Retrieved, Restored, Released

The NEWS for 2013 was dominated by an incident concerning hundreds of sea birds which were caught up in an illegal/accidental dumping of a sticky substance which was eventually identified as Polyisobutelene.

NO PROSECUTIONS were brought regarding this incident as The Maritime and Coastguard Agency was unable to discover the polluter.

Therefore, the victims (hundreds of seabirds) did not have justice, and the polluter went unpunished.


On the 29th of January the first 'sticky' bird (guillemot) arrived.   It was found at Coryton Cove, Dawlish, Devon and rescued by a kindly dog walker.

Soon after that many more auks, mostly guillemots were retrieved from beaches all along the south coast of England.

 It took a while for the substance to be identified. Until we knew what it was we were advising would-be rescuers to wear protective clothing.

   A feather sample was given to the Environment Agency for laboratory analysis.

By the 9th February all the birds had a wash, but the sticky substance (now identified at POLYISOBUTENE) refused to move completely.

During the washing process we were able to scrape the stuff from the birds' tails with our finger nails.    The tails of some of the birds were like beaver tails.   Also some birds had so much on their wings that they stuck to their bodies.

Most of the birds are in breeding plumage, so would be heading towards their colonies.  The birds pictured have had a wash but will require further treatment. 

They were washed just 3 at a time, the first 3 are pictured standing in front of the fan heater in the drying cage, they are feeling a little better after some of the stuff was removed.

News as at 20th February

Some of the guillemots were progressing well by the 20th of February, and those were released 2 weeks later. Others had to wait longer and endure extra washing.  Guillemots pictured below.

And there was even time to play - pictured below - guillemot with fish in its beak that it has been carrying around for a while whilst enticing others to chase it.

MARCH 1ST 2013

Pictured some guillemots which were included in the first batch for release.


 Unfortunately a second wave of birds coated with polyisobutene started to arrive on the 9th of April. 

The first disaster brought birds mainly onto the Dorset coast, the second time Cornwall took the brunt.    The first guillemot admitted to the Trust this came from Seaton beach in Cornwall.   We hoped it was a one-off, but approximately 400 were reported washed up dead on beaches of south east Cornwall, plus another 100 or so that were picked up alive.

To say this was heart breaking is an understatement.   The last batch of our birds from the previous incident were only released on the 5th of April.    We could only hope that, because they were released off the south Devon coast, they may have kept clear of this awful second wave of mindless vandalism.   If this happened on land all hell would break loose, but no one seems to care about what happens at sea!

Hopefully steps will be taken to stop anything like this in the future.  We need clean seas for all our sea creatures and mankind also.