Sticken Seabirds Washed Ashore

15 April 2013, 17:22 | Updated: 15 April 2013, 17:29

Hundreds of dead and distressed birds have been found washed up along the south west of England's coastline.

Animal charities said the birds - mostly guillemots but also a smaller number of razorbills and puffins - have been found covered in a sticky, oily substance on beaches across Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. 

The Devon Wildlife Trust said that the proportion of dead birds among those washed up has increased, with hundreds of stricken seabirds found on beaches around Looe over the weekend. 

Cat Andrews, a warden at the Wembury Marine Centre, near Plymouth, said on Monday: 

"We were expecting to find only dead birds now, after seeing so many on the beach yesterday. But this morning, someone has brought a live guillemot into the centre. It's so distressing to see a living creature in such a terrible state, especially as there are no facilities here to ease its suffering.'' 

Around 30 dead birds were found at Wembury on Monday morning, including one puffin. The current pollution appears to be the same type of chemical as that which affected more than 300 birds earlier this year along a 200-mile stretch of coastline. 

Staff at the RSPCA's West Hatch centre in Taunton first tried to clean the birds with normal soapy water, which was not successful in removing the sticky substance. Wildlife assistants had more success when they cleaned them with margarine. 

Experts at Plymouth University found the mystery substance was almost certain to be polyisobutene, an oil additive known as PIB which has a chemical mixture ranging from oils to solids. But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it had been unable to trace the source of the spill.