Public urged to stay vigilant on bird flu as geese start to leave Findhorn Bay

As migrating birds continue their journey north after a stop in Findhorn Bay, birdwatching experts are reminding people to be vigilant of spreading avian flu, which was discovered during the recent stopover of tens of thousands of pink-footed geese.

Over the past two weeks, a small number of pink-footed geese arriving at Findhorn Bay have been showing signs of avian flu (H5N1), as reported in the press. These birds stopped off during their migration from England.

Pink-footed goose. Picture: Mike Crutch

Locals contacted DEFRA at various times after seeing sick or dead birds, which also include small numbers of other goose, duck and seabird species, and a number of carcasses were removed by DEFRA for analysis, and later confirmed H5N1 was present.

Mike Crutch who is secretary of the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve management committe said: “The committee have engaged with Moray Council’s Environmental Health team, as well as the Findhorn & Kinloss Community Council, and the former have posted a number of signs around the eastern edge of the bay advising dog walkers and other users of the situation. Although the risk of infection to non-bird species remains low, transmission outwith the bay area is possible, such as by footwear becoming contaminated by contact with bird faeces usually found in roosting areas on edges of the bay.”

Vigilance

Mike urged people to follow the common-sense advice given by the council to be extra-vigilant when coming into contact with anything that may also have been in contact with birds.

He said: “In the past week, and thanks to the run of northerly winds holding the birds back on their migration to their Arctic breeding grounds, a peak of some 33,700 Pink-footed Geese have been recorded by local birders. With some 50-60 dead birds having been apparent so far, the overall infection rate appears to be low, although the concentration of numbers caused by the weather conditions could lead to further spread of the virus among the population and to other birds while they remain here, with southerly winds expected early next week.

“In the mean time, members of the public should be aware of the advice posted, and contact the DEFRA helpline number on 03459 335577 to report dead birds.”

Main picture: Richard Somers-Cocks

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