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Farne Islands reopen after avian flu outbreak
The Farne Islands are home to a variety of bird species, including puffins, shags, kittiwakes and Arctic terns.
Visitors will be welcomed for the first time in two years.

Inner Farne, one of the Farne Islands cared for by the National Trust, is to re-open for visitors on 25 March 2024.

The National Nature Reserve, which is home to approximately 200,000 seabirds, had been closed for two years following an outbreak of avian influenza among the bird population.

The Farne Islands are home to a variety of bird species, including puffins, shags, kittiwakes and Arctic terns. The birds return to the island, located off the Northumberland coast, to breed each year at the end of March, and leave at the end of summer once their chicks are fully-fledged.

However, the colony was hit by the outbreak of avian influenza in 2022. Rangers collected over 6,000 dead birds in 2022 alone.

While avian influenza was still present in 2023, the rangers recorded a 39 per cent reduction in deaths from the disease, with 3,647 dead birds collected.

The National Trust believes that this could be a sign that some immunity is growing in the community. They have said that they will continue to work with the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to protect the wellbeing of the birds.

From 25 March, Inner Farne will be welcoming visitor boat-landings from the harbour at Seahouses to get a closer look at the island’s wildlife and cultural history. Inner Farne will be the only island to re-open this year, as the National Trust trials a limited opening.

Sophia Jackson, an area ranger for the National Trust, said: “We have been closely monitoring the impact of the disease on our breeding populations as part of international research into bird flu.

“This has shown that the disease has had devastating impacts on some species and at some UK sites making our conservation efforts all the more important. Like at other sites, it seems that the disease has declined in our birds, although we will continue to closely monitor them as the breeding season starts again.”

Image © Shutterstock

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Reporting service for dead wild birds updated

News Story 1
 The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has updated its online reporting service for dead wild birds.

The new version allows those reporting a dead bird to drop a pin on a map when reporting the location. It also includes a wider range of wild bird species groups to select from when describing the bird.

The online service, which helps APHA to monitor the spread of diseases such as avian influenza, can be accessed here

Click here for more...
News Shorts
NI chief vet urges bluetongue vigilance

Northern Ireland's chief veterinary officer (CVO) has urged farmers to be vigilant for signs of bluetongue, after the Animal and Plant Health Agency warned there was a very high probability of further cases in Great Britain.

There have been 126 confirmed cases of bluetongue virus serotype 3 in England since November 2023, with no cases reported in Northern Ireland. The movement of live ruminants from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is currently suspended.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the virus is most likely to enter Northern Ireland through infected animals or germplasm (semen or ova) being imported.

Brian Dooher, Northern Ireland's CVO, said: "Surveillance for this disease within Northern Ireland has been increased to assist with detection at the earliest opportunity which will facilitate more effective control measures."

Farmers should report any suspicions of the disease to their private veterinary practitioner, the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840 or their local DAERA Direct Veterinary Office.