Many dead birds have been washing up on the beaches in Tlell in the past few weeks, writes Margo Hearne. The first call came from Cacelia Honisch about two weeks ago, then Margaret Condrotte told us she was finding dead birds on her daily walks.
We went to check them out and found over a dozen Cassin’s Auklets, a Fork-tailed Storm-petrel and a Northern Fulmar in a very short stretch of beach. There seemed no obvious reason for their demise. Some looked in very good condition, others were injured, either from the force of the storms breaking them against the high beach or being predated upon.
It was very sad. Only a short while ago we had seen any number of live, healthy birds in Hecate Strait during the Christmas Bird Count but clearly months of gale force, storm force and hurricane force winds in Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance and Queen Charlotte Strait are taking a toll. Their feed is being blown away, and the heavy seas are simply wearing them down. None of the birds we found showed any sign of oiling or other pollution.
Very few birds die of old age, but they do die of starvation and exhaustion. Scientific plans are afoot to try and discern the reason for this mortality, but there is no doubt that weeks of relentless winds and heavy seas are a contributing factor. We could call it natural mortality, but if we factor in the possibility of future die-offs from offshore oil and gas or a wind factory in Hecate Strait then all marine birds really are in trouble.
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