The occurrence of Little Auks Alle alle off the east coast of Britain
Sula , Volume 10 - Issue 5 p. 239- 246
Widely distributed in the northern North Sea in winter, the Little Auk Alle alle is nevertheless a relatively scarce visitor to the eastern seaboard of Britain. After the post-breeding moult, the species becomes comparatively common in the western and north-eastern North Sea, including the Skagerrak (Cramp 1985, Harbard 1986, Stone et al. 1995, Skov et al. 1995, Camphuysen & Leopold 1996). Approximately 100 000 birds winter over the Dogger Bank and the Barmade Bank-Silver Pit region (Skov et al. 1995; figure 1), and it is likely that sightings from the east coast of Britain are mainly of these birds. The number of Little Auks recorded off the east of Britain varies annually, depending on observer effort and also the weather. In extreme weather conditions at sea, large movements (’flights’) involving thousands of birds and also wrecks involving many hundreds may occur. For example, in February-March 1983 over 1200 Little Auks were recovered dead from east coast beaches (Underwood & Stowe 1984). Little Auks can be (and frequently are) blown inland during such strong onshore winds. The most recent large-scale movement of Little Auks off eastern Britain occurred in the winter of 1995/96. This paper summarises what is known of movements in that winter and places it in the context of other winters since 1988/89.
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