Widespread declines in birds that spend most of their lives at sea are alarming conservationists. Seven species of seaduck that overwinter in the Baltic – a key wintering site – have dropped in number by up to 65% in 15 years, without any clear explanation.
Declines have also been found around British coasts, with Long-tailed Duck, Velvet Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser among those hardest hit. In North America the trend continues with several seaduck populations significantly down, among them Black Scoters, White-winged Scoters and Surf Scoters.
“These birds just seem to have gone missing,” said Richard Hearn, Head of Species Monitoring at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and Chair of the IUCN-SSC/Wetlands International Duck Specialist Group. The scale of the declines in Europe is very surprising and largely unexpected. Most of these species remain relatively numerous but if their numbers continue to fall at these rates, some of these species could soon be in serious trouble.”
A report published in Waterbird Populations and Pressures in the Baltic Sea, shows that the number of waterbirds wintering in the Baltic fell overall by 40%, from 7.44 million to 4.41 million. The declines were revealed by two censuses, staged from 1992-3 and 2007-9. Concerns have been reinforced by monitoring elsewhere showing much smaller numbers of seaducks in important British sites such as the Moray Firth and Clyde Estuary, and in the Netherlands.
Note: Of the three British species most effected, only one, Velvet Scoter, is a description species in Glamorgan. However Long-tailed Duck is being monitored by the GRC, and now armed with this new information Red-breasted Merganser will also be added to the GRC monitoring scheme. Both the latter are uncommon winter passage migrants to Glamorgan, with the exception of LTD in 2010, both have been annual in Eastern Glamorgan since 2005.
[Information supplied by M. Hogan in Countryside Jobs Newsletter, notes by GRC]