RSPCA teams have returned to Winsford Marina for the grim task of recovering more dead birds.

Suspected bird flu is now thought to have claimed the lives of 10 cygnets, four swans and 53 Canada geese at the River Weaver beauty spot.

Winsford Guardian:

The RSPCA water rescue team at Winsford Marina

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has not yet confirmed the outbreak of avian flu in Winsford but is warning that a new highly contagious strain has been identified across the country.

The public is advised not to pick up any dead or visibly sick birds.

Winsford Guardian:

Northwich mum Tanya Pickering, 50, raised the alarm on Christmas Day and now visits the beauty spot every day with daughter, Eloise, 21, to check on the health of the swans.

"It is heartbreaking," said Tanya, who has given names to all the swans. "One of the males, Toto has been left without his partner Matilda. He looks so lost. He is still looking for her.

Winsford Guardian:

"One minute she was there and the next she was gone. He wasn't there when the RSPCA removed her body.

"Some of the dead birds from Winsford have been sent for testing."

RSPCA teams at Winsford Marina Picture: Philip Carden

RSPCA teams at Winsford Marina Picture: Philip Carden

The public is warned not to hand feed the swans and geese.

"We still give them a good feed every day," said Tanya, who belongs to Swanwatch UK. "We want to keep them built up to give them all the help we can to remain strong and fight off this disease.

"You must put food in the water and it is very important to sanitise your hands and disinfect your footwear when you leave."

Winsford Guardian:

This new strain, H5N1, is highly contagious and is spread by bird faeces.

An RSPCA spokesman said: "RSPCA officers have attended the Winsford area following reports that a number of swans appeared to be showing signs of distress.

Winsford Guardian:

"Unfortunately a number of the birds appeared to be very sick and in an extremely poor condition and sadly, the kindest option was for these birds to be put to sleep.

"Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are aware of the situation and a number of the birds have been sent for testing for bird flu.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and offer help where required."