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Oiled But Not Foiled

Guillemot 899 ? This is Your Life!

In the March issue of BTO News, the British Trust for Ornithology`s Membership magazine, we report on the happy case of Guillemot Orange 899. This bird was ringed as a chick in 1992 on the Isle of May (Firth of Forth), with a BTO ring and an orange colour-ring, number 899. Found in 2000, starving and oiled at Brighton, it was taken into care, cleaned and fed. On release it disappeared, and many believed it had died - as many oiled birds do. Amazingly it reappeared - happy, healthy and with a chick - back on the Isle of May in June 2003.Mike Harris, Sarah Wanless [from Centre for Ecology and Hydrology - CEH], and Richard Thompson [RSPCA] tell the story of a lucky Guillemot and show the value of individually marking birds, so that we can follow their lives and find out how effective cleaning oiled birds can be. Ringed as a chick in 1992, with a standard BTO metal ring and also a numbered colour-ring (to enable the bird to be identified from a distance without the need to capture it); it first reappeared on the scene in 1997, back near its birth site. In 1998 it was seen again at the same site, and in 1999 made its first breeding attempt at the age of seven.

Then it vanished until it was picked up at Brighton on 11 Feb 2000, heavily oiled, and weighing about half of its normal weight. It was taken into care at Mallydams Wood RSPCA centre and fed regularly. After three days it was given a pre-wash to remove most of the oil. By 15 March it had been washed again and was gaining weight (830g, but still below the ideal of 1kg) and was transferred to a sea-cagePortland, before release on 6 April, almost two months after capture. (The sea-cage is a newly developed rehabilitation enclosure for oiled seabirds).Orange 899 then vanished again, and many believed that he had finally succumbed, as a high number of oiled birds had previously been know to do - previous work by Chris Wernham of the BTO suggests that less than one per-cent of oiled Guillemots survive for one year after cleaning and release. It is hoped that new cleaning and rehabilitation techniques are giving these birds a better chance. However, much to everyone`s surprise, the bird reappeared, back at the Isle of May on June 2003, with a healthy chick.

The RSPCA now plan to colour-ring, as well as ring, all rehabilitated Guillemots prior to their release so that they can monitor their new cleaning and release techniques more effectively. They hope that birdwatchers around the country can help by keeping a look-out for other lucky birds.

If you find a ringed bird, of any kind, please report the ring number, the type of bird (if known) and the finding details (alive or dead, cause of death, date and location) to the Ringing Unit ringing@bto.org. For further information please contact: Su Gough on 01842 750050 or e-mail su.gough@bto.org during office hours, or Mark Grantham on 01842 750050 or e-mail: mark.grantham@bto.org during office hours

4th July 2014