Concern over number of puffins washed up dead

DOZENS of ill and dead puffins have washed up on the shores of Orkney, prompting concern for their welfare.

Vets at Flett and Carmichael, a local practice in Kirkwall, said a large number of dead birds have been found at Scapa beach and other beaches around Orkney – among them are a number of puffins.

They said the birds handed into them have been “very weak”, with some requiring rehydration fluids to help keep them alive.

The practice confirmed the deaths are being reported to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Vet Leah Hunter told the PA News Agency that research is being done into why the puffins are being found dead or barely alive around Orkney.

She said her practice is currently in touch with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, which is collecting information on the dead puffins found in north-east Scotland and now Orkney.

“At this time of year the puffins should be far out at sea in groups so the fact that they are being washed up on land means that things have sadly gone wrong for them,” Hunter said.

“But we will try to treat them as best we can and try to return them home if they survive the next few days.

“The puffins that have been presented to us have been very weak and cold.”

Earlier this year, a large number of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills, were found dead along the eastern coast of Scotland and other parts of the UK.

Hunter said the recent bout of extreme weather, including Storm Arwen which battered parts of the north-east of Scotland, could have had an impact on some of the puffins.

She added: “Research is being done into whether there is an unusual reason for this occurrence.

“We don’t have any further information as of yet.”

The Scottish Government said vessels from its Marine Scotland Directorate have collected water, plankton and fish samples from the east coast of the country to investigate the presence of potential harmful algal species that could harm seabirds.

“These samples are currently being analysed and we will report the findings in due course,” the spokesperson said.

“Further work is also ongoing to explore whether changes in prey abundance or quality are a potential factor.

“We are continuing to work closely with a range of other organisations to investigate a number of potential causes of this unusual and distressing event.

“Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people, so members of the public should not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that they find along the Scottish coastline.”