Landings on Alderney sea bird colonies is stopped

ALDERNEY Bird Observatory has suspended any landings on the sea bird colonies off the island’s coast, as avian flu cases rise in France and the UK.

Picture courtesy of Alderney Wildlife Trust.
Picture courtesy of Alderney Wildlife Trust.

The colonies will still be viewable, but only from boats or mainland Alderney.

‘There are no cases currently, but the virus is steadily creeping towards us with recent outbreaks in Norfolk, Suffolk and several along the Dutch coast – there have also been outbreaks on the UK south coast and French coastline as close as Calais,’ said Alderney bird warden and official bird recorder John Horton.

There have been multiple dead sea birds found at Barfleur, just 40 miles away on the French coast.

‘The Channel Islands have been extremely fortunate so far, but this could change overnight.’

Bird ringing across the Bailiwick has been suspended to avoid contact with birds.

‘The virus is easily and quickly spread via birds’ faeces so walking through any sea bird colony, especially concentrated colonies like gannets, would spread the virus putting birds at unnecessary risk.’

Mr Horton is unsure how long the ban would last, as outbreaks in more recent years have mainly involved wild birds, and had not reached the Bailiwick.

‘This time we have a strain that is affecting sea birds, which for all of our islands is a much greater threat.’

Tourism in Alderney is not being affected currently, however this may change if they are faced with the outbreaks that have occurred elsewhere.

Bird observations have also been ceased for the time being, in order to prioritise the safety of the sea birds.

‘The annual data collected by our bird observatory researchers is extremely important for monitoring the productivity, behavioural changes, and population dynamics of our sea birds, but these fall way down the queue behind public safety and the welfare of the birds themselves,’ said Mr Horton.

‘Given the current developing situation our priority must be to minimise risk by suspending any scientific activities that involve handling sea birds.

‘In Alderney protocols have been established and designated trained individuals are ready to react should the worst happen.’

Mr Horton said members of the public should avoid picking up any ill-looking or dead sea birds and instead report the location of the birds to the authorities.

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