These two RSPB videos begin to bring home the potential seriousness of the bird/poultry flu outbreak that is affecting seabirds not just in Shetland, and not just in the UK, but in coastal areas in the Netherlands and Norway too. It seems very likely that through this summer we will learn that the impacts are even greater than we currently realise and even more widespread.
See some recent reports here:
Avian Flu and Gannets on the Bass Rock https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-61829551
Over 100 Great Skuas thought to have died of bird/poultry flu on St Kilda https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-61719011
Outbreak of bird/poultry flu affecting hundreds of birds at Loch Fleet in Sutherland in early May https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-61436063
Thousands of Barnacle Geese die of bird/poultry flu in southwest Scotland https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-59943928
The DEFRA weekly reports of avian flu in wild birds don’t give any real feeling for what is going on. That’s probably because the table only shows positive test results and understandably there is a lag between seeing dead birds and getting test results from any collected corpses. Also, if thousands of birds are dying but half a dozen are tested then that leads to half a dozen test results not thousands. I am speculating, though not wildly I think, when I point to Week 19 in the DEFRA table and the 7 positive tests in Highland – the nature of the birds described and the date and the location (vague though it is) – as likely to refer to the Loch Fleet incident where it is clear that there were large numbers of corpses and also live birds behaving oddly as if ill.
The DEFRA webpage on all things avian flu, updated 3 days ago, is woefully off the pace as usual. If you have a good look at it you will find that almost all the focus, as usual, is on outbreaks of the disease in captive poultry. Wild birds are simply regarded as irritating vectors. DEFRA, which reports on UK-wide figures, does not seem to have grasped (perhaps because this issue is seen as an economic and livestock issue rather than a conservation issue too) that losses of Gannets and Great Skuas of the type we are beginning to see, are of global significance in conservation terms because the UK has more than half of the global populations of both species nesting around our shores.
This piece from the New York Times today is well worth a read[registration_form]