NOTE: This article gives no advise on what to do for the best, honestly, I don’t know what to make of all this, or what side to sit on, as a second swan died on the Crammer in Devizes yesterday, after two Canada geese did prior, only in that the two debating sides are of the same motivation, and I’m assured they only wish to do what is best for the birds.
The Crammer Watch page announced the RSPCA attended the Crammer today, Sunday, and said, “in the absence of a positive test for bird flu there is no reason to withdraw feeding safely.” In this it is my understanding, though face it, no one arguing any of this are experts, no matter how much some think they are, as the Crammer has no natural food source, not feeding the birds there will either see them move on, thus spreading any potential flu elsewhere (or will it disperse it, I simply don’t know), or stay on the Crammer and die in the freezing conditions. My only condolence in this is the recent higher temperatures. Still, the wildfowl there are under-nourished and this effects their ability to survive in these extreme conditions.
Crammer Watch reasons with heartfelt plea, “why did Crammer Watch carry on feeding wildfowl on the Crammer? We monitor these birds daily, saw no classic symptoms of bird flu but expected deaths of weakened birds from the extreme cold. When individual large birds were found dead, one each day, but none of the smaller species – we contacted the official Agency for advice on two separate occasions. We continue to speak daily to wildlife professionals. In the absence of identifiable symptoms or a positive test we continued feeding safely following the safety measures. Crammer Watch has always promoted feeding only what birds eat straight away – one reason why our few volunteers visit more than once a day in winter. We are only attempting to keep our lovely Crammer birds alive.”
It is contradicting advise from Devizes Town Council, who state not to feed the birds at all. At times I consider Crammer Watch running on heartstrings, but as of the current situation we are unaware if the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs are even engaging in tests, let alone when we can expect confirmation. Putting the importance of confirmation to Devizes Town Councillor Chris Greenwood yesterday, who has confirmed the birds are dying because of bird flu, writing on Devizes News Facebook group; “Bird Flu has been confirmed in Devizes, with several birds having been reported with the virus,” I consider this greatly misleading, as to-date he later confessed there is no such apparent confirmation.
Despite the DEFRA website not reporting any bird flu outbreaks in our area, Chris contradicted himself, now saying confirmation is “irrelevant,” as the situation should be treated as if there is bird flu on the Crammer, according to guidelines. He stated, “the three cases of death are being treated as infected, under guidance from government and wildlife agencies. Losing three birds within such a short period of time, can only be regarded as potential for grave concern about the health of the Town’s birdlife. Until we have the “All Clear” it is imperative that feeding large groups of birds and wildfowl is avoided.”
So, I asked Chris on the grounds that nowhere on the link provided (the DEFRA guidelines) suggests confirmation is irrelevant, but in fact says; These signs can indicate bird flu, but the avian influenza virus can only be confirmed through laboratory tests, if “DEFRA has done such tests, and if so, when will the results of test be announced?”
His responsewas frank: “If and when it is categorically diagnosed as bird flu, then APHA will come along, capture everything, and cull them. We are desperately trying to stop people feeding birds, which encourages them to congregate, and potentially become infected. There is no middle ground here, and attracting birds to a suspected site of infection, is effectively giving them a death sentence either way. Two more birds have been recorded as sick, which could potentially place the site in danger of a total cull. There are no facilities for hospitalisation or recovery, no fluffy blankets, or hot drinks – the birds will die! As far as the actual testing is concerned, it is highly unlikely that many birds will have post mortem examinations, due to the vast numbers being reported, and collected.” And to add to our concerns, he became quite agitated with my line of fire which was only so because of said inconsistencies, “Does this reply answer your question, or would you prefer to wait until APHA turn up with their nets and euthanasia equipment?!”
“There’s unlikely to be any announcement,” Chris claimed, “the next step would be a total cull of all wildfowl, including gulls, pigeons, and any other birds in the area.” Which is bizarre considering friendly town councillor Iain Wallis, in charge of the area the Crammer is in, has been positively open about campaigning for the culling of pigeons for months, and I must wonder if this is the answer to his prayers, though he refuses to cooperate with us due to other disagreements we have had in the past; which is, to be frank, while we’re all obviously being frank here, petty bullshit.
Of course, no one really wants this to happen, and consider my thoughts unfair on the hard-working councillors, but as said, unlike a natural waterside, if the birds there rely on handouts, they will either fly off elsewhere if they can, or die anyway if no one feeds them; that’s the problem, they will die no matter what we do, then again, such is the natural circle of life, I sigh.
We raised the issue of having a natural food source for the wildfowl on the Crammer back in the spring, based on what Swan Support told us while rescuing the swans, when the issue was pollution in the Crammer caused by an overflow pipe running into it directly from the roadside. I asked Chris if he felt if it was dealt with back then we wouldn’t find ourselves in this conundrum now.
“There’s currently no real possibility of providing a natural food source in or near the Crammer, due to it potentially restricting flight paths for the swans and geese,” he continued, “it would also disrupt the aesthetics of the area, by changing the very nature of a feature of our Town.” The first point is above my sphere of knowledge on the subject, the reasons birds need organised flight paths, like air traffic control, or what?! But the latter is most concerning, yes, it might change the very nature of the unsuitable for wildfowl pond for the better, a mini wildlife reserve on our doorstep would be far better in my honest opinion than a concrete kerb into a duck shit tarn! Though this is costly, I know, accept this, and have said this too in the past. No one is expecting miracles overnight, but cards need to be thrown on the table because overnight the wildfowl are sadly dying.
It is a conundrum “that’s providing an answer of its own,” Chris suggested, because “following detailed examination and analysis of the silt and water content, by competent professionals, we will shortly be in a position to confirm that there is barely any difference between those recent results, and those taken in 2008. The drainage from the roadside, is currently providing the only method of restoring water content to an optimum level.” Poisonous matter has been dribbling into the water in the Crammer long before 2008.
The concerning conclusion here was when Chris finished, after thanking him for his time, “we are faced with a situation that affects the long-term welfare of birds, and we have been given sound advice which is being ignored by a few – having the potential for a large loss of birdlife, to the detriment of the very things that the vast majority of us are trying to protect. I find it inconceivable that those few people insist on quibbling over semantics, when faced with the real possibility of a mass cull.”
If quibbling means “the action of raising objections about a trivial matter,” this is terrible wording I’d ask him to take back, for those asking the questions are needing to know, because they’re equally as concerned, and the deaths of animals is far from trivial. Still, we must take these ideas as red, coming from the top, and no matter the dire circumstances and how our hearts drive us, accept that feeding the birds is damaging to the situation, if it is so.
The jury is out, I’m sitting on the fence here and cannot advise what to do for the best, other than follow the advice from the council, and hope and pray for the bird’s welfare. Though I also remain in the dark about how anyone can officially claim bird flu has been confirmed when clearly it hasn’t, and this gives me understandable reason for concern. Dammit, where’s Chris Packham when we need him?!