AN investigation has been launched after dozens of dead birds were found on a nature reserve.

Neighbours raised the alarm after finding dead geese and seeing ducks wandering from mill pond lodges to die in local gardens.

People living near the reserve at Lowerhouse Lodges in Burnley estimate that as many as 80 birds have died in recent weeks.

Vets called out to help with are reported to have diagnosed avian botulism, a claim being investigated by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

One resident said he has found several dead birds including three yesterday.

He said: “We have called everyone you can think of to try and get this sorted out.

“It started a week and a half ago when me and my neighbours started to see birds walking into our gardens to die, or finding them already dead.

“Some vets who came out told us it was avian botulism.

“It’s a real concern for us with children and pets, but it should be a concern to everyone in the area.

“Lowerhouse is one of just two nature reserves in the area.

“We also want reassurance it won’t enter the food chain.

“All it would take is one of these birds flying into a yard where chickens are kept.”

Burnley councillor Charlie Briggs said he hoped the matter would be resolved soon. He added: “The lodges are very important to local people and it is where I go running.

“I urge people to be very vigilant and cautious until this is resolved.”

A spokesman for Defra said they working with the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) to test all birds reported.

A spokesman for the AHVLA said: “AHVLA is aware of a number of cases of suspected avian botulism in waterbirds in parts of central and northern England. Our investigations so far have found no evidence of a notifiable animal disease or risk to human health.

“AHVLA investigates several incidents of suspected avian botulism in waterbirds each year in England and Wales.

“The disease is not unusual although it may be associated with deaths in wild birds. Anyone finding five or more dead wild birds should call the Defra Helpline on 08459 335577.”