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Wind, Wind, Wind!

lørdag 3. februar 2024
af James Wareing

Today I went on a survey along the beach looking for dead fulmars (Mallemuk). We are assisting Aarhus University in collecting these birds which will later be examined to see how much plastic is in their stomachs. During 2022-2023, the Skagen Bird Station collected 24 dead Fulmars. Laboratory analysis showed that 79% of them had plastic in their stomachs, and 42% in an amount that was above the limit value for so-called "good environmental condition". One of the dead individuals contained so much plastic that it is considered to be the cause of the bird's death. A whopping 17.8 grams of plastic hid in the stomach of this bird. It had probably died of starvation, as there was simply no room in the stomach for actual food.

The walk was completed in what could well be a record time (Guiness book of World Records were not here to verify this) as I was aided by a 100km/h wind behind me. Searching for dead birds was made a little more challenging by the bath tub like amounts of white foam covering the beach. Finding a white bird amongst the bubbles is a comical challenge. No fulmars were un/fortunately found.

Foam

The importance of this work is underlined when walking along the beach. It is shocking how much plastic and other waste washes up here and what makes it to the beach is just a small sample size of what must be floating in the ocean. At times though, the best way to deal with this depressing scene is to find amusement and it is astounding what variety of items washes up on the shore here. There was recently a container ship in the North Sea that lost 18 containers, of which only around half have been found. This has led to a surprising amount of new black trainers (none in my size as yet), plastic ‘floral’ wreaths (in a luminous green colour unseen in nature) and a 20kg bag of rice (unfortunately inedible).

Plastic

After a quick break for lunch, I was informed that there was an Iceland gull (Hvidvinget måge) in the harbour in Skagen. So it was on to the bike and this time heading into the 100km/h winds to see what I could find. Having never seen an Iceland gull before, and being admittedly sketchy on my long distance gull identifying skills, I was initially despondent to find a wall full of around 400 gulls. I was rather hoping to find a solitary gull holding a sign saying ‘I AM AN ICELAND GULL’….But, luck was with me and in the middle of my binoculars came a very silvery looking gull (quite unsure what the whole fuss was about). Unfortunately, it was too windy to take a photograph through my binoculars.

Mission accomplished, I headed back home, aided this time both by the wind and the adrenaline of my success.

Link to todays observations from observers in the area

People: James Wareing