Sea and Land

Orkney seabirds and SPAs

Written by Bernie Bell

The magazine of the RSPB was dropped onto our doormat, and in it I read a short item entitled ‘Orkney seabird havens finally protected.’  The article explains that in late 2020 the Scottish Government created 12 marine Special Protection Areas in the waters around Scotland. Surprisingly, North Orkney and Scapa Flow weren’t included. The RSPB called on the Scottish Government to protect these areas, and in the spring of this year the necessary SPAs were announced.

This protection should mean that any future development or activity in these areas must consider the potential impact on sea birds and not cause them harm.

Breeding seabird numbers have declined by 49% since the mid-1980s, and the way that climate change is going doesn’t bode well for many forms of life on this planet. The SPAs will help to shield the life in these areas and at least give them a chance to face the future.

Avian flu

Orkney is still fortunate in its numerous seabirds, though recently there have been many disturbing instances of dead birds being found on Orkney beaches due to Avian Flu. On a number of walks we’ve seen dead Gannets, and a couple of times Puffins. For some reason seeing a dead Puffin was particularly distressing, as alive they are such cheery, jolly little characters. 

Here’s the RSPB advice for if you come across dead birds

“Dead Birds – DO NOT TOUCH THEM due to risk of them having avian influenza – REPORT TO DEFRA on 0300 200 7840. For more info see Please do still notify us of any potential cases as well so we can alert our staff in your areas.”

A new challenge

Avian Flu presents yet another challenge to birdlife and the RSPB is one of a number of organizations dedicated to helping the birds of the world to survive in, and through, these times.

The birds may need to adapt – move their territories etc. and, as with many aspects of life today, it’s hard to see what’s ahead. Any protection or support for wildlife … helps. In celebration of the new SPAs, I thought I’d present a few photos of the seabirds of Orkney ….

This article previously appeared in Bernie’s Blog.

About the author

Bernie Bell

Bernie Bell lives in Orkney, is interested in everything – wonders about many things – is confused by many things. “It makes life interesting – or should I say even more interesting.”