Bird flu update

There have been another four positive tests for H5N8 in wild birds in the last week: and Defra is still being cryptic about their localities.  These new records only amount to four birds apparently but the Dorset case involves Mute Swans when presumably it should involve a Mute Swan – this shows the normal attention to detail of Defra on anything to do with wild birds.

The other cases are from Lancashire (Tufted Duck), Gloucestershire (a Greylag Goose) and Tyne and Wear (Black-headed Gull).  Could be Martin Mere, Slimbridge (again) and Washington WWT centres – or maybe not.

But over a month after the first case was confirmed and restrictions imposed on poultry-keepers, both commercial and domestic, Defra has finally got around to releasing some advice to Pheasant stakeholders (dated 13 January)!

Notice that this information comes from ‘countryside and game shooting organisations’ – just another case of the countryside being equated with a place that people want to kill things.  Apparently, the impacts of H5N8 on shooting are ‘hard to exaggerate’ – good job it only took something like a month to get the information out then!

We now see that there is a legal requirement for all captive birds, including gamebirds, to be kept separate from wild birds!

There is a reminder that there is a longstanding legal requirement to register with government if you hold more than 50 gamebirds even temporarily. Interesting!

There is a whole lot of information on biosecurity, which I guess might come as a bit of a shock to a few gamekeepers. And what steps are the shooting organisations taking to get this information out, rather belatedly, to their members, I wonder?  Not much prominence in their social media accounts as far as I can see – either now or earlier.

Outdoor pens holding gamebirds should be netted – to stop the wild birds getting in whether they be Buzzards or White-fronted Geese with hacking coughs!

The Gamebird Code of 2009 apparently states “In order to minimise the risk of disease transmission and promote welfare, laying stock should, wherever possible, be maintained as a closed breeding flock. Where adult laying birds have to be brought in, particularly from the wild, all possible action should be taken to check the provenance and health of the birds.” Well, I’m sure everyone has been doing that.

There’s loads of useful stuff here – pity it wasn’t published earlier.  Difficult to know whether the attention to this subject on social media (and, ahem, on this blog here, here) had anything to do with the publication of this advice at this very late stage.

In other news, a different strain of bird flu has caused hundreds of cats to be quarantined around Trump Tower and beyond.

In more other news, an unidentified (in the article) strain of bird flu has been reported in Uganda.

In even more other news, there have been two Wigeon found with H5N8 in the Republic of Ireland.



Oscar Dewhurst – Stonechat

This was one of the last photos I took in 2016. Having just finished my first term of my final year at university, I was keen to get out and do some photography so spent a couple of early mornings at Richmond Park before the end of 2016. On one of these mornings I spotted a pair of stonechats as I was walking between the pen ponds, so got myself into a position to photograph them into the sun as it came up. This ended up being one of my favourite images of the year, with the frosty buds of the trees, and the inclusion of the sun in the bottom right.
Nikon D800, Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR lens, Nikon 1.4x TC

Sunday book review – A Tree Miscellany by Ian Parsons

This is a small book (88 pages) of interesting facts about trees written by Ian Parsons, an occasional Guest Blogger here.

They are the sort of facts that you can use to amaze your friends with your knowledge. That’s what I shall be doing anyway.

Do you know what is the oldest tree in the world? I do! Fig pollination and extra protein anyone? King Cativolcus anyone? Under which species of tree did the Tolpuddle Martyrs form their union? Third commonest pub name in Britain?

I’m pretty tree-ignorant, and maybe you know all this stuff already but if you don’t then you may well really enjoy this book, as I did. It’s easy reading and great fun.

A Tree Miscellany by Ian Parsons is self-published and available from Amazon.

Remarkable Birds by Mark Avery is published by Thames and Hudson – for reviews see here.

Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.  Updated paperback edition now out.


Tim Melling – Condor

This is another species I have wanted to see since watching the BBC series “Flight of the Condor” way back in 1982.  Their size is absolutely amazing with a 3m wingspan (10 feet 10 inches is the biggest recorded), yet they don’t look that big in flight against the backdrop of the Andes.  In springtime they move out of the mountains to feed on dead lambs and October is spring in the southern hemisphere.  This is a female, identifiable by the lack of horny plate (known as a caruncle) on the bill.  They feed mainly by scavenging as their talons are quite weak compared with eagles, so they are not equipped to catch live prey.  They are also one of the longest lived birds, sometimes exceeding 70 years.  I photographed this one in Torres del Paine in Chile.


Taken with Nikon D500 Nikkor 300mm f4 lens with 1.4 converter  f5.6        1/1250 ISO 320


Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill