Thursday, 13 June 2013

No more beer shag


I am very sad to announce that it would seem that "beer shag"  has passed away or at least has disappeared which usually means passed away. After much searching his usual haunts it seems that he didn't survive the winter.
Beer shag, for those who have recently found the blog, was a shag that came to our attention because he an old bird that got tangled in one of the plastic loops that holds beer cans together.  Luckily he was caught and released but his demise, perhaps helped by his new name appeared in a number of media outlets, some best not to mention. He was easy to follow becuase of his distinctive ring yellow YY.
Subsequently we followed his fairly unsuccessful progress as a breeding bird from 1995 he was ringed as a chick through the Isle of May shag data base. It took him a while to get the hang of the breeding business and it was only in 2006 at the age of 11 that he finally produced fledged chicks, 3 of them. After that he had success in 2008 (2 chicks fledged), 2009 (2 chicks), 2010 (2 chicks), and 2011 (3 chicks) and 2012 (3 chicks). But the database also tells us the sad fact that of the 12 chicks that he has produced and sent out into the world over his 18 years, none have come back to breed at the Isle of May. This doesn't mean to say that one or two might not have moved to other islands but it seems likely that most have perished perhaps illustrating just how hard a life being a shag is.
And now the beer shag himself has perished along with a large number of other shags last winter . The stormy conditions especially big easterly storms affect the birds as the turbulent water makes it difficult for them to feed and if it persists they end up starving. The researchers are working hard to check all of the shag breeding sites on the island but it is looking like the Isle of May shag population is down by as much as 50-60%. Given good winters and successful breeding seasons numbers can recover but to have only 2-300 pairs nesting on the island compared to 20 years ago when there were 1200 pairs seems a sad state of affairs and the island seems somehow less for the absence of these beautiful birds.

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