Thousands of birds dying from worst ever avian flu outbreak in Northumberland | UK News
In such a beautiful place, it was an absolutely horrible thing to see.
Sky News has been granted rare access to the Farne Islands, just off the coast of Northumberland.
Cared for by National Trust rangers, these picturesque uninhabited islands are closed to visitors in the summer.
Rangers first detected bird flu in seabird populations at the start of the nesting season, about eight weeks ago.
At first, the teams discovered only a few dead chicks.
But soon, they saw hundreds of corpses – adult and juvenile puffer fish, kittens, scarab beetles, gyros and feathers – lying dead on the cliff tops.
Gwen Potter, Country Director for the National Trust, said: “It’s horrible.
“We’ve collected thousands of birds on the islands, but really that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The birds can die at sea or elsewhere along the coast, so it’s very difficult to find. quantitative.
“But we’ve never seen an outbreak like this.”
Rangers, who normally count new chicks, now have the difficult task of collecting their remains.
Wearing full protective clothing to avoid cross-contamination, they used repurposed scavengers to collect bodies.
They are put in bags and will be brought back to the mainland and incinerated.
Within an hour of being on the island, one of the gathering groups told me they had captured 300 dead Guildlemot roosters from a small patch of land at the edge of the cliff.
Chicks can die of avian flu or can also starve if the parents die of the disease.
“It’s really sad,” said one ranger.
“You’ll often see adult birds all coming to the same spot on the island to die – it’s like they realize they’re dying.”
‘This year is more promiscuous’
By the time it was completed, the teams had filled dozens of bags.
In total, National Trust groups estimate that 6,000 wild seabirds have died on these islands.
But this outbreak, worst in UK historyaffected seabird colonies across the UK.
It also affects mainland poultry farms, affecting prices of poultry products in some areas.
“What is striking about the crisis we are facing is that this virus is attacking many species,” ranger Tom Hendry told us.
“Normally you would have one type of bird affected more than the others, but this year it was more promiscuous.”
Avian influenza occurs most of the year.
Although there have been cases of bird flu spreading to humans, the evidence to suggest the risk is very limited.
However, this year’s stress on birds is the most severe the groups working here have ever seen, and the results have been devastating.
The numbers of some of these beautiful birds have been declining due to problems such as pollution, habitat loss and climate change.
This further outbreak, on this scale, and at the time of reproduction, is a devastating blow.