[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Birds enjoy a feast as fish fate is sealed


Oxwich Bay, UK - Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts have been enjoying the spectacle at Oxwich Bay, which has been going on since December.

"Where have all the David Attenboroughs of the marine biology department of Swansea University been for the past few weeks?" said Post reader Liz Eales, of Gowerton.

"A huge shoal of sprats has been present in Oxwich Bay surrounded by about a dozen seals, which periodically pop their heads out of the water.

"The seals are preventing the shoal escaping, and a myriad of seabirds — gannet, kittiwakes, cormorants and seagulls — have been present feasting continuously. What a remarkable sight!"

Penrice community councillor Mark Williams said he was told by birdwatchers that the action began on December 15.

Jeremy Douglas-Jones, secretary of the Gower Ornithological Society, said: "It seems extraordinary that the fish are there, waiting to be eaten."

He said he had seen razorbills and more than 12 gannets, which normally don't come inshore at this time of year, plus different gull species.

Mrs Eales added that a zoologist and fisherman she had spoken to at Oxwich said the fish were sprat, with others such as codling also present.

She wondered if stormy weather or an algae bloom had attracted them.

Stormy weather was a likely reason, said marine biologist Judith Oakley.

She said sprat were silver or grey, had a forked tail, and grew up to 16cms.

The ones at Oxwich Bay were likely to be juvenile sprat as older ones tended to remain further out to sea.

"On a daily basis they migrate up and down the water column," said Mrs Oakley, of Oakley Intertidal. "At dusk they move closer to the surface.

"They are really important prey for species like cod, hake, whiting, pollack and diving seabirds."

She added: "It has been a brilliant wildlife spectacle for everyone."

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