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News this week: Is bird flu the new normal? Plus shooting rights up for grabs

Patrick Galbraith considers whether bird flu is something we will have to get used to and Felix Petit investigates sales of shooting rights

Fighting Black Grouses

One shoot has reported black grouse affected by avian influenza

Shooting rights up for grabs

Shooting rights in the busy south of England don’t come up for sale often, and the ones that do are fascinating. Symonds & Sampson is selling the freehold shooting rights for 210 acres of water meadow along the River Avon south of Ringwood in Hampshire. The lot, just off the appropriately named Duck Island Lane, includes 7,500m of river frontage along the Avon and Bickerley Mill Stream, but sadly no fishing rights as these remain with the Christchurch Angling Club. The shooting rights to the water meadow have been listed with a guide price of £35,000, but the level of interest suggests it may go for considerably more.

Morgan Clement of Symonds & Sampson said that interest for the lot doesn’t seem to have been dulled as a result of any GL43-based controversy or the incoming ban on lead shot. It is currently used for wildfowling, low-level deerstalking and a small amount of hay is taken.

Despite its location five miles west of the New Forest National Park, the meadow is free of conservation restrictions. The freehold shooting rights go to auction at Digby Memorial Hall in Sherborne on 20 July. Expect the nearby South Hants Wildfowlers Association in the New Forest to take particular interest. What could be better than shooting a few ducks, bagging a muntjac, then enjoying a riverside picnic? FP

Is bird flu the new normal?

Reports of birds dying because of bird flu are coming in from across the country. During the past few weeks, over 1,000 seabirds have washed up on the coast in Aberdeenshire. And just as ST went to press, an Irish conservation group said that the H5N1 virus is devastating Irish seabird colonies.

Quite what this means for gamebirds is not yet clear. One Yorkshire grouse moor owner told ST that they have had black grouse impacted by avian influenza, which is deeply concerning given that the black grouse population is already down as much as 90% in most areas.

Lindsay Waddell, former chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and a former grousekeeper, told ST :“Keepers, over the past few months, have been finding all sorts of birds dead all over the place, and given what we know about bird flu that’s the most likely cause.”

He added that bird flu is not going to go away now it is endemic, “it will simply go round and round as breeding and migrant numbers fluctuate”.

All you can do is insist Guns dip their boots and be careful where you source your pheasants and partridges from. PG