Avian botulism fears reignited after bird death spate in St Albans’ Verulamium Lake

PUBLISHED: 15:31 16 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:46 16 July 2018

Verulamium Lake, July 16 2018.

Verulamium Lake, July 16 2018.


A spate of bird deaths in the plagued Verulamium Lake has sparked fears of another avian botulism outbreak.

Verulamium Lake.Verulamium Lake.

St Albans district council (SADC) has noticed a recent spike of birds and ducks dying in the filthy water of the artificial lake - in a ten day period, there were about 70 fatalities.

It has been reported to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), as well as the RSPCA, for investigation.

The deaths are being taken seriously because there was a widespread outbreak of avian botulism in the park just three years ago.

More than 100 ducks died of the paralytic disease in July and August of 2015 after silt built up in the water and became an incubator for dangerous bacteria.

Verulamium LakeVerulamium Lake

The muck is made up of duck faeces, leaves, and natural material not being washed away by poor water flow from the River Ver.

Environment portfolio holder for SADC, Cllr Frances Leonard, said: “We don’t know what it is that has caused the deaths yet so it would be jumping the gun a little bit to say that it is avian botulism.

“We have had some extreme heat and a lot of humans have suffered, let alone the birds, because it has been quite unpleasant.

“The council are taking all measures necessary to find out what the cause of these deaths are.”

Verulamium Lake, July 16 2018.Verulamium Lake, July 16 2018.

She reassured residents that even if DEFRA find it is avian botulism, there is no risk to humans.

In March this year SADC announced a multimillion pound project to return the River Ver to its natural state, thereby improving the condition of the artificial lakes at Verulamium.

Revitalising the RiVer project is focussing on a 2.5 kilometre stretch of the stream that flows through the park to Sopwell Mill Farm.

The river will be narrowed to improve flow, the gravel bed will be naturally cleared of silt, and the concrete banks will be dismantled and replaced by soil, grasses and plants.

Verulamium Lake, July 16 2018.Verulamium Lake, July 16 2018.

Partners SADC, the Environment Agency (EA), Herts county council’s Countryside Management Service and Affinity Water hope the project will be finished by 2024.

See the plans at www.stalbans.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/parks-and-green-space/parks/verulamium-park/riverver/default.aspx

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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