Fears have been raised over a suspected outbreak of avian flu following the deaths of five swans.

The deaths of four cygnets and one swan has led to concerns the deadly avian flu has returned to Ulverston Canal.

In November last year, ten deceased swans were pulled from the canal after displaying strange symptoms, including spinning on their axis.

After conducting autopsies on the swans bodies, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) concluded that a strain of avian flu is to blame for the deaths.

There have also been suspected cases in south Cumbria this year, following the death of a swan in spring suspected to be afflicted with the virus.

Swan rescuer Caroline Sim visits Ulverston Canal every day in all weather conditions to feed the swans.

The volunteer described the suspected outbreak as 'horrible' – and hopes the cases are isolated to just five swans.

She said: "We lost two cygnets on Thursday night and one the night before.

"So, a family of five swans is now two, which is incredibly sad.

"I'm praying the flu doesn't kill any more swans because they deserve a fighting chance.

"It's such a fierce illness – even if you're very healthy, it doesn't help you.

"It's like Covid for birds."

Ms Sim said in the past two weeks, she has discovered five swans suspected to have fallen victim to the virus.

"That's a lot of swans to die in two weeks," she said.

"Four were young ones and there was one adult swan.

"It's just horrible to see.

"I don't want to talk to anyone or socialise after seeing this.

"They suffer so much and it really stays with you.

"You feel helpless watching them fall sick – it's awful.

"If you see a swan believed to be sick, report it straight away.

"It's very distressing to see – and it's distressing for the family to see one of their own fall ill.

"These poor cygnets have died without having much of a life."

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) carries out year-round avian influenza surveillance of dead wild birds submitted via public reports and warden patrols.

As part of DEFRA's ongoing surveillance for avian influenza, there have been multiple findings of HPAI H5N1 in wild birds from sites across GB.

If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.