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Hopes bird flu is receding on Solway

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By Fiona Reid
Farming
Hopes bird flu is receding on Solway

WILDLIFE experts believe an ‘unprecedented’ avian flu outbreak which has killed thousands of birds on the Solway could be starting to ‘level off’.

Managers at the RSPB Scotland’s Mersehead reserve this week revealed that deaths among barnacle geese appear to be falling.

A count on January 5 found that 77 had died over a three week period, compared to 59 in four days mid December.

They are monitoring the situation closely and say they will have a ‘clearer idea’ of the overall picture next week.

But they are hopeful that there won’t be another surge.

RSPB area manager for the Scottish Lowlands and Southern Uplands Andrew Bielinski said: “There have been a few cases of dead birds just before Christmas and just after Christmas.

“It does look like numbers have gone down a bit, which is encouraging.

“However, past experience shows with bird flu you often do get a peak and then it drops and then there is another spike.”

Mr Bielinski also revealed a similar trend at the nearby Caerlaverock site, run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

It is estimated that up to 4000 birds have already died from the outbreak, with barnacle geese worst hit of all the species.

Meanwhile, studies are underway to try to establish the age of the dead birds to try and assess the long-term impact on the goose colony.

Mr Bielinski added: “If it is older birds that are possibly getting towards the end of their breeding lives that will have a lesser impact than if it is lots of young birds.”

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