A New Dawn At The Park?

Following the heavy losses of Mute Swans at Stanley Park over the last few weeks the lake finally reopened today with no cases for some time. Brambles Wildlife Sanctuary who have been dealing with the sad avian flu losses asked me to do a waterbird count, as I have been doing the Wetland Bird Survey here for many years.

Many people have attachments to the birds here, giving them names and following their lives. Whilst anthropomorphism isn’t for everyone it’s easy to understand. There’s a Call Duck who goes by the name of Quackers who has something of a fan club, and today I heard it before I saw it.

I bumped into Libby Gomm on the way round the lake. Libby takes a lot of photographs of the birds of the park. We discussed the sad recent events. Libby was looking for the male from the resident pair who she is particularly fond of. We also talked about the Barnacle Goose death toll on the Solway from the same virulent bird flu strain that has killed thespians. Ironically soon after we split up the feral flock of ‘Barnies’ that free flies in and around the zoo circled the northern part of the park before swinging round and heading east towards Staining Nook where they generally roost these days.

4DSZ, ringed as a second year female at Platt Fields Park, Manchester last March, seen at Pennington Flash, Leigh last May and now at Stanley Park

Despite there being around two dozen swan fatalities the lake and its edges were rich with wildlife. It wasn’t lost on me that much of this fauna was species with poor public image. There were a couple of hundred Herring Gulls loafing and bathing on the water, and perhaps similar numbers of Feral Pigeon near the boathouse where they generally hang out. If you didn’t look too closely you could have been forgiven for thinking that there hadn’t been a problem.

But there has been a problem. Whether it’s appropriate to grieve for birds or not is open to debate, but two successive winters of avian flu have led to heavy hearts for those who love the birds of the park. On a calm January day with the lake tinged in low rays of sun, there was though a tangible sense of hope and renewal in the air. The herons were prospecting nests on the island. A Great Crested Grebe has just returned to find a mate. There will be recovery, fingers crossed there is no repetition.

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