and many face problems after being blown off course in adverse weather conditions.
“If anyone sees one of these unique seabirds in distress, they should contact our 24-hour Emergency Line on 0300 1234 999. Manx shearwaters possess a distinctive sharp beak, which the public should be wary of.”
The influx of birds – and likelihood of more to follow – has led to West Hatch Wildlife Centre appealing to the public for towels and donations to pay for fresh fish to help feed the birds. Rescues of the birds have also recently been completed in Devon and Cornwall.
Dr Bel Deering, centre manager, said: “People have always been really generous when we make our appeals, and we hope they will help us again.
“We are in desperate need of small hand towels and donations to help with the cost of feeding them.
“Their initial care include four tube feeds a day of home-made fish soup so we are having to buy in a huge amount of fish to feed all of these birds. With such huge numbers of Manx shearwaters coming into care recently we are also struggling with keeping up the laundry and would appreciate any donations.”
Anyone who can help donate towards covering the cost of feeding the birds can do so through RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre’s dedicated Manx shearwater fundraising page.
Should you wish to help the RSPCA, you can also give £3 now by texting LOVE to 87023 (text costs £3 + one standard network rate message). We are a charity and rely on public donations.