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HomeNature NewsChicken flu – some comparisons between 2021 and 2022 – Mark Avery

Chicken flu – some comparisons between 2021 and 2022 – Mark Avery


This 12 months and final: this time final 12 months, from the top of July to the start of October, there have been hardly any constructive instances of chicken flu in wild birds recorded by the federal government surveillance scheme. In 10 full weeks there have been solely three weeks with constructive instances, although these had been all Nice Skuas, and I assume that we had been all labouring below the impression that chicken flu was at its summer season low level and questioning whether or not it was going to spring up once more in excessive or low numbers within the coming winter. Certainly, in weeks 20-29 there have been no constructive information in wild birds detected by this surveillance scheme in any way.

What a distinction a 12 months makes. We’re presently in week 38 of 2022. In weeks 20-29 of 2022 there have been practically 100 constructive instances reported involving 20+ species – not a single report in 2021.  In weeks 30-37 in 2022, there have already been over 60 constructive instances involving over 20 species – in contrast with these few Nice Skuas from final 12 months.

That could be a measure of how issues have modified. Not an excellent measure as a result of that is primarily based on advert hoc assessments, in response to the general public reporting useless birds and never on any designed sampling regime. The official public figures don’t give any indication of what number of birds died from chicken flu in that a couple of corpses will likely be analysed from giant die-offs, and it’s only the variety of corpses giving constructive outcomes which are reported, not the variety of birds considered concerned. Unfavorable outcomes usually are not reported, so there isn’t any prospect of analyzing the publicly obtainable knowledge and getting any, even the vaguest, impression of how widespread the virus is within the species listed.

The phrases you could have learn to this point on this weblog are, by far, a extra detailed comparability of this 12 months’s knowledge with final 12 months’s knowledge than something made obtainable by APHA, DEFRA and so forth.

By analogy, think about that folks had been falling useless within the streets and a few of them had been then examined to see whether or not or not they’d died of a specific illness. The information we’ve got for birds are equal to these knowledge for folks the place just some corpses had been reported, just some reported corpses had been examined, solely the constructive outcomes had been listed in a desk every week and if 1000’s died at a soccer recreation it will solely be the variety of corpses examined that will be reported not the entire variety of our bodies from which that small quantity was taken.

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We must always regard the revealed instances of birds testing constructive for chicken flu as being within the ‘tip of an iceberg’ class – besides, this time final 12 months there was little or no signal of ice wherever whereas this 12 months we will clearly see the iceberg and may solely speculate about how way more ice there may be below the water – however there’s a lot, and it’s much more than final 12 months.

However what of the species affected?


The species lists for 2021 and 2022:

2021, as much as and together with week 37, 10 absolutely recognized species: Buzzard, Canada Goose, Nice Skua, Knot, Mute Swan, Peregrine, Pheasant, Pink-footed Goose, Crimson Kite, Rook

2021, a further 15 species, weeks 38-52: Barnacle Goose, Black-headed Gull, Black Swan, Curlew, Nice Crested Grebe, Gray Heron, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, Kestrel, Lapwing, Mallard, Sparrowhawk, White-tailed Eagle, Whooper Swan, Widgeon (sic).

2022, as much as and together with week 37, at the very least 50 absolutely recognized species:  Arctic Tern, Barnacle Goose, Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Buzzard, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Widespread Tern, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Eider, Gadwall, Gannet,  Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Nice Black-backed Gull, Nice-crested Grebe, Nice Northern Diver, Nice Skua, Gey Heron, Greylag Goose, Guillemot, Hen Harrier, Herring Gull, Kestrel, Kittiwake, Little Egret, Little Gull (actually?), Mallard, Magpie, Manx Shearwater, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Pink-footed Goose, Puffin, Crimson Kite, Roseate Tern, Sandwich Tern, Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl, Tufted Duck, White-fronted Goose, White-tailed Eagle, Whooper Swan, Wooden Pigeon.

So, twice as many species concerned, already, in 2022 as 2021, and 5 occasions as many species on a time-for-time comparability.

Some examples; Gannets, raptors and Pheasants:

Gannets: in 2021 I can’t spot any information of Gannets testing constructive for chicken flu wherever within the UK (you take a look – I may need missed one as a result of my eyes glaze over a bit wanting down the record).

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In distinction, the primary constructive Gannet report in 2022 was in early Could (week 19), in Moray.  Since then, to this point, there have been information of Gannets, constructive for chicken flu, in weeks, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 35, 36 and (final week) 37.  These information usually come from inside nesting colonies, and the seashores close to them, within the early information, however a way more widespread and persevering with distribution of information as much as the current time. Many individuals are seeing contemporary Gannet corpses on their native seashores in, say, Suffolk, in numbers not seen earlier than, and much away from breeding colonies.  And when dying Gannets are being discovered inland, and in cities too, that is an unprecedented scenario.  It additionally means that Gannets, and maybe different species, are travelling fairly lengthy distances earlier than succumbing to chicken flu, or maybe are choosing it up removed from breeding colonies.

The UK has internationally vital Gannet populations, on a world scale.

Raptors:  in 2021 there have been fairly a couple of information of birds of prey which examined constructive for chicken flu.  That doesn’t inform us very a lot – birds of prey are giant and attention-grabbing, the wording of which species to report has at all times talked about birds of prey, and a few of these birds could be satellite-tagged due to ongoing analysis tasks (and so any individual is keeping track of them and their our bodies might be discovered).

The species concerned in 2021 had been: Buzzard, Crimson Kite, Peregrine, Kestrel and a single White-tailed Eagle (in Highland). Probably the most generally reported species was, not surprisingly, Buzzard, in weeks 2, 5, 45, 46, 48, 49, 50, 51 and 52

In 2022 there are way more information they usually contain: Buzzard, Crimson Kite, Peregrine, Kestrel, Hen Harrier (2), Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, White-tailed Eagle (5; in Highland (2), Isle of Wight, New Forest and Argyll and Bute) and Golden Eagle (2; Highland and Western Isles). Probably the most generally reported species in 2022 is, not surprisingly, nonetheless Buzzard, however in weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 32, and (final week) 37 to this point.

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That two of the White-tailed Eagles are from the world of the southern England reintroduction venture is notable.


The Pheasant is an attention-grabbing chicken. It’s a non-native species which is launched in very giant numbers for leisure taking pictures annually.  Once I say ‘very giant numbers’ I imply tens of hundreds of thousands, though lately, and particularly this 12 months, because of a mix of Brexit, covid, a Wild Justice authorized problem and chicken flu (chicken flu has affected imports of Pheasant eggs and chicks from continental Europe) the numbers will likely be hundreds of thousands, probably low tens of hundreds of thousands, so many fewer than normal.

Within the not too long ago launched (final day of August) mitigation technique from DEFRA and the Welsh authorities (see right here), the authorities determined to not restrict, in any manner, releases of gamebirds into the countryside regardless of the elevated numbers of instances of chicken flu in wild birds.

In 2021, the 4 constructive information of chicken flu in free-living Pheasants had been merely as follows; week 15 Staffordshire; week 43, Wrexham; week 45, Richmondshire; week 50, South Lakeland.

In 2022, to this point (as much as and together with week 37) there have been three information, all up to now three weeks since DEFRA/Wales issued their technique: week 35, Cornwall; week 35, Norfolk; week 37, Cheshire East.

There are experiences, and I’ve seen dialogue about them privately, that the Norfolk instances concerned lots of of Pheasants close to the RSPB Strumpshaw nature reserve. There’s nothing, you may see, within the official figures that even hints at this.

Allow us to see how this unfolds over the following few weeks however the blindness of DEFRA to the danger of enormous scale gamebird releases was fairly apparent however ignored by them.





Observe: there could also be a couple of errors (of counting) and omissions in a few of these figures. The net variations usually are not straightforward to summarise, requiring because it does, eyeballing giant tables. Added to which, the nomenclature is inconsistent. Even downloading the .csv information doesn’t absolutely remedy this issue – you attempt it and see!  I’m glad for errors to be identified – however I don’t assume they are going to be severe ones.





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