English south coast experiences Leach's Storm Petrel influx


Early November's arrival of Storm Ciarán produced a major influx of Leach's Storm Petrels into the Channel, with unprecedented numbers reported in some counties and birds taken into care in the Channel Islands.

The storm, which struck on Thursday 2 November and produced winds of up to 160 kph in the Channel Islands, displaced hundreds of storm petrels from North Atlantic feeding grounds. As a result, the species was recorded in unusually high numbers along the south coast of England, especially in the South-East, where it is a rare bird.

Hundreds of Leach's Storm Petrels were seen off the south coast of England following Storm Ciarán's arrival on 2 November (Lee Fuller).

Sussex enjoyed the most phenomenal numbers on 2nd, with a few watchpoints scoring triple-figure tallies of birds heading east, including at least 110 past Splash Point and 112 past nearby Birling Gap – both smashing previous country records. At Selsey Bill, where there were only five previous records of Leach's Storm Petrel with the last occurring in 2012, 35 were logged. On the same day, 105 were recorded past Dungeness, Kent.

Calmer weather on 3rd saw the number of reports diminish, but more inclement conditions on 4th produced many more records, from Dorset to Kent, including some 56 past Chesil Cove, Dorset – a particularly notable haul for the county. The wind had switched to the south-east by 4th, resulting in birds reorienting back along the south coast.

A map of BirdGuides reports of Leach's Storm Petrels in southern England from 2-4 November 2023.

The Channel Islands endured the worst of Storm Ciarán and some Leach's Storm Petrels were found exhausted inland. The Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) said multiple individuals were found, including in gardens.

Jenna Baker, from the charity, said: "They are very difficult to provide care for in a rehab situation. They eat plankton, very small fish and crustaceans – that's very hard for us to mimic."

Large numbers of Leach's Storm Petrels were also found wrecked in north-west France in the wake of the storm. This included an incredible 75 at Lac de Grand-Lieu near Nantes, with European Storm PetrelGrey Phalarope, Sabine's Gull and Arctic and Long-tailed Skuas also seen there.

One of the Leach's Storm Petrels that was taken into care in Jersey (JSPCA).