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Bird scaring

The BBC's daily climate change scare for today is this:

Disastrous season for seabirds
Scotland's seabirds are having a "disastrous" breeding season, according to RSPB Scotland. It said mid-season reports had found cliffs, where there should be thousands of birds, almost empty.

You don't need to read the report to know that it's climate change to blame.

However, if you look carefully at the related stories bit in the margin you will also see the following:

From 18 September 2006

Seabirds found starving to death
...Over-fishing and global warming are thought to have been affecting the birds' normal food supply.

From 31 August 2005 

Worst seabird season on record
Seabird colonies in Scotland have suffered one of the worst breeding seasons on record, experts have warned. Breeding has been poor in guillemot, puffin, kittiwake and razorbill colonies, particularly in the west coast reserves.

This is the first time the west has been affected and we can only speculate as to why but climate change must be considered as a factor.

 A little further digging reveals this from 28 July 2004

Experts warn over seabird numbers
Some of the most important seabird colonies in Western Europe are under threat because their main source of food seems to be disappearing.

Shetland fishermen have stopped catching [sandeels], but scientists believe climate change could be to blame for their continued decline, which is causing the birds to starve. 

Frankly it's amazing that there are any seabirds left at all, what with all the disasters befalling them in recent years. You have to wonder whether the PR department at the RSPB has a diary entry for every summer entitled "Seabird disaster (probably climate change) story".

Now of course we can't discount the possibility that there is a genuine problem with seabird numbers. With this in mind, I've taken a look at the official government numbers (yes, we have a government body responsible for counting birds) for one species which seems to have been particularly affected - the common guillemot.

The recent poor breeding success shows up clearly in their figures, but there's a bit of a mystery here. Breeding numbers are pretty stable


The graph starts at 1986. And here's another surprising thing - according to the same report in 2002, the 1987 population figure was itself up 118% on 1969.

So as far as I can tell, breeding numbers are stable, total population is way up on what it was in the past, but there's a bit of mystery about where all these birds are coming from. (Perhaps they're just hiding their eggs from all the bird counters?). And this is apparently a disaster which is yet more evidence of global warming.

Colour me unconvinced.  

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