The Scottish Seabird centre has released devastating photos that show how the Avian flu has wiped through the gannet population on the famous Bass Rock.
In the images supplied, a drastic change in the numbers nesting and caring for their young on the Rock can be seen.
This has caused great concern amongst those working to understand the gannets and their colony.
As a result the Seabird Centre in North Berwick has now suspended all its specialist photography landing trips on the Bass Rock for the foreseeable future.
They hope that this will reduce the level of disturbance for the remaining colony on the rock and to help stem the risk of further spreading the disease.
However, wildlife boat trips around the islands and to the Isle of May will be allowed to continue.
Tourists and visitors will still be able to take in a variety of seabirds breeding on the local islands and will also be able to learn about the immense pressures facing seabirds and what the public must do to protect them.
Susan Davies, CEO of the Scottish Seabird Centre said: “Avian flu has been confirmed by testing in several gannets that were found dead along the East Lothian coastline – stretching from Portobello to Dunbar.
“These birds are from the world’s largest northern gannet colony on the Bass Rock in East Lothian which is widely recognised as an amazing wildlife spectacle.
“Each day the story unfolds further on the island. Patches within the colony, which would have been packed tightly with noisy and boisterous gannets sharing the responsibility of protecting their precious eggs and feeding young chicks (gugas), are becoming more sparsely occupied as each day passes.
“We feel powerless. We can only watch and monitor the passage of the disease as it spreads through the colony.
“We need resources to undertake survey work – including by drone – in the coming weeks. This will enable us to get a better handle on the scale of impact and to better monitor the recovery of the colony in years to come.
“This story is far from over. It is only with time that we will know the full extent of the impact of avian flu on these spectacular birds and other seabird colonies.
“This is not just about avian flu on the Bass Rock it is about the health and protection of seabird colonies across Scotland, which face multiple pressures not least from climate change, invasive species, pollution and over-fishing.
“The need for a Seabird Conservation Strategy and action plan for Scotland has never been more needed, and we urge the Scottish Government to make rapid progress with this.”
The Seabird Centre urged members of the public to take these steps if they sport any dead or injured birds:
- Report (more than 5) dead birds to Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) on 03459 335577 Please look for tracking devices/leg rings (only if possible without coming into contact with the bird).
- Bird rings should be reported to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) via the link HERE (or www.BTO.org).
- Sick or injured birds to the SSPCA (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) on 03000 999 999.
- In East Lothian, request removal of dead birds from public places through the East Lothian Council Countryside Rangers team on 01875 824 300.
They add that there is public health advice from East Lothian Council with a question and answer section for any concerns the public may have.
Their site can be reached here.