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RSPB Search…

…for images of lost seabirds

The RSPB is calling on wildlife watchers to help build a picture of seabird declines.

Kittiwakes have declined across the UK and have been hardest hit in northern Scotland where their numbers have fallen by 86 per cent in 25 years - many colonies in places like Orkney and Shetland have virtually disappeared. Guillemots and Arctic terns have also suffered catastrophic declines in the same period.

Research indicates that one of the main reasons for these declines is a lack of sandeels to feed on, caused by a rise in the sea temperature. From the available evidence, these birds have not just moved somewhere else, rather their populations have been whittled away.

The RSPB is campaigning for Marine Protected Areas to be designated to help tackle the threat to kittiwakes, guillemots and Arctic terns, and also for governments to take the issue of climate change, and its impact on wildlife, more seriously.

Campaigners are trying to collect images of thriving seabird cliff colonies from the past in order to compare them to the same sites today.

Euan Dunn, RSPB seabird expert, said: “Seabirds like kittiwakes are on the frontline of climate change impacts. Their numbers have been in freefall for three decades now, but it has gone largely unnoticed by the outside world.

“Although we have statistics and graphs showing declines, we need to drive the point home to decision makers by showing them real images of how our once thriving seabird strongholds have slowly but surely been turning into ghost cities.

“We’re asking anyone who has been birdwatching, gone on holiday, worked or volunteered anywhere where there are kittiwake strongholds like Orkney, Shetland or elsewhere to have a look through their old photos and see if they have pictures of thriving cliff colonies from before 2000.

“When compared with photographs of the same cliffs now, we will have a really stark image of these declines which we hope will raise awareness of the seabirds’ plight, and help get them better protection. If you have some images gathering dust in a loft or sitting on a hard-drive which you think would help, then please let us know - they could make a big difference.”

Anyone who has photographs of colonies of kittiwakes, guillemots or Arctic terns before 2000 can email them to: lostseabirds@rspb.org.uk

4th July 2014