Saturday, November 27, 2021

Double Whammy

There’s a double blow to our ringing plans this weekend. Number One is the weather with a Red weather warning of severe winds up to 70mph over northern Britain as Storm Arwen passes over in a north to south direction. Sat here in my office there’s a hoolie blowing and I’m not for going anywhere until Monday when the winds should ease. 

Wednesday saw another visit to Project Linnet where Catch of the Day was that extreme rarity - a Song Thrush. After a little levelling off in recent years the graph seems to be heading in a downward direction again via “a rapid decline in England” - BTO Bird Trends. 

For what it’s worth the decline in this part of Lancashire seems especially marked where the Song Thrush is no longer a garden bird and is one that receives barely a mention on local bird news Internet sites. Our own catches of Song Thrushes number so few that catching a Song Thrush becomes a Red Letter Day. 

Bird Trends - British Trust for Ornithology
Song Thrush 

In addition to the single Song Thrush we caught 1 Redwing, 2 “continental” Blackbirds, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Robin and added another seven Linnets to our totals. 




Just as were looked forward to better weather next week, Friday morning brought unwelcome Blow Number Two. 

“Dear Philip” 

“Avian influenza H5N1 (pathogenicity to be confirmed) has been found in a premises near Poulton le Fylde, Wyre, Lancashire. A 3km and 10km Control Zone has been put in place around the premises. Please see the map here for more information (search on SD3748). 

You are being notified as we can see you, or your ringing group, have either submitted ringing records from close to the outbreak in recent years or your postal address is within the area. 

Effective immediately, as a precaution, the following measures apply: All ringing is suspended within the 10 km Control Zone as outlined on the map until further notice. 

We will inform you by email when ringing can recommence and we will be monitoring the situation during the BTO Christmas period.” 

Avian Flu Hotspot
A couple of our local ringing sites fall into the exclusion zone, another unwanted blow to our commitment to local bird ringing, activities that monitor bird populations for the benefit of society as a whole. Project Linnet (and farmland birds) is now on hold until sometime in 2022. 

This latest episode is the third recorded outbreak of bird flu at the same Preesall/Pilling premises 

Once again in 2021 the avian virus has been found where Pheasants, Red-legged Partridge and Mallards are reared in captivity so as to be released into the countryside for shooting. This is a subject covered many times here on Another Bird Blog, in the birding press on a regular basis and in National newspapers on a number of occasions. As ever there is no interest from the UK Government or other parties to put a stop to an archaic practice that has such a devastating impact upon native species. 

The BTO Atlas of 2013 tells me that the numbers of captive-bred Pheasants released into the wild has increased fivefold since the early 1960s to around 35 million birds annually. Some 15 million Pheasant are shot annually. 

Captive Pheasant rearing

“High densities of Pheasants potentially have negative effects on native species, but these have been poorly studied. Indirect effects possibly include modification of the structure of the field layer, the spread of disease and parasites and competition for food. Recent research indicates that infection with caecal nematodes from farm-reared Pheasants may be contributing to the decline of Grey Partridge.” 

Grey Partridge

When I watch hordes of young Pheasants thundering through late summer fields and woodland edge there is no doubt in my mind that their effect on the environment is wholly negative. 

The BTO Atlas also states that there has been a 91% population decline of Grey Partridge in the UK between 1967-2010, during the Breeding Atlas of 1968-72 and the Breeding Atlas of 1988-91. 

“Local extinctions may be masked in some areas by the release of captive-bred birds onto shooting estates: about 100,000 captive-reared Grey Partridges are released in Britain each year”. The Atlas gives no figures on the number of captive-bred birds subsequently shot for sport; neither does it give any indication of how any surviving birds impact upon any truly wild Grey Partridge population. 

Given that the Grey Partridge is in any case a secretive and difficult species to study, any such investigation would by now be almost impossible to conduct. 

The problem is further complicated by the release into the same environment of Red-legged Partridge, a picture I know only too well from local farms. 

Red=legged Partridge
"As more farms diversify into shooting, the number of Red-legged Partridges released has increased and this is illustrated by the National Gamebag Census, where numbers shot quadrupled between 1990 and 2005 (Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust 2013). It is estimated that 6.5 million partridges (Grey and Red-legged) were released across the UK in 2004, and 2.6 million were shot. There has been little research on the impacts of released birds on native species, but there is some evidence that shooting operations based on large-scale releases of Red-legged Partridges could be implicated in local extinctions of Grey Partridges.” 

Red-legged Partridge

To my unscientific but daily birding eyes that last sentence would seem to be a gross understatement. 

At the end of the day there is one conclusion to be drawn from this now familiar, sorry story. 

Nothing will change - just Follow The Money. 



eileeninmd said...


Sorry about your ringing being cancelled, the wind sounds awful at 70MPH. Our 40 MPH winds sounds easy, the birds tend to disappear on the windy days. The Avian Flu is scary, we had a fright a while back that made me take my feeders down. They are still down. Great shots of your catches, the Song Thrush is lovely. The Partridges are both beautiful birds. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend!

Gill Arbuthnott said...

Hi Phil,
Regarding Project Linnet, presumably you can still keep your site baited, so long as you take hygiene precautions e.g. disinfecting boots when accessing the site.
Good Luck.
Best wishes,
Tom Dougall

Jenn Jilks said...

Avian flu, people flu, COVID, Omicron variant, it's all a mess.
We've tragic storms out east, after ones out west, with roads washed out and not to be replaced for years, the road beds gone.
I am happy to look at your bird photos!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

That is indeed a sad and sorry story. What a mess! Hope you are able to get out and see some birds this coming week though. We went back to see the Scrub Jays and saw the banding again but couldn't see any numbers on our photos. Thanks for alerting me to try though. Hopefully we'll see them again soon.

Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil,.:=) So sorry you will have to stop ringing birds for a while. This is all bad news Phil, from the decline of the Song Thrush, to the devastating effect the reared partridge and pheasants have on the native species. Beautiful captures of the Red Legged Partridge, they are very attractive birds, but if they have a negative impact on your wild life, something should be done about it by more research being done, but the shooting of game is a tradition in your country, and like you, I feel it's where the money is, so I expect not a lot will be done about it. Interesting post, and I hope the Asian Flue doesn't hang around long.
Take care!

Lowcarb team member said...

"Just follow the money" so often all too true.

Storm Arwen has certainly been causing problems and unfortunately some deaths across the UK.
Down South we had strong winds today and even a few snow flurries.

Take care

All the best Jan

Lowcarb team member said...

PS I also meant to say I enjoyed your bird photographs on this post :)

All the best Jan

Linda said...

Goodness, what rotten luck! Sorry your good work is interrupted.

You are right about the power of money.

Bob Bushell said...

Sorry you lost some ringing, terrible sight.

Yvonne said...

I have never understood the need to hunt for sport, and never will. How can a person only have the desire to kill, and not be able to find a different hobby to pursue? I think raising birds to be let loose for hunting has existed for centuries, though, and will be impossible to eradicate. You did manage to ring some lovely birds.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I like the song thrush's markings - does it have a pretty song it sings?

NCSue said...

I'm fascinated every time that you are able to capture birds for ringing. The only time I've "captured" a bird was after one knocked itself senseless flying against window glass.
I wonder if our "Guilford" is somehow kin to your "Guildford"? I know that many names were modified or changed altogether upon entry to our country "back in the day". And compared to the Brits, we Yanks are famous for being linguistically lax.
Thanks for sharing at

Fun60 said...

A very sad post indeed this week. I used to see song thrushes in the garden but I can't remember the last time I saw one. Another outbreak of avian flu to add to your convincing evidence against the rearing of pheasants and partridges in captivity.

Rain said...

Hi Phil, I'm so sorry to hear about all this sad news for you and the birds. Your photos of the Song Thrush and Green Finch are very lovely!

Veronica Lee said...

So sorry to hear this, Phil.

Love your bird photos especially the shot of the Greenfinch.

Happy Thursday!

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