I was walking home last week clutching my box of lovely crunchy granola when I came upon a Manx Shearwater sitting/waddling around the town. ‘Damn’ I thought ‘I have to save it’. I pushed the cereal under my arm and gathered up the struggling bird and dodging it’s sharp beak began walking towards the RSPB refuge for stranded Shearwaters in Tenby, located in a basement in St Julian’s Terrace run by Julie Scholfield. Her porch was pitch black, so with difficulty I located my torch and the hutches for lost birds, which were full of other birds found around the town, and deposited my charge with his friends and relatives.
On my return journey I got approximately 20 yds closer to home when I found Manx Shearwater number two. Doh! I scooped it up and began the repeat operation…
Just 10 yards from home I found Shearwater number three. My cereal box with granola clusters is now just a flat piece of cardboard with crumbs in it.
I attracted a small dog which followed me and who then decided he was lost and had to be rescued also…Nursing my now pecked and bleeding hand I returned home to examine my ex granola.
Why here? What is attracting Shearwaters to Tenby? Well it seems they are about to leave the safety of Skomer and West wales for their 7,000 mile journey to South America for the duration of our winter. They navigate by the stars and by all accounts juvenile birds are confused by light pollution and often end up in well-illuminated towns around the world.
These beautiful birds, that look like they have been upholstered in black and white velvet and being very prone to predators are nocturnal. Their biggest enemies being traffic, dogs, cats and gulls, especially Black backed gulls, which are apparently capable of eating a Chihuahua!! (see my previous blog!!)
They are effectively ‘sitting ducks’ since their physiology means they cannot walk. They live in their burrows, on the sea and on the wing ‘shearing’ above the waves. To be rescued they need a period of recovery and then to be launched to freedom at dusk by an experienced Shearwater handler. If you find one (bird, not handler) please contact The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales Conservation Manager, Lizzie Wilberforce 07970 780553.