It was too windy for ringing this morning and I was out birding when I heard the news via Jean. She’d stopped for a word when she saw me counting the 300 strong Linnet flock.
“The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed avian flu (H5N8) in a flock of farmed breeding Pheasants at Pilling, 14 miles from Preston in Lancashire. A 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone have been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading. The flock is estimated to contain approximately 10,000 birds. A number have died and the remaining live birds at the premises are being humanely culled to stop infection spreading.
A full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection. Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.”
I knew this could only be Hi-Fly at Pilling where Pheasants, Red-legged Partridge, and Mallards are bred in huge numbers for release by the shooting industry. Many of their bird are kept in open cages where they inevitably come into contact with wild birds like gulls, doves and pigeons on the lookout for spilt food.
Outbreaks of this latest strain of the disease began in European Countries in late 2016 and then spread via wild migratory birds moving from the Baltic into NW Europe and the UK and then coming into contact with captive birds in outdoor situations.
So then I switched on my phone, and there was the email from the BTO and our Linnet site bang in the blue zone.
A further outbreak of Avian influenza H5N8 was confirmed near Fleetwood, Lancashire and a 3 km Protection Zone and a 10 km Surveillance Zone has been declared. Please see the map. I am emailing you as you are based relatively locally and to inform you of the temporary ringing suspension. Effective immediately, as a precaution, the following measures apply: All ringing is suspended within the 10 km surveillance zone (yellow area) as outlined on the map until further notice. Ringing elsewhere in Britain & Ireland is not affected at this time (with the exception of any other Avian influenza Surveillance Zone suspensions).
Ringers are reminded to follow basic precautions to reduce the spread of disease - see the BTO website for details.”
Hi Fly is just a couple of miles from our Linnet ringing site at Gulf Lane, Pilling, so there will be no ringing there or anywhere else for a number of weeks.
Not good news, but I was out for some birding so I carried on up to Cockerham and Braides Farm.
Gulls, Lapwings, Curlews and Starlings dominated the flooded field with several hundred of each, plus a couple of dozen Wigeon, 2 Shoveler, several Teal, and 2 Buzzards along the sea wall.
I checked out Conder Green to see 170 Teal, 30 Wigeon,30 Redshank, 12 Shelduck, 3 Little Grebe , 1 Spotted Redshank and 1 Grey Heron. Two Oystercatchers were back on the pool after an absence of some months. Although it is only late January they are back with a purpose and will waste no time in setting up a breeding territory on this prime site.
Redshank and Spotted Redshank
I drove to Cockersands which for an hour or more proved a little disappointing except for a really good mix of small birds along the shore and in the paddock; 3 Reed Bunting, 15 Linnet, 4 Goldfinch, 8 Greenfinch, 4 Tree Sparrow, 2 Stock Dove, 3 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing and 1 Song Thrush.
Don’t forget. “Click the pic” and make sure you don’t catch that winter flu.