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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 12:11 GMT
Huge storms flood swannery nests
Swan herder
The swan herders build strong nests from the swannery's reed beds
Swan herders at a Dorset swannery hit by bird flu are having to hastily rebuild 80 nests which were washed away in the south coast storms.

Ten wild mute swans and a Canada goose have tested positive for the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu at Abbotsbury Swannery since 10 January.

The nests for the colony of mute swans were destroyed by flooding in the Chesil Beach area on Monday.

The centre, due to open for the season on Saturday, said no eggs were inside.

It's a great relief to have assurances from Defra that we won't be a danger to the local poultry community
John Houston
Abbotsbury Tourism

John Houston, manager of Abbotsbury Tourism, said: "The swan herders make up really strong nests from our own reed beds where the swans have decided to make their nests.

"The floods on Monday morning washed away the 80 nests the swan herders had already built.

"Luckily there weren't any eggs in them. The eggs will come in a couple of weeks."

Restrictions imposed to combat bird flu in the county were eased by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) earlier this month.

Mr Houston added: "It's a great relief to the staff to have the Health Protection Agency (HPA) give assurances it is safe to invite the public back in as normal.

First cygnets

"Also to have assurances from Defra that we won't be a danger to the local poultry community."

The colony of wild swans move from the nine-mile Fleet between Abbotsbury and Portland to the reserve in March to breed.

Swan herders will make around 160 nests and each swan will lay up to 13 eggs.

The first cygnets are expected to hatch in early May.

The swannery - established in 1393 by Benedictine monks - is part of an area of wetland recognised to be of international importance.

It closed to the public on 28 October last year.

Storms batter southern England
10 Mar 08 |  England

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