Oiled Guillemot - Living Guillemot, Uria aalge, stranded on Spaniard Rocks, flightless with oil on its feathers, Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales, 13th December 2012.

This poor bird was stranded flightless on Spaniard Rocks at Rhossili Bay one very cold and windy day last week. It was unable to fly because of oil on its feathers – which it was frantically trying to preen off. It is a Guillemot showing the characteristic winter head plumage pattern with a dark line running back from the outer corner of the eye.

It wasn’t possible to rescue it. The tide was rising fast and the location was very far from any source of help. Trying to capture and carry it would have been too hazardous – its beak was like a dagger. Only recently someone tried to rescue a bird here in similar circumstances. They had the bird wrapped up safely and got as far as the car when the bird panicked, the guy lost his grip, and then lost his eye as the bird attacked him. Warning enough.

Strangely enough, there was no sign of any oil on the beach. I had been walking up and down it for a total of eighteen hours over three consecutive days and saw not the slightest trace. So it is a mystery as to where the bird had become contaminated. Some small illegal discharge from shipping far out at sea, perhaps, that later became rapidly dispersed or sank in the rough water.


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