A rise in apparent Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or ‘bird flu’, cases at Findhorn Bay is causing local nature reserve volunteers concern.
Over the past week, sick and dead birds have been noted by birdwatchers, including 45 Herring Gulls, 14 Pink-footed Geese, two Curlew and a puffin.
Roy Dennis, chair of the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve management committee, said: “Apparent cases have doubled since this time last week. Although we understand that there is no direct risk to human health at the present time, areas where these dead birds are being found are on shingle and saltmarsh frequented by recreational users of the bay, who, in turn, run the risk of spreading the disease on their footwear, walking sticks, dog’s paws, etc.”
Although the Scottish Government set up a dedicated HPAI task force – led by the agency NatureScot – during the summer to tackle the many issues that avian Influenza can bring, specific public guidance for the Findhorn Bay outbreak is yet to be published.
Mr Dennis said: “We, with our colleagues in The Moray Council, are pressing NatureScot for action to contain the situation, including signage to heighten awareness for visitors and locals.
“It is likely that activities such as wildfowling will be temporarily suspended, and we are using our usual channels via our committee members that represent the shooting community to press for effective guidance.”
Plea to disinfect footwear
Mike Crutch, also a member of the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve’s volunteer committee added: “We also see walkers and birders that visit the bay’s saltmarsh, mud and shingle areas, sometimes as part of a wider Moray coast visit.
“It is these people that we urge to disinfect footwear, and anything else that contacts the ground, to prevent spreading the virus, or simply avoid those bay areas completely where bird faeces can be present, until the situation improves.”
Just over a week ago, four birds including two resident cygnets and a visiting Whooper swan were put down by the SSPCA after being suspected of having bird flu, and signs were put up to alert the public (https://forreslocal.com/three-swans-and-a-gull-put-down-bird-flu-discovered-sanquhar-pond/).
Main pic: Richard Somers-Cocks